AU se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion bad


The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Ad­dis Ababa

Some suc­cess achieved in Cen­tral African Repub­lic and South Su­dan.

Seven years ago, amid ex­trav­a­gant cel­e­bra­tions mark­ing the African Union’s (AU) 50th an­niver­sary, the con­ti­nent’s heads of state de­clared they would “end all wars in Africa by 2020”.

But as lead­ers travel to Ad­dis Ababa this week­end for the lat­est sum­mit of the 55-mem­ber bloc – or­gan­ised un­der the theme Si­lenc­ing the Guns – there is lit­tle ques­tion they are doomed to fall well short of their goal.

Some suc­cess has been achieved in Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Su­dan, but long-run­ning con­flicts in places like Libya and South Su­dan have been joined by new crises from the fringe of the Sa­hara to Mozam­bique.

In re­marks on Thurs­day to AU for­eign min­is­ters, AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Moussa Faki Ma­hamat painted a bleak pic­ture of the con­ti­nent’s se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion, cit­ing ex­trem­ist threats stretch­ing from the Sa­hel to So­ma­lia.

The “missed dead­line” to si­lence the guns, he added, “re­veals the complexity of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Africa”.

In an op-ed this week in Mail & Guardian news­pa­per, Solomon Dersso, head of the AU’s hu­man rights body, was blunter, say­ing the cur­rent level of in­se­cu­rity “seems to make a mock­ery of the theme of the year”.

Two days of talks open to­mor­row. As they grap­ple with their fail­ure to fos­ter peace, African lead­ers have strug­gled to con­vince world bod­ies like the United Na­tions (UN) to take them se­ri­ously, as they seek a more prom­i­nent role in Libya.

South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who will take over from Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sisi as AU chair on Mon­day, ap­pears well aware of these chal­lenges. In a speech to South Africa-based diplo­mats last week, he warned that con­flict “con­tin­ues to ham­per” de­vel­op­ment.

South Africa’s goals of ad­vanc­ing eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and curb­ing vi­o­lence against women “must be un­der­pinned by the pro­mo­tion of a peace­ful and se­cure Africa”, he added.

Diplo­mats say Ramaphosa would do best to tackle the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal root causes of vi­o­lence.

“Si­lenc­ing the guns of course is the mother of all themes,” Osama Ab­delkhalek, Egypt’s am­bas­sador to the AU, said. “If you want to ad­dress it, you’re speak­ing about the grass­roots so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges, about po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges, in ad­di­tion to se­cu­rity chal­lenges.”

Ramaphosa has said Libya – mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed up­ris­ing that killed long­time dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gaddafi – will be a key fo­cus dur­ing his time in the chair.

Ahead of a peace con­fer­ence last month in Ber­lin, a spokesper­son for Faki com­plained that the AU “has con­sis­tently been ig­nored” in Libya-re­lated peace pro­cesses, led pri­mar­ily by the UN.

But the AU’s at­tempts to assert it­self have also been un­der­mined by in­ter­nal di­vi­sions.

These date back to 2011, when African mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil en­dorsed mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion, even as the AU’s Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil op­posed it.

A Nige­rien source re­cently ex­plained that the AU re­mained di­vided on Libya, claim­ing that Egypt, for ex­am­ple, doesn’t want the AU to get in­volved. Ab­delkhalek, the Egyp­tian am­bas­sador, dis­puted this, say­ing that Egypt above all wanted “a Libyan-led po­lit­i­cal process”, but that “the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must ful­fill its man­date”.

Mean­while, the AU has been over­shad­owed by Europe, which sees Libya as an ur­gent cri­sis fu­elling mi­gra­tion and transna­tional crime, said She­wit Wol­demichael, an Ad­dis Ababa-based re­searcher with the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies.

Ramaphosa has also pledged to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to South Su­dan, where a civil war has dragged on since 2013. Lead­ers have missed mul­ti­ple dead­lines to form a unity gov­ern­ment. Last week­end, South Su­danese Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir met with Ramaphosa dur­ing a trip to South Africa. – AFP

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