Africa’s leadership crisis

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IN this month, when we commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, South Africa held fairly free and fair local government elections. At the time of writing, there had been no reports of deaths.

Jacob Zuma’s ANC, as expected, garnered most votes, but the opposition Democratic Alliance, led by a white woman, Helen Zille, performed better than expected. It did very well in Cape Town.

South Africa is significant in this respect — it is probably the only African country in which a party led by a white person takes part in the politics of the country.

In South Africa, this is particularly poignant in view of the rather odious political stunts of people such as Julius Malema. His “kill the Boer” chant must send shivers of fear up many white people’s spines.

In the Ivory Coast, where the political landscape is all-black, 3 000 people died before Laurent Gbagbo was forced to give up the presidency in favour of Allasane Ouattara, the winner of a November election which plunged the country into bloodshed.

Only after the United Nations and the former colonial power, France, had physically removed Gbagbo from the scene was any semblance of normalcy restored enough for Ouattara’s inauguration as the new president to take place.

Both Ban Ki-Moon and France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy attended the swearing-in ceremony, along with the West  African leaders who supported Ouattara, among them Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan.

Gbagbo, meanwhile, was languishing in some cell. He has been blamed for most of the bloodshed that followed the election.

Not surprisingly, African leaders were divided on their view of the intervention by the West in the Ivory Coast. Most leaders known to be dictatorial and anti-West sided with Gbagbo.

These included leaders whose own election to power, at one time or the other, seemed to lack legitimacy in terms of freeness and fairness.

More or less the same division was discernible in their view of the crisis in Libya. 

Those inclined to be “hard” sided with Muammar Gadaffi, joining him in blaming the revolt on “outsiders”, particularly the West.

There was no public denunciation of Gadaffi’s resort to killing his own people, even unarmed women and children. The African Union, in particular, would not assume the leadership in campaigning for a peaceful solution to the bloody impasse.

To many analysts acquainted with the history of the OAU, there was an element of de javu. It recalled the spinelessness of the then OAU in many such situations.    

That organisation took the doctrine of “non-interference” in the internal affairs of member-states to a tragic extent. Its example of weakness seems to be favoured by the AU, unfortunately.  

In general, a review of the AU’s performance so far is not one of glittering success, but one of caution in relation to its relations with the former colonial masters.  

It complains of being “left out” in decisions on such matters as the Ivory Coast and Libyan crises.

 In the Ivory Coast, the AU failed completely to make any impact on the possible peaceful outcome of any negotiations between the two sides.

As soon as it turned out that Allasane Ouattara’s election victory had been endorsed by the West and the UN, the hardline African leaders decided they would not go along, even if some doubted Gbagbo’s claim to victory.

Only those who backed Ouattara’s claim to victory attended his inauguration.

It is fair to say that the new leader of the Ivory Coast is not going to have it easy with some of his colleagues in the AU.   

There were not many messages of congratulation to him on his swearing-in ceremony. There remains a coolness towards him, particularly among African leaders who believe that no non-African countries — and particularly the former colonial masters — ought to hold sway in deciding any African matters, even where the massacre of innocents is involved.

Wherever he is, the first secretary-general of the OAU, Diallo Telli, must be turning in his grave. He died in 1977, starved to death in a prison, along with other Guineans who had offended his president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, one of
Africa’s “hardest” leaders.

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