Good rid­dance, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu

Whether it was the Ebola out­break, drown­ing of African refugees in the Mediter­ranean, famines, the re­turn of the god-Pres­i­dent, the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court or pop­u­lar up­ris­ings by young peo­ple de­mand­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary change, the out­go­ing Chair­per­son of the African Union Com­mis­sion failed Africa.

Her suc­ces­sor must be some­one who un­der­stands, cares about and has a vi­sion for the con­ti­nent and its peo­ple.

In April 2016, Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma an­nounced that she had de­cided to re­turn to South Africa rather than run for a sec­ond term as the Chair­per­son ofthe Com­mis­sion of the African Union (AU). For close ob­servers this did not re­ally come as a sur­prise as she ap­peared to spend less time on the in­sti­tu­tion than she did nav­i­gat­ing the en­trails of South Africa’s politics. Ahead of her an­nounce­ment, the Mail and Guardian re­ported on 29 March that Dlamini-Zuma was “likely to re­turn to South Africa to run for a top ANC lead­er­ship po­si­tion, pos­si­bly for pres­i­dent to suc­ceed her ex-hus­band, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.”[1]

Dlamini-Zuma is a lead­ing mem­ber of South Africa’s rul­ing African Na­tional Congress (ANC) and was for 16 years spouse of the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent. Their di­vorce was re­port­edly for­mal­ized in 1982.

Later this month in Ki­gali, Rwanda, the Sum­mit of the Heads of State and Gov­ern­ments of the AU will elect a suc­ces­sor to Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. As they pre­pare to do that, it is ap­pro­pri­ate to look back at her ten­ure so that the in­sti­tu­tion avoids the kind of er­rors that made it such a lam­en­ta­ble mis­ad­ven­ture.

It did not have to be so. A trained pae­di­a­tri­cian, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma ar­rived at the African Union on the back of a stel­lar pub­lic ser­vice and po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in South Africa where she served four suc­ces­sive pres­i­dents, in­clud­ing Nel­son Man­dela, as min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for health, for­eign af­fairs, and home af­fairs.

When she ar­rived in Ad­dis Ababa to as­sume of­fice as the Chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion in Oc­to­ber 2012, many be­lieved that Dr. Dlamini-Zuma would usher in a brave new era in the his­tory of the in­sti­tu­tion. She boasted many firsts: the first woman to head the AU; the first head of the AU from south­ern Africa and the first head of the AU with lib­er­a­tion cre­den­tials. In the end, she will be re­mem­bered for an­other first: the first head of the AU to leave as an ut­ter fail­ure. Her big­gest legacy will prob­a­bly be her epony­mous Twit­ter han­dle, mostly fa­mous for its pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with fatu­ous non­sense.

On 9 June 2016, Le Monde Afrique ran an ar­ti­cle ask­ing in ef­fect: “How Did Mrs Zuma Mess Up (the AU)?”[2], as­sert­ing that her ten­ure was char­ac­ter­ized by a lack of vi­sion and si­lence that “ac­cel­er­ated the de­cline of the AU.” All these fail­ings were will­ful, not in­ad­ver­tent

When Dr. Dlamini-Zuma be­gan her ten­ure in 2012, the AU con­fronted sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in the spheres of peace, se­cu­rity and gov­er­nance in Africa, as well as institutional re­form and so­cial af­fairs. Like T.S. Eliot’s Ma­cav­ity, she looked “out­wardly re­spectable.” Like Ma­cav­ity also, she was just “not there.”

As she ar­rived, South Sudan was wrestling with a tran­si­tion to stable in­de­pen­dence that threat­ened to get quite bloody. On the gov­er­nance front, ac­count­able gov­ern­ments in Africa con­fronted grow­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism with far reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for peace and se­cu­rity in many parts of the con­ti­nent.

Ac­count­abil­ity for grave crimes by Africa’s lead­ers faced frus­tra­tion in Kenya and Sudan. In­sti­tu­tion­ally, many coun­tries were in ar­rears of their dues and the AU was in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on for­eign gov­ern­ments and donors for its run­ning.

Dur­ing her ten­ure, Africa con­fronted mul­ti­ple so­cial chal­lenges: Ebola in West Africa; Yel­low Fever in parts of South­ern Africa; cli­mate change and food se­cu­rity around the Sa­hel and Horn of Africa, as well as an in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion cri­sis.

