African Union Moves to Deny Pseudo-Democracies the Cloak of Membership

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BYLINE: peter fabricius

The African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa earlier this month was happily not a happy place for putschists. First, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who seized power as a young colonel in 1969, was thwarted in his bid to be re-elected as the AU chairman.

And then the AU leaders closed a large loophole in the organisation's rules to discourage contemporary coups and other "unconstitutional changes of power".

In 1999, the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) quite radically departed from its notorious blind-eye policy by resolving to suspend governments that seized power unconstitutionally in future. That rule was formalised in the charter of the AU when it took over from the OAU in 2002. The AU made clear that the rule also applied to those who clung to power unconstitutionally.

The rule has been applied several times through the suspension of governments that seized power by force. But coup leaders and others who seized or clung to power unconstitutionally quite soon adapted to the rules by holding elections which they inevitably won, by hook or by crook. The AU then felt obliged to reinstate them as AU members in good standing.

This happened in places like the Central African Republic and in Togo, which was suspended after the army replaced the deceased long-term ironman Eyadema Gnassingb� with his son. When the AU suspended Togo, the son Faure held and won elections. And the AU duly lifted its suspension.

The AU - and its local sub-regional subsidiary, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - are now expecting that self-appointed Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina will do the same.

He seized power from elected President Marc Ravolomanana last March. The AU and SADC immediately suspended him and launched negotiations aimed at establishing a multiparty transitional authority to prepare for new all-inclusive and properly conducted elections. …