For far too long, Africans have tried to push away global actors from interfering in regional conflicts under the guise of African solutions to African problems.
Leaders have only asked for money and not strategic assistance. This is the cancer destroying the region, home to almost a billion people.
The discourse of African solutions to African problems was promoted by Thabo Mbeki during his tenure as South Africa’s President.
He fought hard to stop bodies like the United Nations and countries like U.S and Britain, for example, from trying to find a lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. The crisis has persisted and many wonder if his strategies did not help to worsen the crisis.
This approach does not work, at least, looking at it empirically.
Africans have continuously proven their inability to deal with regional crises, at the very most; regional African Union and SADC summits held over the past decade and half have been nothing but talk shops.
Critics say these bodies are void of solutions, with the African Union being regarded as the old boys club. Of course this makes sense with the average age of African Presidents at the age of 70, with the unusual case of Zimbabwe whose President is 92.
Burundi is in a crisis which is over a year old now, DRC and Zambia are facing elections which are going to be contested due to skewed political and electoral infrastructure, Zimbabwe is facing social unrest that threatens to destabilise the region and nothing is being done beyond the country’s four borders.
South Sudan is another case in point bordering on a civil war. Beyond issuing statements the African Union hasn’t done anything, if at all. Over 100 people have been killed in the past four days and African leaders meeting in Kigali will leave, at best, with statements calling for peace while more people will lose their lives.
This is not only worrying, but also indicative of poor leadership. As South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma exits the African Union block, many believe she leaves the organisation weaker than when she joined. But she is not alone; she is with 54 other leaders failing to lead.
Her failure to bring transformation at the A.U. is not a reflection of her credentials as a person but the manifest failure of African leaders as a holistic body to intervene in turmoil and arrest challenges. This is true of the Ebola outbreak that a few years ago ravaged West Africa nations of Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia.
The failure by African leaders has made it even harder for multilateral bodies bringing recommendations on troubled regions.
“The latest horrific bloodshed in South Sudan demonstrates the urgent need for African leaders gathering in Kigali to take steps not only to resolve such conflicts but also to tackle their root causes,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Director, Research and Advocacy, Amnesty International.
“Most if not all conflict and instability in Africa is linked to failures to address gross human rights violations, and which allow a cycle of impunity to continue. The African Union must show this week that it has the determination to confront these and other pressing issues head-on.”
The statement by Amnesty International aptly captures what Africa is going through but without engaging leadership this is reduced to nothing. Advocacy is useful but only works when there is responsive leadership, this does not exist in Africa, at least the bigger part of Africa.
The above scenario doesn’t inspire much confidence in a continent that desperately needs it. Other than the newly launched passport, I am not sure there is much to celebrate.