ANALYSIS: African Union Must Become Relevant Or Dissolve – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
The decision by the African Union (AU) to immediately suspend Mali from its membership until the “effective restoration of constitutional order is achieved without delay” is both morally sound and appropriate. This, of course, follows the March 22 ousting of President Amadou Toumani Toure, the legitimately elected leader of that country by a Capt. Amadou Sanogo of Mali’s armed forces (See “Mali Coup Leader Sanogo ‘Will Not Cling to Power’” 3/24/12).

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On the whole, Capt. Sanogo appears to be genuinely frustrated by violent attempts by ethnic Tuareg rebels to, literally, take the country’s laws into their own hands, as it were, by unilaterally declaring a region in the northern-half of the country an autonomous enclave for members of their ethnic sub-nationality who evidently do not feel adequately included, and represented, in the affairs of the country of which they have been integral for a half-century of postcolonial sovereignty. And this is precisely where the relevance and legitimacy of the AU come into the equation.

On the preceding score must also be recalled the fact that the Malinke-Tuareg (of course, we duly recognize the existence of other ethnic groups in the country) impasse has been known to the leaders of the AU for as long as the continental organization has existed, first as the Organization of African Unity. And on the latter score must also be promptly pointed out the fact that the legitimacy of the AU is squarely predicated on the ability of the organization’s leadership to troubleshoot and find effective solutions to any conflicts that might threaten the peaceful coexistence of all polities of the proverbially primeval continent. In brief, simply issuing self-righteous, and patently vacuous, pontifical statements such as issued by AU Peace and Security chief Paul Lolo, in the wake of the Sanogo putsch, will not do.

Indeed, what the continental organization ought to do is promptly back its perennial and invariable moral stances with decisive military might. And at least for the nonce, the AU could do so by passionately appealing to established and provident democracy-loving countries around the globe for emergency military assistance in this direction. Of course, the AU leadership also has to explain to the citizenry of the respective states constituting the union, precisely what substantive measures it has taken to abate the dire inter-ethnic rivalry that threatens to irreparably compromise the integrity and sovereignty of the Mali Republic.

In a statement following his ousting of President Amadou Toumani Toure, Capt. Sanogo plaintively observed that his country’s military establishment had been too woefully under-equipped to adequately handle the “Tuareg Menace.” The logical implication here, of course, is that as soon as the Malian army has satisfied itself with having either squelched or effectively reined in the “Tuareg Specter,” Capt. Sanogo and his colleagues would be content to call for fresh elections, hand over their ill-gotten power and quietly resume their former posts. In the particular instance of the putsch leader himself, Capt. Sanogo has publicly assured the proverbial international community that he would be “very happy to serve as a company commander or battalion commander. Perhaps somebody ought to remind this brazen mutineer that he rather ought to be preparing to be court-martialed.

Needless to say, the days when the self-righteous anger of our AK-47-toting men in green khaki uniforms were deemed to be a legitimate pretext for the ousting of democratically elected governments, dubiously alleged to be grossly unequal to the task of using high-handed measures to silence their opponents, even functionally violent ones like the Tuaregs of northern Mali, are over.

Also, in the statement justifying his putsch, Capt. Sanogo clearly indicated that, indeed, his operational motive went far beyond simply bringing his country’s rebel Tuaregs under control. He also noted that he was in the process of “transferring the former leaders of Mali into the justice system.” This is where the leadership of the African Union ought to bare their incisors. For clearly, Capt. Sanogo’s overthrow of the legitimately elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure has the eerie and bloody ring of a revolution, a mean-spirited attempt to settle scores with all former executive operatives whom the coup leader and his associates perceive to be veritable “enemies of the people.”

At this juncture, the most relevant question to ask appears to be the following: Have Africans across the primeval continent not suffered enough humiliation and military atrocities for us to continue to tolerate faux-heroic messiahs like Capt. Sanogo?

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of the Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of a forthcoming book titled “Danquah Versus Nkrumah: In the Words of Richard Mahoney.”


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