Monday, February 14, 2005

Evolution of the African Union

The Christian Science Monitor has yet another good article on Africa; this time, on the African Union

The paper notes that the AU is moving away from the cows held sacred by its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity: most notably, the OAU's principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of member states. Africa's leaders now recognize that the era of nonintervention in internal conflicts is over - that the myriad conflicts on the continent drag the whole region down and that the world will not solve their problems for them.

The paper adds: Perhaps the most important development is the creation last May of the 15-member Peace and Security Council, modeled after the UN Security Council, designed to address regional conflict. The plan is to create an early- warning system, a "Panel of the Wise" to troubleshoot, and an African Standby Force to intervene in crises within 10 days.

With western platitudes of 'never again' proving as hollow in Darfur as they were in Rwanda, this is an important mechanism to deal with crises. Simply put, few non-African countries are going to feel any sense of urgency to deal with African crises. Countries that might affected by such conflicts, such as by the movement of massive populations of refugees, will feel more pressure to act expeditiously.

The AU is much like the UN in 1945 - there are high ideals, but no functioning mechanisms to realize them... The AU still has many unresolved issues, including where to find the resources and the political will to establish the standby force. How the body will relate to the many regional organizations on the continent, as well as to the EU and the UN, will only evolve with time. The AU recognizes it needs help and is refreshingly willing to seek advice and training.

The rise of a serious continental organization, instead than a talking shop for autocrats, could do wonders to transform the political culture in Africa. Or at least be a model to counter low expectations of the continent's leaders.

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