Monday, February 14, 2011

Africans embrace democracy while the African Union rejects it

The former Organization for African Unity was often derided as a club for dictators. The organization rebranded itself the African Union several years ago in an attempt to start afresh. It was part of a trend at the time where pan-African institutions were created (such as the New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD) or reformed (such as the AU) to purportedly do more self-policing on issues like human rights and good governance.

So it was quite sickening to read that the AU named Equatorial Guinea’s longtime dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema as its new president. Although the position is mostly ceremonial, it’s a slap in the face to give such a platform to the head of one of the world’s three most repressive regimes. As a man who seized power in a coup in 1979 and has brutally cracked down on all opposition, with what authority can he lecture Côte d’Ivoire’s recalcitrant former president Laurent Gbagbo or the generals in Cairo? With one of the world’s most abominable human rights record, how can he speak on northern Uganda or the Central African Republic or the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo?

While Africans from Tunisia to Egypt are courageously rising up to embrace democracy, it’s a revolting sight to see the AU so strongly cravenly reject it.

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