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Neo
20th March 2011, 02:00 PM
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After independence, Ghana initiated moves that ultimately culminated in the birth of the regional body that has today become known as the African Union; or AU, as it is called for short. If it costs nothing to be part of something, then one loses nothing for being in it.

However, if every year it costs one something to play the role of being a member of an organisation or body, then it is important that one weighs the benefits one derives from such membership against the cost of one’s continuing membership. It is in the light of this that I keep asking myself whether Ghana’s membership of the AU and the resources wasted to attend its meetings at both ministerial and head of state levels are worth. Going by the paper, the AU is a useful institution that serves some of the specific purposes for which it was formed. However, when one examines it critically, one notices that there are clear bottlenecks within the structure and modus operandi of the AU that make the organisation more of a regional “phantom”, than a real political entity that justifies its existence.

The AU, as it exists today, has in fact lost its original purpose of promoting the political and economic unification of the African continent; and has rather become a copy-cat of the EU, without the resources that allow the latter to be functional. African countries are financially weak and this cripples the African Union, and makes it hard for it do the kind of things that its role model, the EU, is capable of doing. This fact notwithstanding, the AU keeps copying everything the EU does and ends up constantly looking “useless” and “laughable”, in terms of implementation of its resolutions and also, in terms of handling of moments of crisis in Africa.

For example, in spite of its limited resources, the AU always arranges for the supervision of elections conducted by its member-countries. However, after some of such elections, winners are rubbished by incumbents who hold internal political power. The AU then finds itself in a state of impotence to act, because of inability to mobilise resources to deal militarily with such intransigent African leaders.

Faced with inability to act, the AU is always forced to succumb to usurpation of democracy by greedy incumbents, through the idea of allowing losing leaders to continue in office by means of what has become known as “power-sharing” which allows election losers to set aside the verdict of voters and share power with opposition leaders mandated by voters to rule. Power-sharing, which has become common in African politics, is a clear testimony of AU’s incompetence and failure, rather than a demonstration of its competence and success.

Apart from poverty, another reason why the AU is unable to act to enforce many of its decisions is the fact that majority of African leaders are “bad” and, therefore, do lack the moral justification to attack their fellow bad leaders. This factor, in itself, is a consequence of the incompetence of the AU to deal drastically with bad African leaders. For example, the failure of the AU to force Mugabe to hand over power to the Opposition leader who won the last Zimbabwean elections made it possible for this bad Zimbabwean leader to remain in office and be in a weak position that makes it hard for him to bring action against his fellow human rights abusers like shameful Gbagbo or cruel Gaddafi.

The third factor that accounts for the ineffectiveness of the AU is the “notion of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries”. The idea that political and civil “breaches” by leaders against their own citizens and within the laws and borders of member-countries should remain “internal matters” of countries within which such breaches occur, is weak and constitutes an affront to democracy. This is because where there are bad and autocratic leaders, internal laws and justice do not work in defence of the oppressed. In such places, the oppressed continue to be perpetually subdued, unless outside help prevails by way of “intervention”...... which can take different forms such as condemnation, sanction or military action.

In my view, the notion of “non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries” is nothing less than a justification of the bad actions of autocratic leaders by outside countries whose interventions are needed to stop such bad actions by autocratic leaders. It must be recognised that any political maltreatment of people, irrespective of where it takes place, becomes an abuse of people’s human rights, as guaranteed by the UNO under its charter. If this is the position, then breaches of people’s human rights by political leaders cross the boundaries of national law and enter those of international law.

Citizens’ human rights include the right of citizens to vote in elections and for their electoral verdicts to be respected; the right of citizens to belong to political, religious and other associations; the right of citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations; and the right of citizens to demand a change of governments that have overstayed their legitimacy. If dictatorial leaders will not allow their citizens to enjoy these human rights; and if outside countries say that such a breach of the rights of citizens of such a country is an internal affair of the country concerned, then what purpose is served by the entrenchment of the fundamental human rights in the United Nation’s charter?

In my opinion, any leader who hides behind the notion of “non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries” to refuse to act to stop breaches of the human rights of citizens in another country is guilty of connivance of such breaches. Similarly, any country that uses this principle to justify its failure to intervene to stop breaches of the human rights of citizens of another country is a collaborator of such breaches by autocrats.

Would Ghana miss anything, if the AU in its present form did not exist? Would the world be able to stop brutalities by mad, power-drunk, cruel, and Hitler-like leaders in the world, if such leaders were left to do what they liked without outside intervention? If we cannot answer these two questions in the affirmative, and I believe we cannot, then there cannot be the need for Ghana and for that matter any African country to waste its time and resources to join the AU. This is because this regional body has had to wait for Europe and America to push the UN to act to stop mad and power-drunk Gaddafi from slaughtering his own citizens, who only want to exercise their fundamental human rights to change a government which has been imposed on them for 41 years. The AU has, once more, proved that it cannot be trusted to keep its house and backyard in order.

Source: Otchere Darko; [This writer is a centrist, semi-liberalist, pragmatist, and an advocate for “inter-ethnic cooperation and unity”. He is an anti-corruption campaigner and a community-based development protagonist. He opposes the negative, corrupt, and domineering politics of NDC and NPP and actively campaigns for the development and strengthening of “third parties”. He is against “a two-party only” system of democracy {in Ghana}....... which, in practice, is what we have today.]



Source: Otchere Darko