On each and all of these chal­lenges, Dr Dlamini-Zuma was out to lunch or bliss­fully missing in ac­tion. Take South Sudan, for in­stance. Un­der the watch of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, South Sudan de­scended into frat­ri­cide. Fol­low­ing a lead pro­vided by any­one but her, the AU con­sti­tuted a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry chaired by Nige­ria’s for­mer Pres­i­dent, Oluse­gun Obasanjo, which re­ported in early 2015 rec­om­mend­ing a mix of mea­sures, in­clud­ing ju­di­cial ac­count­abil­ity. There­after, the re­port went cold. Un­der her watch, the re­la­tion­ship of the AU and the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), whose Pros­e­cu­tor is an­other daugh­ter of Africa - The Gam­bia’s Fa­tou Ben­souda - col­lapsed.

At the Sum­mit that elected her as Chair of the AU Com­mis­sion in 2012, a High Level Panel on al­ter­na­tive fund­ing for the AU again chaired by for­mer Pres­i­dent Obasanjo had re­ported that “the cur­rent sys­tem of statu­tory con­tri­bu­tions, which had been in place since the OAU days, has been deemed to no longer be ad­e­quate to meet the grow­ing fi­nanc­ing needs of the Union due to greater op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments and in­creased scope of ac­tiv­i­ties”. As she leaves, this re­port dec­o­rates the shelves of Dr. Dlamini Zuma’s $200 mil­lion AU palace, con­structed and do­nated by the Chinese. Her last­ing legacy is that civil so­ci­ety will be ex­cluded from the AU sum­mit that elects her suc­ces­sor.

Un­der the watch of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, the con­ti­nent was al­lowed to squan­der the en­er­gies re­leased by pop­u­lar up­ris­ings against au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism. When Egypt’s army set upon young peo­ple whose only crime was to dare to dream and or­ga­nize for a coun­try in free­dom in 2013, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma lost her voice.

Un­der her watch, the god Pres­i­dent re­turned. In congo braz­zav­ille, Chad, Rwanda and Uganda, elected pres­i­dents tore up the con­sti­tu­tions un­der which they were elected and in­stalled them­selves gods. In Bu­rundi, where an­other pres­i­dent’s de­sire for god Pres­i­dency turned mur­der­ous, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma con­ve­niently out­sourced her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and dis­ap­peared. Her dere­lic­tion on gov­er­nance now threat­ens the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo where the de­sire of the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent for god-Pres­i­dency meets a coun­try un­will­ing to ac­cept man as god.

It was in so­cial af­fairs, how­ever, that the ex­tent of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s dere­lic­tion would con­found even her few most ar­dent ad­mir­ers. As a trained med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, many cred­ited her with the qual­i­fi­ca­tions to care when Ebola Virus Dis­ease (EVD) came call­ing in Fe­bru­ary 2014. Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, how­ever, she man­aged to ab­di­cate on that too.

While EVD held sway in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nige­ria, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma avoided those coun­tries. By con­trast, Dr. Don­ald Kaberuka, her coun­ter­part at the African Devel­op­ment Bank (afdb) took to the road to visit the af­fected coun­tries, raise re­sources and com­pel the world to act. While Dr. Kaberuka showed his met­tle in this most dif­fi­cult of sit­u­a­tions, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was missing con­spic­u­ously.

Two years af­ter she was elected to Chair­per­son of the AU, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma al­lowed her ex-hus­band to put her name for­ward on the ANC’s list for the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion in South Africa. It there­fore be­came ev­i­dent that for her, Ad­dis Ababa was, from the start, a place to cool her heels, pre­serve her­self and pre­pare to col­lect South Africa’s high­est po­lit­i­cal prize like a promised al­imony set­tle­ment.

In one word, Dr. Dlamini Zuma didn’t know Africa and only cared about her am­bi­tions back home. She just didn’t care about the African.

When Africa’s Heads of State meet later this July in Ki­gali to elect the next Chair­per­son of the AU Com­mis­sion, they should draw a line un­der the mis­ad­ven­ture that has been Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s ten­ure.

As Dr. Dlamini-Zuma slinks back to the deep­en­ing sleaze that threat­ens to un­ravel her march to the prize in South Africa that she trea­sures above the lives of or­di­nary Africans, many will be for­given for scream­ing: good rid­dance, Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma….!

Odinkalu is for­mer Chair, Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, Nige­ria

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