What’s Africa’s role, nay relevance, in global security?
The relevance and challenges of the African Union in global and national security
Paper presented by at Pan-African Club in Kampala on Friday July 16, 2010
All Protocol Observed
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to first of all express my heart felt gratitude for your invitation. It can be energising to present a paper to such a rich audience and I must confess I take a lot of pride in associating with you and sharing ideas with you.
This paper is divided into five broader parts. The first part deals with Africa as an idea and the factual existence of Africa as a land mass. The second deals with the existence of Africa as a political and economic entity in world politics and economics. The third deals with the post-independence Africa while the rest deal with the challenges of the African nationhood and the relevance of African in world politics, security and economics.
Africa the land mass
Africa, as we know it today, is part of the five land masses of the planet Earth. The other land masses are of South America (the reference of Latin America is a political nomenclature), North America, Asia and Australia.
The earliest recorded reference to the land mass we now know as Africa was by the Greeks, who called it Libya. However, archaeological evidence show that the earliest use of the word Africa, as the name of our continent (or part of it), is from Carthage. Carthage was founded in 814 BC by colonists from Phoenicia and is in present day Tunisia. It is no wonder that Tunisia’s national football team is the Eagles of Carthage?
Libya to the Greeks; Egypt to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East or Africa to the Phoenicians of Carthage, knowledge of what we now know as Africa was limited to Mediterranean Africa: that is to say Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
In 146 BC, the Romans conquered Carthage. However, they retained the name Africa and made Carthaginian territory a Roman Province. Records show that the Roman Province of Carthage was heavily urbanised.
During the second century AD, African Senators comprised the largest group from the western provinces of the Roman Empire.
The Africa Province of the Roman Empire was very significant because of the export of vast quantities of corn. Such was the wealth from Africa that the Roman Emperor personally administered the province through a Consul; not a Governor as was normal practice.
A governor in such a wealthy province would develop ideas of challenging the imperial rule in Rome. In present day Uganda, it is like President Museveni appointing the RDC to take over the powers and functions of the District Chief Administrative Officer and the District Chairman.
But all that political history is limited to Mediterranean Africa or North Africa or Al Maghreb or whatever… But we all know that the land mass called Africa stretches to South Africa’s Cape Town or Cape of Good Hope.
Africa the political body mass
In contemporary history, Africa’s first participation in global politics and economy was through trade. However, this interface was lopsided in favour of the foreigners Africa was merely the source of raw materials. The rider on this is that these raw materials were people and ivory.
Africa was a merely a passive participant; a source of slaves and ivory. Africa’s participation later expended to the exploitation mineral and other natural resources.
However, unlike slaves and ivory, the exploitation minerals and other natural resources demanded some kind of administrative regime or mechanism. Mineral exploitation could only be done under the well-cut management of the political and economic affairs of the areas from which they exploited mineral resources. That’s how the whole of Africa came to be colonised.
After WWII, the evolue (as the French referred to the graduates of the Catechist Classes of the European religious Groups) and the veterans of the two wars started challenging colonialism. This is what Afro-centric historians call the beginning of the African Revolution.
The fight against colonialism constitutes Africa’s first active and deliberate participation in shaping global politics, security and economy. However, the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) remains and first self-conscious institutional (and continental) action by Africa as a player on the world platform.
Post Independence Africa in world politics
The OAU was founded in 1963 by a handful of heads of state and government from the few countries that had gained independence from European colonial powers.
The OAU was the first African strategic response to global political dynamics obtaining at the time. However, we must recognise the Pan-African Movement and its spirit of afro-centric consciousness.
If strong national governments have been sought as the necessary basis for socio-economic advancement of the African people, African unity offered the only means for overcoming the limitations of national entities. In their individual frailty, Africa states can do little to influence world powers to stop a senseless and dangerous arms race.
However, the most important thing is that many Africans still hold dear the ideals of African unity today as it was with our forefathers.
The name of the OAU may have changed to African Union and the administrative functions and structures may have changed to suit the obtaining security and political dynamics, but the strategic objectives behind the vision of a united Africa in peace and prosperity remain relevant today as it was in 1963.
How to actualise these ideals is what I see as the challenge facing the new leadership of the African continent.
The leaders of African revolution had their job cut out for them: the end of colonialism on the entire African continent. The fight against colonialism demanded a lot of national sacrifices. Frontline countries like Tanzania and Mozambique have stories to tell about the sacrifices they made.
And their achievements are there for all of us to see. By the turn of 1990, the only vestige of colonialism (as a socio-political phenomenon) was the rogue Apartheid regime in South Africa and what they called their administrative mandate in Namibia.
As we go into the second decade of the 21 century, there are no foreign powers occupying and politically managing any part of Africa. That was the achievement of our forefathers; the leaders of the first phase of the African revolution like Nyerere, Nkruma, Lumumba, Ben Bella, Toure, Abdi Nasser etc etc.
