The AU's priorities
The big news in Africa this week, aside frmo the death of Sudanese Vice-President John Garang, has been the military coup in the Sahara desert country of Mauritania. The regime of colonels, as some are calling it, overthrew the country's strongman Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya. The colonels' pretext for seizing power was to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority, which [the Mauritanian] people have suffered from during the past years. Ould Taya himself came to power in a military coup in 1984.
As expected, the African Union suspended Mauritania from the organization until the return of "constitutional order."
Unlike its pointless predecessor Organization for African Unity, the AU actually takes a strong stand against military coups. Those who perpetrate them are not welcome in continental bodies... unless they legitimize their coup via nominally democratic elections. Of course, this anti-coup rule was grandfathered in or else the AU would only have about a dozen members.
It's good that the AU deals strongly with coups. It's right and proper that you shouldn't seize power just because you have guns; and if you did, it's right and proper that the international community do what they can to punish you for it.
However, the AU needs to expand on this. Military coups are not the only violation of "constitutional order" that can happen. Constitutions (not only in Africa) are violated all the time. Judicial decisions are ignored. Active military men serve as president, even when it's constitutionally forbidden. People are thrown into re-education camps because they support the opposition. Elections are rigged. People's homes are destroyed under the pretext of "cleanup." Rarely are such monstrosities condemned by the AU. Even when those crimes create hundreds of thousands of homeless, the AU can't be bothered.
To wit, South African President Thabo Mbeki was reported to be furious at the Mauritania coup. Mbeki said that there is a lot of anger in Africa about the use of unconstitutional means to change governments, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Yet Mbeki is the chief apologist for Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe. Mugabe crimes are too numerous to mention here (though I detailed some of them here and here), but they all seem more serious than a group of military men jettisoning another group of military men.
And Mugabe's only the most pompous example. What about Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo's tolerence and perhaps use of xenophobic militia/criminal gangs acting in his name? What about Rwandan leader Paul Kagame's assiduous efforts to muzzle all opposition? What about the "state of emergency" that's been in place in Egypt for the last quarter century? What about Eritrean leader Isiais Afewarki's war on the press? What about alleged slavery in Niger? What has the AU said about these things? Do they not represent an assault on the "constitutional order"?
They still have slavery in Mauritania but what gets the AU hot and bothered is when the country replaces one autocratic regime with a slightly less autocratic regime. Sorry if I'm underwhelmed.