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AU in “De-globalizing” World

AU in “De-globalizing” World

Amen Teferi


As plans for the 28th ordinary session of the assembly of the heads of state and government of the African Union (AU) were being contemplated, there was specter of skepticism whether Ethiopia meets or not the security standards to host the 2017AU Summit.

To turn the precarious situation round and to bring an end to the down sliding conditions of peace and security of the country, Ethiopia had decreed state of emergency that has brought calm instantly. However, as we are in the third month of the state of emergency that was imposed to halt the turbulent situations, the AU commission officials were having some doubt whether Ethiopia is with its usual shape to ensure the safety of the AU Summit.

The government reassured the commission that everything is in place for a successful and peaceful Summit and the skepticism has soon vanished. As the officials of the AU commission were appeased by Ethiopia’s assurance they stuck to their original plan and allowed Ethiopia to host the 28th ordinary session of the AU assembly. 

That “tumultuous” situation that has triggered questions over Ethiopia’s competence to host the two day assembly of the African Union Summit was a high-profile event that had come to pass as the backdrop of the 28th AU summit.

Now, fully ensuring the safety and security of the participants, Ethiopia has hosted a peaceful and successful pre consultative meetings, sessions and dialogues that were scheduled ahead of the Summit and continued to host the assembly commenced on January 30 at the Headquarter of the AU in Addis Ababa.

The summit hosted not only heads of states and government but also world leaders and policy makers. The vice President of Cuba, Salvador Mesa, who has addressed the Summit and had time to spare for his official visit coming to Addis Ababa ahead of the Summit. His Excellency Salvador Mesa, the vice President of Cuba, had expressed his country’s interest to consolidate ties with African countries and vowed to continue to support Africa’s development effort.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Palestinian President Muhamoud Abbas were also guests of the AU Ethiopia hosted. The Palestinian President Muhamoud Abbas has made speech to the Summit in which he recapitulated Africa’s effort to harmonize its voice in addressing the common agendas of the AU member states and commended the solidarity of African countries have forged for it has greatly promoted its international status.

The 28th ordinary session of the assembly of the heads of state and government of the African Union is held in an environment where we see swiftly changing world that is engulfed by new trend that some scholars would like to dub as “de-globalization.”

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, in her opening remark has pointed out the transpiring new political trend of the world simply saying: “…..globally we are entering [into] turbulent times.” Here she is indicating that the world we know is transposing into a different era marked by the particularities of the high-profile US presidential election that allowed the real-estate tycoon, Donald Trump, to assume the pinnacle of power and began to shock everyone with weird decisions that baffle the whole world.

In this regards Dlamini-Zuma has said the following: 

“It is clear that globally we are entering turbulent times. For example, the very country to whom our people were taken as slaves during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, have now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries, [Libya, Somalia and Sudan]. What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges and tests to our unity and solidarity.”

This was the 67-year-old chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma’s passing remark on Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant attitude. Her opening remark criticized President Donald Trump’s decision that temporally denied entry to the USA to travelers holding Libyan, Somali and Sudanese passports.

While Dlamini-Zuma disdain Trump’s cold attitude towards immigrants, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in sharp contrast, praised Africa for widely opening its boarder for immigrants. He commended Africa for welcoming immigrants while other countries chose to close and lock their doors in the face helpless emigrants who badly need their supports.

Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, took office as the new chairwoman of the AU Commission in 2012 after a bruising battle with the incumbent Jean Ping and now she is replaced by the foreign minister of Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Six months ago Dlamini-Zuma, who declined a second four-year term, had her tenure extended in Kigali, Rwanda, after elections to replace her were inconclusive. Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor by training and a veteran politician, was the first woman to lead the 50-year-old organization. When she was elected as the first woman to head the AU’s executive arm for four years, she had promised to make the African Union a more effective organization and now concluded her office term leaving many outstanding pressing issues to her successor Moussa Faki Mahamat.

For instance, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the AU member states had vowed to “silencing gun” in 2020. Now, we are only three years away in the time line set for “silencing gun,” but Africa stood far removed from the target that aims to silence the deafening barrages of bullets shot in sporadic civil wars that menace the lives of millions like the South Sudanese.

The Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has commended Africa’s contribution to the peacekeeping mission of the world’s communities, while he expressed his interest to work with African countries in promoting the continent’s vital economic, social and political agendas that are stipulated in agenda 2063.   

The AU seems to be at a turning point in its history as is indicated Dlamini Zuma’s remarked. The pan-African organization, Organization of African Unity (OAU), was replaced by African Union (AU) in 2002. It is made up of 54 African member states who have a vision to see “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The inaugural launch of the OAU in 1963 was met with a very different fanfare to that of the AU in 2002. There was a feeling of confident optimism, as many African nations were tasting independence for the first time. In contrast, the launch of the AU was somewhat muted affair.

The stark realities facing the AU were addressed at the AU Summit at the end of January. The commission’s chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was straightforward when highlighting the AU’s shortcomings to date. She said the AU needs to take a hard look at its activities, accepting fewer tasks but carrying them out more efficiently and economically.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma said the organization and its predecessor had taken a number of decisions over the past 50 years. She told the AU Executive Council: “The challenge that the union and the commission face is the capacity to implement all these decisions. Should we not at this stage consider providing sufficient time, capabilities and tools to implement and assess the impact of the decisions we have taken?”

Ms Dlamini-Zuma’s comments are a positive sign that there is recognition of the need for change with how the African Union operates. She appealed to member states to ratify the treaties they approve at summits, to pay their subscriptions and to stop establishing new pan-African organizations when the existing ones are unaffordable. Time will tell if a new approach is taken, or whether Ms Dlamini-Zuma’s words are merely rhetoric.

It is too early to declare the AU a failure after a mere eleven years in existence. After all, questions remain today over the future of the EU as it attempts to cope with its dilapidating currency and financial crisis long after the pan-European project was created. It could be argued that African countries have been remarkably successful in maintaining Africa’s colonially demarcated borders, which has brought a degree of harmony to inter-continental foreign relations. Perhaps we are asking for too much too soon from a continent still trying to come to terms with its colonial past.

Some critic say that the AU must “stop policy formulation or norm setting and start policy implementation” and others considered it as a mere ‘toothless talking shop,’ which failed to deliver on many levels. Nonetheless, the existence of the AU is very crucial and a greater effort is needed to show its relevancy and ensure the continent has a stronger voice in the global arena rather than a mere whisper drowned out by other stronger players.

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