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Monday, August 8, 2022

Challenges and prospects of regional security in Africa: Is the African Union a toothless bulldog?

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By Abdoukabirr Daffeh

History has shown clearly that African continent has had a long standing record in its quest for the attainment of peace and security on the continent. Since the dawn of slave trade, the colonial age and the cold war period, Africa remains a rough playing field that is far from achieving the desired peace on the continent.

Africa is a continent of some 30 million km2 and a population of about 1.2 billion people (world population review 2017) .According to the report of the world population review 2017, Africa is the second largest and second populous continent in the world with 41% of its population within the age of 15 Africa’s population has increased twice more than its initial projection as indicated by Malan 2005. Sadly,40 % of the African people lives in less than a dollar a day (Malan 2005) according to Mark Malan in his conflict prevention in Africa, Africa accounts for only 1% of the world’s foreign direct investment,1% of the world’s GDP and only 2% of the world’s trade. The state of collapse of this development indicators are chiefly one of the major reasons for security constraints in the continent.

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Malan observed that the chronic and long standing structural weakness in the continent is not a sufficient ingredient for violent conflict in Africa. However, it is wise to note that they do ignite ongoing and pervasive instability in the continent that leads to internal collapse and hogged the continent into ongoing conflicts as it will be observed in many part of Africa .In this essay I shall use the idealist theory to explain phenomenon surrounding the African union in its quest for ensuring security on the continent
Sam K Kutesa, in his article conflict resolution in Africa, noted that the attainment of peace and security in the continent needs a holistic approach it goes beyond military and security priorities to address issues of governance, legitimacy, political inclusiveness and economic equity .Therefore, I take side with Sam that Africa’ security problem most not only be viewed from naked violent conflict but other factors that triggered violence such as corruption, ethnicity and lack of good governance in the continent most equally be addressed. As such, international support in Africa should not only be limited to peacekeeping mission as currently observed in Somalia (AMISSOM) and Darfur but there must be international and domestic collaboration to build resilient in the continent.

As observed by Kofi Annan, governance is one of the key areas Africa continues to perform woefully and continues to have a trickle down effects on the continents security and peace. Sam Kutesa also observed that in Africa, all regional organizations have one thing in common: predominantly weak nation states and poor governance institutions (Kutesa 2009). Amatyre Sen in his book development as freedom observed that there will be no genuine development without freedom of the citizens in a democratic and tolerant society. This will hinder people to fully exploit their potential for the growth and sustainable development. The lack of fundamental institutional and democratic realities in the continent is markedly responsible for the insecurity in the continent.

The lack of democracy and good governance is a reason for the continent’s lack of security. Even though giant strives have been made by the African union to address security threat in the continent as affirm in their effort to restore peace in the continent through its mission in Somalia and Darfur and its commitment to achieving Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, it will only take robust actions on the leadership of the AU to restore security in Africa. Violation of human rights and the manipulation of the constitution to serve the interest of the minority has been the hall mark of many African states. As recently observed in Burundi and Gabon were the people power is denied to triumph against the will of the self-serving leaders, risk insecurity and leads to many death. Despite the Ouagadougou treaty of 2000 by the AU to impose sanction on anyone that overthrow a democratically elected government, yet the continent continues to be threaten by denial of defeated leaders to live power. This was evident in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Burundi and most recently the Gambia where President Jammeh refused to give power even though the situation was brought to arrest by ECOWAS and the AU, yet it has a marked insecurity on the tiny West African nation as many Gambians becomes refugees in neighboring Senegal.

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Suffice it to say, corruption is yet another major area that undermine security in the continent and lead to economic stagnation of the continent as Ali Mazrui would say while the big powers in the world (America and Europe) are getting to the moon, an African is trying to get to the village. Prof PLO Lumumba, observed that corruption is undoubtedly the primary force of insecurity in the continent. It is a scare in the consent of humanity and has continued to degrade the continents potentials and expose it to a syndicate of extremism and a host of other crimes. Elizabeth Nduku and Tennamwenge in their book, corruption: a threat to sustainable peace, observed that corruption in the continent has affected the proper running of states in the continent and ignite insecurity.

