Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's win of the presidential elections in April with 97 percent of the vote, was neither free, fair, nor transparent. Picture: Egyptian Presidency via AP

Johannesburg – The African Union (AU) has been described as “an exclusive club for brutish despots” by Johannesburg-based, South African political commentator Tafi Mhaka.

“The AU boasts leaders within its ranks who have profoundly patriarchal and conservative values, questionable legitimacy and blood-spattered pasts,” said Mhaka in an opinion piece recently published on the Al Jazeera website.

“In many ways, the 55-member organisation is a fine example to how a collective determination to establish and maintain democratic principles can go terribly wrong,” added the outspoken commentator. 

Mhaka said that while the AU had proved itself to be highly efficient in publishing decisions, declarations and press releases over the last decade, it had repeatedly failed to take constructive disciplinary action against tyrannical administrations.

“Today, the scarcity of viable, all-inclusive multiparty democracies, especially in central and North Africa, suggest the organisation has failed to achieve most of its goals and instead transformed into an exclusive club of brutish despots who exhibit weak, corrupt, undistinguished and divisive leadership,” said Mhaka.

Underlining his criticism, Mhaka pointed to AU failures in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Egypt.

The political commentator said Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's win of the presidential elections in April with 97 percent of the vote, was neither free, fair, nor transparent.

This sham "election" should have drawn strong and unequivocal denunciation from the AU leadership and led to the brisk suspension or even outright expulsion of Egypt from the union.

“Or, at the very least, Sisi's orchestrated win should have been a wake-up call for the AU to launch an urgent and comprehensive examination of democracy within its ranks. Of course, none of this has happened,” he said. 

“The Sisi administration's dreadful actions impugned the value of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and demonstrated how the AU's mollycoddling of so-called ‘liberators’ like Sisi threaten African aspirations of social and economic freedom.”

Mhaka added that even before the farce elections ridiculed the AU’s founding desire "to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance", the Sisi administration had been violating basic universal freedoms by cracking down on human rights organisations, muzzling independent voices and incarcerating journalists and bloggers like Wael Abbas with unwarranted zeal, grotesque brutality and amazing consistency.

“Yet the AU has been disconcertingly silent on the sustained annihilation of democratic spaces and persecution of democracy advocates and alternative voices in Egypt - almost to the extent of appearing to be implicitly condoning Sisi's unprecedented crackdown on free expression,” said Mhaka.

Pointing to Burundi, he said that in the 2015 election President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in office following an electoral boycott by opposition leaders, a coup attempt, and widespread violence that resulted in nearly 1 200 deaths, more than 100 000 being internally displaced and a further 300 000 fleeing the central African nation.

After the election, the confrontation settled into low-intensity warfare characterised by targeted assassinations, disappearances and torture.

“During all this, the AU not only failed to halt the exacerbation of the crisis, but also missed an obvious opportunity to take a united stand against anti-democratic actions of an African leader,” said Mhaka.

An in violation of the 2000 Arusha Peace Accords, Burundi voters recently approved constitutional amendments that could potentially allow Nkurunziza to stay in office until 2034 as well as boost his powers, despite the referendum’s questionable credibility.

The political commentator also took a swipe at The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR).

In theory, the court should serve the peoples of Africa in a similar way to the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it appears blind to countless injustices that have been perpetrated on innocent and defenceless African citizens throughout the continent.

African News Agency/ANA