IS THE AFRICAN UNION A TOOTHLESS DOG?
Eritrea Tells ‘weak’ African Union to ‘wake up’ over Sudan Crisis
One of the roles of the African Union is to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent. Under one of its principles “Peaceful resolution of conflicts (PSC)”, the union is mandated to intervene in member state in circumstances of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as recognized in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act
The PSC has the power, among other things, to authorize peace support missions, to impose sanctions in case of unconstitutional change of government, and to “take initiatives and action it deems appropriate” in response to potential or actual conflicts. The PSC is a decision-making body in its own right, and its decisions are binding on member states.
Not much from the African union has however been seen on the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The union has kept aloof as the situation continues to worsen, which indicates the deplorable state of affairs in it.
From the onset of the protests in December 2018, the union was clumsy and undecided on the situation and as a result, it lost much of the say in the country as the Gulf countries such as Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia took charge.
The African Union has been deeply flawed and has in most cases succeeded only in addressing the needs of the political class while failing to meet the aspirations of the ordinary African people in terms of peace and security. Youth make up the majority of the African population but the body has not given their voice a platform and neither is the union striving to ensure they access essential goods, services and programs.
Of the disappointing letdowns of African Union, their failure in coming out strongly to condemn violations of human rights is evident in countries such as Eritrea and Ethiopia, where thousands of political prisoners were held for years without trial and access to lawyers while human rights activists and journalist are continually being harassed or detained in several African states.
In relation to the Sudan conflict, the Eritrean government officially reacted to the events in Sudan through Addis Ababa where the African union sits. Through its information ministry in a June 5 statement titled ‘AU stance may exacerbate the situation in the Sudan’, the horn of Africa country blamed the continental bloc for “internationalizing the crisis.”
“Unfortunately, efforts exerted towards reforming the AU have not succeeded to date. Its evident weaknesses aside, what has become more perplexing in the past years is its unwitting role to provide suitable pretexts for external intervention,” the statement read. “The AU’s posturing on the events unfolding in Sudan is a recent and vivid illustration of this deplorable state of affairs.”
It is not the first time Eritrea is showing concern and acting on Sudan’s political crisis in less than a month. Asmara called upon the AU to have a proactive approach in Sudan and do better than it has done so far.
In May President Afwerki sent a delegation to Khartoum which met with leaders of the military junta and with the protest leaders separately to firmly show the Sudanese people that they had the support of its neighbor.
The African union therefore needs to add more zest in addressing important issues in the continent. Not to say that the bloc has completely failed, it has its own achievements, but reforms are really necessary if it needs to fulfill its mandate and influence.