The challenge we have now is to sustain the spirit of Pan-African unity and afro-consciousness in the context global political dynamics currently obtaining.
Africa and contemporary world challenges
What are the current challenges facing Africa in the context of world politics, security and economy? To put it another way, what is the relevance of African in global politics, economy and security?
To understand Africa’s relevance to global security, one would have to first define those challenges. The biggest challenge on the continent is national security, corruption, climatic change, morbidity disease, poverty, world trade imbalances and functionally poor administration practices and structures.
It is these challenges that impact on Africa’s actions and relevance in world politics. It is these issues that affect Africa’s bargaining power in world fora on issues that are even supposed to be held dear to Africa.
The nearest to attempt to address these challenges can be traced in the change of name of the Organisation of African Unity to African Union. Because of the new global challenges, the biggest debate in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, is the re-structuring of the AU Commission in order to respond the realities in continental and world politics, security and economy.
The thrust of the debate is over changing the AU Commission into the AU Authority with functional capacity and capabilities to respond to crises with limited politico-bureaucracy.
Another response has been the restructuring of the organisation. There is a clear attempt to make the AU relevant to the municipal entities that constitute Africa as a political block.
There is an African Parliament, an African Court, Security Council and several sector arms. All these are aimed at responding to current challenges.
Somalia has not had a constituted government since 1992; in effect we have a classic description of as failed state in Somalia. What challenges does that state of affairs in Somalia present to African and world peace; and what role should Africa play in the stabilisation of the country?
The challenge is that some of the players in Somalia like Al Shahbab, are non-state players. This removes diplomatic recourse as one of the options for responding.
The world is now witnessing a proliferation of conflicts involving non-state armed players. Initially, these non-state players were merely protagonists in their countries’ civil wars. However, there is now a growing reality and trend of these non-state players internationalising their activities.
Uganda’s Lords Resistance Army operating is in The Sudan, DR Congo and Central African Republic; Somalia’s Al Shabab just planted bombs in Kampala.
The international nature of terrorism means that countries should not look at their interests in isolation of international politics. And that is where the African Union comes in.
As a continent we must appreciate the fact that International Peace is the result of national sacrifices some of which could be mistaken for selfish adventurist policies.
We have witnessed two attempts by Africa to resolve security and political problems since the adoption of the AU as a robust and dynamic entity to replace OAU. The first was the attempt to resolve the Darfur conflict and the second was the stabilisation of Somalia.
But none of these efforts have bore any reasonable fruits YET. The funding of these efforts is still foreign and there has been a policy position to hand over the missions in Darfur and Somalia to the United Nations.
Africa is indeed the biggest beneficiary of UN missions. Since, the establishment of the UN in 1945, Africa has been the recipient of 19 missions beginning with the Congo Crisis of 1960 to date. If you added the Tanzanian stabilisation (some people call it an invasion) of Uganda in 1979, those are twenty missions in forty years making an average of one intervention in two years.
In 1979, Tanzania executed a regime in Uganda. Although it was condemned, Tanzania went ahead with this effort which was well-received by Ugandans. In 1997, Uganda and Rwanda executed regime in Zaire, now DR Congo.
Tanzania made regime change in Uganda as response to the Uganda government’s earlier invasion of Tanzanian territory in 1978 while Uganda and Rwanda executed regime change in Zaire as a response to the frustrating use of Zairean territory as a rear base for rebels fighting Kampala and Kigali.
Since Africa hold sacred the principle of non-interference, these cases were taboo. Yet there were no continental mechanism to resolve these issues in Uganda and Zaire otherwise. Someone had to take a unilateral action and the results were well-come.
This state of affairs calls for a continental framework under which members can review national and continental security. The basis for this mechanism should be preventive rather than the famous forward-leaning attitude; conflict prevention as opposed to conflict resolution.
This can be done with the AU making a strong stand against elections thefts, military take-overs etc. And of course the mobilisation of the international community to adopt the African position on a particular case or issue. This should be followed with a resolute purposefulness.
The debate on stabilising Somalia ended in favour of troop deployment. It could have been Nigeria or Ghana or some other country with troops in Somalia; but why them, not Uganda? Or why only Uganda and Burundi? If this has been adopted as a continental matter, why then didn’t Africa have the commiserate number of troops for deployment?
How can Africa use the regional power blocks to integrate or resolve or prevent conflicts? These and other compacts in the intelligentsia are some of the debates now shaping the face of Africa in world politics and economy.
If one asked me the payload of this paper, I would tell him or her thus: Africa is not an ethnic or racial classification of the black people. However, there is a conventional acceptance for Africa to refer to the land mass on which we stand now and the black race.
And that Africa’s actions in world politics have been as a response to foreign powers’ actions. The first pro-active African response was as a result of the slavery of the black race and colonialism. And what does that mean? That it is time for Africa to take a pro-active action in world politics.
I would like once again to thank the organisers of this engagement for inviting me. I wish there were many of such engagements. And to my audience, thank you so much. Thank you.