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AU ‘lacks the will’ to stamp out coups, terrorism scourge

A mother gives water to her child at Tawkal 2 Dinsoor camp for internally displaced persons in Baidoa, Somalia. The AU cannot stop military coups in countries where the performance of democratic governments are drivers of humanitarian crises, says the writer. Picture: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

A mother gives water to her child at Tawkal 2 Dinsoor camp for internally displaced persons in Baidoa, Somalia. The AU cannot stop military coups in countries where the performance of democratic governments are drivers of humanitarian crises, says the writer. Picture: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP

Published Jun 5, 2022


Dr Omololu Fagbadebo

Last week, the AU held its two Extraordinary Summits on Humanitarian and Pledging Conference and Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes in Africa, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

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The African leaders expressed their displeasure against the resurgence of military coups as a means of change of government in the continent. To them, terrorism, bad governance, and unconstitutional change of government could be catalysts for the bourgeoning humanitarian crises that have engulfed the continent.

The leaders reiterated their “zero tolerance” of “all forms of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa” and thereby endorsed the Accra Declaration of March 2022. One cannot but praise the AU for the frontal positions taken at the summits. But is there the political will to confront the monsters?

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) discovered that the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises are all in Africa. The Global Humanitarian Overview in its 2022 report also noted that millions of citizens in West and Central Africa are being driven to the edge of survival “due to a confluence of factors, including conflict and violence, extreme poverty, weak governance, chronically high food insecurity and malnutrition, and the impact of climate change”.

Violence and deteriorating insecurity have displaced millions of Africans. Victims have lost access to their farmlands, thereby aggravating the food crisis and poverty. Climate change and other natural disasters such as floods, and famine, have compounded this challenge of food security and displacement of citizens.

In the Horn of Africa, drought is threatening the existence of more than 15 million citizens. In West Africa and the Sahel alone, there are over 43 million hungry Africans, according to the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP).

While the AU summits discussed these issues with concern, it should be noted that the major problem is internal. Good governance would mitigate the consequences of natural disasters.

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Effective administration of relief materials and assistance would assuage the pains and agonies associated with natural disasters. Effective management of the proceeds of the abundant natural resources in the continent would also provide much-needed public assistance to the displaced individuals and groups affected by natural disasters.

However, these governance variables are lacking in the continent and the AU has not been able to demonstrate its practical commitment to resolving this crisis of governance that defines Africa. Even though there have been a series of declarations, resolutions and communique on governance, these are mere rhetoric.

Having identified the governance crisis as a driver of the resurgence of military coups and humanitarian challenges, the AU lacks the will to deal with the problem. And it is futile to link this to external forces because the failure of leadership is at the centre of the crises that precipitated military adventure in countries that have witnessed the emergence of the Khaki boys in power.

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This is no different to the spate of terrorism on the continent. The AU summits failed to realise that the domestic terrorist groups, such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram, were the creation of the leaders rather than external forces, as it claimed in its declarations. They just provided the platform for the internationalisation of terrorism in Africa.

In countries with these terrorist groups, local farmers have been displaced from their farmlands, while their productive citizens have been killed or conscripted into the groups. Unfortunately, African government leaders have not shown the necessary commitments and dedication to the fight against these groups, even though state resources have been allocated.

In some countries, there have been cases of complicit government officials who support terrorist activities while still serving in government.

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The AU is not addressing this challenge. Ironically, the political will to deal with these myriads of humanitarian challenges is either weak or absent. The AU should begin by speaking the truth to power. These crises are composite of corruption and mismanagement of public resources.

Thus, AU summits should focus more on how to deal with domestic problems beyond the rhetoric of the past. There have been a series of AU declarations and resolutions against corruption, money laundering and illicit financial flows.

For instance, a report has shown that Africa loses more than $88.6 billion (R1.369 trillion) to Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) annually. This has been noted as a fundamental impediment to the realisation of the AU 2030 and 2063 Agenda. African leaders laundered their countries’ resources to invest in foreign countries.

Report of the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) indicated how real estate businesses benefited from funds laundered by government officials from sub-Saharan African countries. Guinea, Gambia, the Republic of Congo and Nigeria, are the leading countries in the global money laundering and IFF phenomenon.

Ordinary citizens are not involved in these heinous crimes against the African states. The main actors are the respective government leaders who, incidentally, are part of the AU summit. This is a paradox.

Citizens suffer the consequences of leadership failure in Africa. The AU should therefore reorientate its commitment to eradicating the bourgeoning humanitarian crises and food security through pragmatic commitment to the promotion and enforcement of good governance rather than the intermittent rhetoric of condemnation.

Speaking truth to power with a deafening political will to sanction leaders of democratic governments that have demonstrated a failure of accountability and transparency should be considered a priority.

The AU cannot stop military coups in countries where the performance of democratic governments are drivers of humanitarian crises. But it can prevent the deterioration of the domestic socio-economic and political crises that have displaced many citizens.

The AU should drive the campaign against personalised politics that has reinforced the crisis of governance with devastating hunger, poverty and heightened insecurity in Africa.

Security challenges in Africa have become a monster. The AU should move away from rhetoric. The tide is becoming fiercer.

* Fagbadebo is a Research Associate at the Durban University of Technology who has taught courses in political science and management sciences in Nigeria and South Africa