Magazine article New African

African Union: So Far So Good; If Anybody Thought the African Union (AU) Was Going to Be Just a Talking Point, Recent Developments Have Proved Otherwise. from the Design Table, the First Building Blocks Have Been Laid in Recent Months towards the Concrete Realisation of the All-African Dream. Pusch Commey Looks at What Has Been Achieved over the Past Year

Magazine article New African

African Union: So Far So Good; If Anybody Thought the African Union (AU) Was Going to Be Just a Talking Point, Recent Developments Have Proved Otherwise. from the Design Table, the First Building Blocks Have Been Laid in Recent Months towards the Concrete Realisation of the All-African Dream. Pusch Commey Looks at What Has Been Achieved over the Past Year

Article excerpt

Rapid efforts have been made to put the foundations of the African Union in place since its inauguration in Durban, South Africa, in 2002. NEPAD (the New Partnership for African Development) is in place. The Peace and Security Council is in place. The Pan-African Parliament is in place. And the Peer Review Mechanism on governance is also in place.

The Peace and Security Council was installed on "African Liberation Day" (25 May, which also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the formation of the AU's predecessor, the OAU). Without peace and stability there can be no economic development, the main driver in the formation of the AU.

Speaking at the official launch of the Peace and Security Council at the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the chairman of the AU, President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, expressed the hope that the work of the Council would make a valuable contribution to reversing the current mood of "despair and marginalisation" in Africa, and bring more self-esteem and dignity to the people.

Peace and security, he said, were indispensable conditions for sustainable socio-economic development, and pointed to Mozambique itself as an example of the positive impact of peace on development, and on recovering the dignity lost in conflicts. Mozambique is now one of Africa's fastest growing economies after years of a devastating civil war engineered by the apartheid regime in South Africa and supported by conservative Western interests.

The apartheid regime created, armed and supported the Mozambican rebel group, Renamo, which caused heavy destruction to the infrastructure of the country. Chissano stressed that the success of the Peace and Security Council would depend essentially on the commitment of the AU member states, and of the regional groupings that are the real building blocks of the future African Economic Community. The immediate challenges facing the Council, he said, were to speed up the creation of the African standby force, and the AU's Early Warning System.

He appealed to the AU's various geographical regions to show commitment in creating the brigades that will form the standby force whose political framework would be approved at the AU heads of state summit to be held this month (6-8 July) in Addis Ababa.

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The African standby force, to be set up in a phased manner by 2010, will undertake peacekeeping operations, including military interventions, if justified. It will also be concerned with humanitarian operations and post-conflict reconstruction. A key objective will be to eliminate the occurrence of unconstitutional changes of government. It will also tackle mercenaries and situations "where democratically-elected governments lose legitimacy for various reasons other than through democratic means".

The financing of the force is an important issue to be tackled at this month's AU summit. Money has always undermined the efforts of African projects. Although the European Union (EU) has contributed [euro]300m to the force, it is feared that many African countries will, as usual, plead poverty and engage in a culture of non-payment. Each of these member states, however, has a defence budget that caters for idle or restive soldiers who sometimes terrorise their own populace. Most of these countries spend their scarce resources buying obsolete arms and equipment from Western countries.

Africa has a history of being its own worst enemy, leading to exploitation from outside. Professor Mammo Muchie, an eminent pan-Africanist from Ethiopia, writing in The Sunday Times of South Africa last month, suggested that instead of going cap in hand to seek external financing for African projects, each AU member country should simply contribute half of its defence force to the African standby force. Such an army would intervene in any African country where there is trouble.

It is a good suggestion. …

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