They observed that corruption distort the correct functioning of economic and political institution, hamper transparency and exploit the human person (Nduku & Tennamwenge 2014) It is wise to note that the insecurity in the continent is rooted on the widespread corruption the continent continues to witness, this has rendered law and order obsolete in the continent and it is the manifestation of structural sin and insecurity in the continent. Nduku postulated that corruption paralyze efforts for the promotion of justice and sustainable peace in the continent. Suffice it to say that corruption in the continent should be a matter of concern for everyone as it has permeated deeply in the fabric of our society and renders the poor defenseless. No sector of the economy in the continent is immune to corruption as said by Kofi Annan; it is the main obstacle for the realization of the MDG goals and making security in the continent a far reach reality. (Annan 2003).


The continental body, the AU is seen to be doing little or less in the drive to free the continent from corruption even though the AU is borne out of the ideologist conception for a continental progress and have made series of declaration on corruption such as the Agenda 2063, yet this seems to be a dream in the continent to achieving a corrupt free Africa. Somalia is a classic example of a failed state in the continent that is brought to its knees by corruption. Amnesty international reported that Somalia is number one most corrupt states in the world; this explains the decade long insecurity in Somalia between the Somali government and Alsabab that continues to claim lives and properties daily in Somalia. The last week bombing in Dayah hotel in Somalia that lives dozens of people death and injured.

The fact that the Somali government and the AU failed to address this issue and the evidence of its corruption engagement with members of the Alsabab group can only bring us to naked truth of the devastating nature of corruption on the lives of the poor in the continent. Nduku and Tennamwenge observed that while most continents in the world increase their per capita, increase health care and security, Africa is the same today as it was at independence. Africa lost USD 300 billion annually due to corruption which is 25% of its GDP more than the aid it receives (Nnduku & Tenamwenge 2014). Even though corruption is displayed in the full glare by many African leaders in the continent to impoverish their citizens and rub the economy of their nations, the continental body (AU) seems to be doing less to sanction corrupt leaders in the continent.


The ugly head of corruption in our continent has continue to undermine rule of law and social justice, this in essence deepen the insecurity in the continent. Kofi Annan also observed that corruption is at the core of the continent’s security challenge .He noted that corruption undermines economic performance weaken democratic institutions and rule of law (Annan 2003) it is important to note that corruption disrupts social order, allowing organized crimes and threats to human security in the continent. The fact that corruption is as old as Africa and yet the continental body has not still device any mechanism to addressing this evil phenomenon asserts the AU has not done enough in this drive.

It is also worth noting that one of the issues of insecurity in the continent that leaders in the continent need to ponder over is how to balance ethnic consciousness and national patriotism in the continent. As Albiero Opondo lecturer in Kigali institute of education observed, ethnicity is cited as the reason for the myriad conflicts in countries such as: Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Somalia etc. Ethnicity is undoubtedly a security concern in the continent; it has been the major cause of instability on the continent. In most part of Africa where political insecurity exists, ethnicity cannot be ruled out as a part. As argued by Prunier in his work, Darfur: the ambiguous genocide, he remarked that when politicians failed to ‘eat’ they run to their tribe claiming that they are been finished (prunier 2005) this influence their people to cause conflict and threaten insecurity.

Even though the proponents of the idealist theory are of the view that the world is expected to interact govern by internal institution for the attainment of peace and security, yet even of this age in the multiparty democratic dispensation in the continent, political parties in the continent are not base on fundamental ideology but on ethnic lines as it is the case with President Museveni of Uganda. It behooves to mention that African union even though it is making effort through the peace and security council as observed in Liberia and Sierra lion during the civil war, yet it remains limited on its idealist pursuit .The continent can only achieve peace when it sees itself as a unified people not merely a collection of individuals on tribal base. The lessons learned in the Rwanda genocide is a fertile ground for the continental body to device measures of putting ethnic conflict to a rest. The experience of the African Union engagement in conflict which is arrived at as a result of ethnic difference as seen in Somalia is a manifestation that the continental body is far from achieving its aspiration of maintaining a peaceful Africa. Today Somalia is entering into decades of civil unrest which has an ethnic undertone. The respond of the continental body has not provide a sufficient ground to bring peace and end the decade long civil unrest in the warzone Somalia. It appears that the continental body is engage in income generating in conflict zones in the country. Darfur remains a trouble zone amidst a number of the continental effort; Darfur is yet to see peace. It is wise to say that the continental body, needs re-thinking on the causal effects of the continent’s problem which mostly rest on ethnic line. The problem of the Tuareg in Mali is yet another deadly zone that the African Union could hardly find a solution. In the words of Dr. Kevin of the Pan-African University, Africa remains a laboratory to carry out weaponry experiments. As Tony Blair would say, Africa remains a scare in the consent of humanity.

