By Jerry Okungu
December 30 2011
As 2011 comes to a close, many nagging issues on our continent need to be reviewed and scrutinized carefully in order to make a clean break from an otherwise tormenting year for many countries in Africa. Unfortunately a lot of problems the continent faced were of a political, governance or human rights nature , issues we expected the AU chairman to take decisive actions on and save the continent from perennial embarrassment by being a mere bystander as the rest of the world decided for us.
It all started with the AU fiasco on Omar El Bashir and the Ocampo Six when John Ping mistakenly misadvised the AU to undermine the ICC mandate in dealing with crimes against humanity in this continent. It was interesting to note how John Ping was just to enthusiastic in supporting indicted individuals as opposed to their victims in Darfur and Kenya, some of whom were maimed, displaced or had been raped and massacred. These heart rendering atrocities in Darfur and Kenya did not move John Ping one bit.
The helplessness of the AU under John Ping was to come out again more prominently when Ivory Coast was burning following that country’s general elections outcome which the then President Gbagbo refused to accept after he lost to the opposition. The AU’s usual foot-dragging under John Ping half heartedly tried to appease dictator Gbagbo by asking him to share power with the winner, Mr. Ouattara.
Initially the AU exhibited some seriousness in the unfolding Ivorian drama. It appointed Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga to try and mediate between the warring presidential candidates.
When Raila Odinga realized that no amount of negotiation would succeed with President Gbagbo, he recommended that the AU use force to remove the loser from power. That report sent shivers down the spines of many dictators around the AU summit prompting them to form a ten member committee to deal with the Ivorian crisis. Incidentally that membership was composed of other dictators with no credibility internationally. It even included President Mugabe who refused to hand over power after losing the general elections in 2008 forcing the winner to share power with him in a coalition government.
As the AU under John Ping was twitching its fingers, other powers with interest in West Africa were plotting their own intervention. When all seemed lost and lives were being lost; thanks to President Gbagbo’s undemocratic thirst for power at any cost, the French troopers finally stormed his bunker and flushed him out together with his equally violent wife. As I write this closing episode for the year, Mr. Gbagbo is in jail in The Hague awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. When the French soldiers invaded Gbagbo’s bunker, the AU did not even know what was going on.
2011 was a really bad year for the AU under John Ping. It was the year of the Arab Spring uprising in the Arab North Africa. It all started with a young jobless Tunisian university graduate roasting maize by the roadside. When the usual city council soldiers confiscated his maize cobs and razed to the ground his humble stall, he set himself ablaze and eventually died in hospital.
It was that single act of harassing poor citizens in the streets of Tunisia that planted the seed of revolution. As Tunisians went amok and took the country by storm, there was no voice of reason from the AU to try and calm things down. The AU watched as one of its prominent members was sent packing together with his family. People power had toppled an insensitive regime.
As the AU was busy figuring out what had happened in Tunisia, another Arab Spring uprising was in the offing. Tahir Square in the center of Cairo was the venue of another people power that eventually forced Hosni Mubarak into early retirement. For the Egyptians, they were tired of the aging dictator’s oppressive rule. They chose to face jail, beatings and even death rather than continue enduring his brutality. The modern Pharaoh had gone too far.
During all this turmoil that saw Egypt come to a standstill, no meaningful voice of reason could be heard coming out of Addis Ababa. It was like Egypt had never been part of the AU family. Hosni Mubarak was left to fend for himself; something he didn’t do very well considering his age and failing health. He is now in custody and on trial for the killing of thousands of Egyptians throughout his 30 year misrule.
The worst performance of the AU had to come later in the year when Tripoli erupted in unprecedented revolt against the Libyan strong man, also known as the King of Kings. When it was evidently clear that the Libyan crisis was taking a different dimension from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions before it; it presented the AU with the best opportunity to intervene and stop Kaddafi from slaughtering his people that he had labeled rats and cockroaches that he would crash.
As the crisis snowballed into an armed civil war with Libyan forces having the upper hand over rebels, the AU refused or hopelessly found it impossible to meaningfully intervene. It only started to make feeble noises after the UN passed a resolution authorizing NATO Allied Forces to give rebels cover and stop Kaddafi from further slaughtering Libyan civilians.
Considering that for years Muamar Kaddafi had financed most AU summits and underwrote a lot of AU expenses apart from being one of the most recent AU chairmen, it was a pity the organization he helped build had to allow him to go the way he went.
When all is said and done; it was the prevalent bad governance and violation of human rights that brought down Gbagbo, the Tunisian President, Hosni Mubarak and finally Muamar Kaddafi. Had the AU enforced its own code of conduct and forced its member states to play according to the APRM guidelines, we would have not had fiascos in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
Good bye John Ping. You have failed Africa big time.