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Is the African Union’s Strategic Plan Just a Dream?

Published by admin on 2014/2/12 (5366 reads)

By Kamari M. Clarke, Sarah-Jane Koulen and Ingrid Roestenburg-Morgan

Themes related to Agriculture, Agro-business and food security in Africa resounded throughout the AU Summit this week in Addis Ababa as heads of state, state ministers, national advisors, and members of civil society organizations came together to discuss and unveil Africa’s strategic vision for 2063 and beyond. Dreams of shifting expectations from food security as development to food security as an economic strategy were reinforced with rigor and righteousness. And supplementing this vision was a Pan-Africanist fervor in which Africa, through an industrial and agricultural revolution, would take its rightful place in the world. Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, , challenged the heads of state and foreign ministers who had gathered in Addis Ababa by asking: What Africa do we want? How do we build this Africa? What role will you play toward the realization of the dream?

Reading from an imaginary e-mail to a friend dated January 2063, Dr. Zuma, painted her own picture of an integrated, unified Africa, that in the 50 years since 2013 had started to finance it’s own development and to “leverage its competitive advantage in the world economy.” This theme of Africa taking charge, funding and setting the terms of its own development, controlling, exploiting and processing its own resources and entering into mutually beneficial international agreements with partners rather than receiving payouts from donors was evoked throughout the summit.

“We are tired of outside involvement. There is a sense of fatigue. Africans have ideas too.” insisted the Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping.

During her opening speech Zuma maintained, “we shall not succeed in eradicating poverty, disease, conflict and hunger and provid[ing] a better life for the peoples of our continent, unless we have greater integrations of our economies, Unless we start beneficiating our minerals, industrialize and increase our agricultural production and process our products. Our partnership with the world must enhance...rather than undermine these priorities.”

Yet, underlying these important ambitions was the solemn realization that until the issues underlying the violent outbreaks in several African states are addressed, requiring the presence of 120,000 (largely externally funded) peacekeepers, demanding an estimated USD $5-6 billion on the continent, the dream of 2063 will remain a lofty dream. Though the Commissioner of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union was encouraged by the positive developments seen in member states such as Madagascar, which after peaceful presidential elections in 2013 was allowed back into the African Union, the steady peace process in Mali and Guinea, the two crises in the Central African Republic and South Sudan have cast a dark shadow over the principle themes articulated at the Summit.

A recent ceasefire agreement (IGAD) concerning violence in the newly independent South Sudan and signed in Addis Ababa in January 2014 appearered to have led to a fragile peace deal when opposing factions resumed fighting shortly after the agreement was signed. And earlier in 2013 the Central African Republic descended into sectarian conflict after a coup d’etat instigated by the Muslim rebel group Seleka in March 2013 ignited violence yet again.

“African solutions to African problems” was a common refrain during the Summit. The proposal to extend the mandate of the African Court of Justice with international criminal jurisdiction can be seen as a reflection of this desire to deal with African problems within African geographies. And the idea of providing the African court with criminal jurisdiction both insists on ‘the need to be judged by ‘our own’. It also points to an understanding of the root causes of conflict on the continent as not being simply political but economically driven.

With a list of international crimes going far beyond the genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the proposed jurisdiction for an African Criminal Court extends to the “illicit exploitation of natural resources,” “arms trafficking” and mercenarism – the recruitment of individuals hired to participate in violence for private gain or material compensation. The protocol also provides for criminal liability for legal persons such as corporations.

The exploitation of natural resources – with contracted by mercenaries - has played a key role in major conflicts on the African continent, either as a root cause or prolonging factor. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been marked by a complex and brutal civil war, despite being labeled a geological miracle. The country is is the world’s leading producer of mined cobalt and industrial diamonds, among a multitude of other resources including copper, niobium, silver, and zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydroelectric power, timber, and coffee. However, the main source of wealth is gold, with more than one billion US dollars worth of gold mined in the DRC each year.

The key sources of conflict in the DRC and the wider Great Lakes region involves a myriad of competing actors and combatants fighting to control mines and trade routes. Increasingly, it is becoming common knowledge that Rwandan and Ugandan governmental involvement in the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC has exacerbated the problem. According to a 2005 Human Rights Watch Report, entitled “The Curse of Gold”,the government of Uganda between the years of 1998 to 2003 appropriated approximately one ton of Congolese Gold valued at over 9 million dollars. In the same report they indicated that multinational corporations such as AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American and Metalor Technologies SA, have benefitted from the absence of a strong central government through which they have been able to allegedly buy gold directly from rebel groups or strike deals with them for access to the mineral and resource rich areas in exchange for logistical and financial support. A 2001 UN Report prepared by a panel of experts called the conflict a ‘huge business venture.’ The involvement of private actors such as mercenaries in conflict has been a common feature of conflicts on the continent.

In the newly independent South Sudan, though the conflict has often been explained along ethnic lines, as one stemming from hostility between the Dinka and the Nuer, competition over resources and oil revenue in particular, has been a root cause of the conflict. In the Central African Republic the Muslim Seleka rebels who overthrew President Bozize in March 2013, leading to months of attacks on the Christian majority in the country, are said to be backed by Arabic-speaking mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. In addition to economic grievances, the struggle for access to resources are a key element of the conflict.

The ‘newly’ formulated international crimes in the proposal for an African criminal court, relate directly to the root causes of conflict on the continent. If the African criminal court ever sees the light of day, the court’s docket would look very different than that of the ICC in The Hague.. Africans will no longer be the sole recipients of international criminal justice, but instead international interests complicit in African violence would be exposed, made accountable and be redressed.

Though ideas for the proposed criminal court for Africa dovetail with the desire for visions of an independent Africa in 2063, the reality is that there is a stark contrast between invocation of ‘African solutions to African problems – and the ‘painful fact’ that the AU meets in a building gifted by China, 70% of AU operations are externally funded, and even as the relative achievements of MISCA, the African peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic are celebrated as an African initiative, there are also calls for UN involvement and financial support from the international community.

Ultimately, Africa’s plight is the world’s plight and until we come to terms with the multiple actors that have and that continue to contribute to and benefit from Africa’s struggles, Pan-African sentiments will continue to be place fillers for realities not yet realized.

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