In the wake of mid-2011, the Maghreb region of the continent underwent political turbulent and brouhaha taking Libya, Tunisia and Egypt in a political earth quake. However, the response of the continental body in bringing sanity in the Maghreb region was far from been achieved. The AU has always claimed to solve the African problem the Africa way. Yet even though Gaddafi could be guilty of human right abuse, the continental body has done little to salvage the Libyan people. This give room to western powers to do the work of the AU in the supreme interest of their exploitative agenda to advance their colonial hegemony .In the words of the former American President, Barack Obama, the US intervention in Libya remainsthe biggest mistake of his government. The failure of the AU to intervene in Libya has literary brought the sentimental economic heavy weight in the continent (Libya) into economic extinction.
It is wise to note that the AU has failed to address the rising extremist violence in Nigeria. Even though the issue of Bokoharam remains a contested debate in the global system, killing defenseless men and women and abducting innocent girls as seen by the abduction of the 200 Chibouk girls into the Zambisa forest many of whom still remains at large, the AU has not still gathered any military or intelligence force to help Nigeria nib the matter in the bud. The recent constitutional crisis in Burundi and the subversion of the people’s will into the dust bin by Pierre Nkurunziza and President Museveni in the full glare of the continental body, can only make us wander as to the efficiency of the AU to bring hope into the continent. The recent crisis in Gabon also lives testimony of this. The Central African Republic and Dr Congo still go through a brutal unrest that has halted all forms of economic development in these countries.

However, despite the many challenges the continental body continues to face in its quest for a sustainable peace and development in the continent, yet there are visible gains that the continent can celebrate .The effort of the African union in the just ended political crisis in the Gambia is in the right direction and puts the continental body on the right pedestal. The position of the AU has been clear the fact that the AU declares not recognizing former President Jammeh and its full support of ECOWAS to carry military procedures to remove Jammeh, signaled a strong message to other dictators in the continent that it is not joke as usual.

The Ouagadougou protocol of 2000 by the AU of not recognizing any government which comes to power through coups and its intervention in Guinea Conakry to remove Captain Dadis Camara from power and return the country to a civilian government is also a laudable area that the AU can be seen as a major player in restoring democracy in the continent. It must be said that the AU has put forwards to member states in the continent democracy and the attainment of human right as a major benchmark to measure development in the continent. The establishment of the peace and security council and the intervention of the AU in Burkinafaso pressing president Kampaore to respect the sovereign will of the Burkinabe and the role of the AU in the Ivorian election dispute gives credit to continental body as a force and a major player in continental matters.AU has also repealed the principle of non-interference in member states which gives the continental body greater hegemony to become the major determinant to ensuring sanity in the continent.

I stand with the opinion that the African Union despite the major obstacles it has face in the past 50 years yet, its role in the continent cannot be under estimated .In the words of the former AU chair: we cannot allow to give the Africa that was 50 years ago to this generation” Knowing full well that it has challenges and its commitment to working on it, gives hope that the AU is on the right road. The adoption of the agenda 2063 which in all its aspirations stresses on thematic issues for the continent’s sustained growth is evidence base that sooner or later Africa will achieve the desired peace, security and sustained development.

Therefore, what the continental body most do is that: it has to work on good governance human right and democracy as a measure for its engagement with member states. It is wise to note that corruption is a major cancer that undermines the security in the continent. As such, there is a need for a continental Justice mechanism to look into member states where corruption is rife. It should use its influence as a continental platform to condemn ethnic struggle in the continent which is a mother for civil unrest as seen in Somalia.
It is worthy to conclude that the African union despite its constraints in the economic sense is seen to be playing a major role in the continent’s security and integration. Its role in the Gambia and its commitment to sending peace mission in Darfur and Somalia is evidence that slowly but surely the continental body is a force to rely on and sooner than later the continent shall achieve the desired objective.

Annas K, (2003) .Global network against corruption: the Merida paper
Malan M, (2005).conflict prevention in Africa: theorical construct or plan of Action: KALPIC paper
Kutesa K S, (2009). Peace and conflict resolution in Africa. Ministry of foreign affairs: Uganda
Anan K, (2003). Global action against corruption, the Merida paper: United Nation office on drugs
And crime p1-11
Ndulu E & Tennamwenge J, (2014).Corruption in Africa: A threat to justice and peace
Globethics.net focus No 14: Geneva
Lumumba P.L.O, (2015). Address to the Nigerian Parliament
Mazrui A, (nd) .The triple Heritage

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