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Are “African Solutions” right for the continent’s democracy push?

By Aaron Maasho
February 11, 2011

IVORYCOAST/GBAGBO

 

 

“This is an African solution to an African problem,” was African Union chief Jean Ping’s reasoning for another round of negotiations to resolve Ivory Coast’s bitter leadership dispute.

Regional leaders and the outside world had been uncharacteristically swift to condemn Laurent Gbagbo’s bid to cling onto power. The AU itself wasted little time suspending the West African nation from the bloc.

Gbagbo lost the presidential election in November last year, according to U.N. certified results, but he has refused to hand over power to rival Alassane Ouattara, citing fraud.

That has left regional powers, the AU and the United Nations all up against the same problem: how to convince Gbagbo to exit gracefully?

Ouattara’s camp have called for a military intervention. But talk of a military option opened up divisions within the AU.

At last month’s AU summit in Ethiopia, the decision to ask a panel of heads of state to come up with a solution binding on both sides put discussions about sending in troops on ice and applied a band-aid to the emerging splits.

“Let them say whatever they want,” Ping said of criticisms that any eventual unity government in Ivory Coast would send a signal that it pays for defeated leaders to refuse to budge.

Ping insisted his bloc would focus on a negotiated deal — the “traditional” path according to the chairman.

Fair enough. In a continent where murky meddling by foreign powers is often blamed for its current woes, Africa’s big wigs can hardly be blamed for such initiatives. Add to that the colonial past and you might understand the mindset.

That sentiment is always evident. Ask AU officials why their bloc did not endorse the International Criminal Court’s genocide charge against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and chances are they will complain about foul play or double standards.

“Why didn’t they charge (Georgian President) Saakashvili for what he did during the war with Russia?” they would fire back.

But a more serious question lies in whether the AU’s decisions — passed almost always with a twinge of nationalist sentiment — are working. From the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe to the one in Kenya and now Ivory Coast, the AU’s “African solutions” have failed to reap yields, exposing a lack of muscle on the bloc’s side.

In Zimbabwe and Kenya, the organisation stuck with its favoured stance of mediating a deal and forming power-sharing governments, forcing uneasy coalitions in which government business is stymied by feuding rivals sitting at the same table.

Some analysts believe unless a tougher stance is taken on leaders who flout the will of voters, African elections will continue to be routinely abused.

Gbagbo blames France for supporting northern rebels in the 2002-03 civil war that split Ivory Coast in two. He has also played the “anti-imperialist” card, branding Ouattara the West’s man and himself as a defender against foreign interference.

The AU’s so-called high-level panel is tasked with coming up with a proposal both sides are compelled to accept, but experts are already dismissing its chances of success.

Ivorian Foreign Minister Alcide Djedje said the panel’s conclusions would have to respect the country’s constitution.

“If the panel comes to Ivory Coast on the basis that Ouattara is president then there’s obviously been a big mis-understanding,” Djedje told reporters.

So what next? The panel is expected to set out a road map in under a month. Is a power-sharing administration the fairest and most pragmatic solution to such impasses in Africa. Or are coalition governments formed to settle electoral rows hurting Africa’s push for democratic accountability.

Comments

The African Leaders as most of the International Comunity made a first rush judgement of the situation in Ivory Coast. The weight of the UN envoy was so firm, it would sound rude not to respect it.
Now they are facing a big dilema. How to restore the Constitutional order and creat conditions to peace without offending UN and been punished by the western countries.
UN took side, but has not declared itself an interventionist force.
Mr. Ouatara keeps promoting international campaign to destroy the economy of its own country (Ivory Coast), to get foreign forces to atack his own people (Ivorians).
The Government and many sectors in Ivory Coast are trying hard to continue working. But Mr. Ouatara believes that if the economy fail and the public servants (civil and militar) realize the country can not pay their salaries anymore, they will give up and Gbagbo Government will fall.
And without jobs and after closing the doors of their small business the people will beg to him to sit on the presidential chair.
So far so good. People are starving refugees numbers are increasing and immigrants are going back to their home countries.
The African Union has the task of saving Ivory Coast without putting the reputation of the UN, French and USA leaders in question.
I hope the African way can perform a kind of miracule. I love Ivory Coast and would be very sad to see the “elected” president conquering the destruction of this wonderful country, and worst will be to read on the newspaper that is only out of prejudice that the born Ivorians doubt Ouatara’s identity as Ivorian.

Posted by expatinafrica | Report as abusive
 

The African Union is a Club. As Such, it has an intrinsic Bias in that regard. The African Union needs to take the High Road and an idea would be to assists african Countries in creating bullet Proof IT Election Systems which leave no room for Dispute.
I think that would be a Break Through Trade for the AU.
Aly-Khan Satchu
http://www.rich.co.ke
Nairobi

Posted by AlyKhanSatchu | Report as abusive
 

The African Union is a Club. As Such, it has an intrinsic Bias in that regard. The African Union needs to take the High Road and an idea would be to assist african Countries in creating bullet Proof IT Election Systems which leave no room for Dispute.
I think that would be a Break Through Trade for the AU.
Aly-Khan Satchu
http://www.rich.co.ke
Nairobi

Posted by AlyKhanSatchu | Report as abusive
 

African solutions do not work, with the notable exception this time of Nigeria and ECOWAS on Côte d’Ivoire. Nigeria has been consistent all along regarding the departure of Gbagbo from power. Apart from that, most of the time, countries do what they want, knowing the weakness of the AU, where leaders represent themselves and their own interests. Moreover, the AU, “Africa’s pride” depends so much on external resources that sometimes one can tell the solutions are inspired from elsewhere. It was surprisingly understanding on the Mauritanian case, validating various processes before the elections and then recognizing . http://www.strategico.fr

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

Earlier message did not work.
Africa is a complicated place for many reasons, including, but not limited to, old leadership unable to cope with change, vested interests, and external influence. Regarding leadership, a group of African presidents represent themselves in most organisations and when the expression “African Management” is uttered, one knows it is likely to be a disappointment. While there is nothing wrong for wanting a home grown solution using one’s own values, the question is whether such values apply in a global world? African solutions never seem to work, with the notable exception this time of Nigeria and ECOWAS on Côte d’Ivoire. Nigeria has been consistent all along regarding the departure of Gbagbo from power. Apart from that, most of the time, countries do what they want, knowing they are likely to find understanding at the AU, where leaders represent themselves and their own interests. Moreover, the AU, “Africa’s pride” depends to a great extent on external resources. The AU was surprisingly understanding on the Mauritanian case, validating various negotiation processes before the elections and then recognizing a coup leader, General Aziz, who had barred a democratically elected president Abdallahi, from running for president. On the other hand, it has been adamant regarding Madagascar and Rajoelina. StrategiCo. specialises in risk analysis in African and rates African countries and economies http://www.strategico.fr

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

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