Calls for unity dominated Thursday’s 60th anniversary celebrations for the continent-wide organization preceding the African Union (AU) that represented 55 member states. But critics say the AU has become a paper tiger where there’s plenty of talk, but not much real clout to enforce its mandate.
Africa Day events across the continent honored the founding of the AU’s predecessor — The Organization of African Unity (OAU) — whose original purpose was to fight colonialism before evolving in 2002 to incorporate the aims of defending its members’ sovereignty and independence as well as encouraging their socio-economic integration.
In Addis Ababa where the AU is seated, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed underscored that unity is “no more a catchphrase but a means of survival” in an increasingly complex world. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed Abiy, appealing for unity and to “uphold the bonds that frame our destiny.”
In his address, Abiy argued for the need of an African permanent seat at the UN Security Council and proportionate representation at the G7 and G20. Ramaphosa urged for improved governance across the continent amid the conflict in Sudan as well as previous coups in Chad, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
“We use Africa Day to reaffirm the importance of consolidating democracy and consolidating good governance across Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
Critics say the AU has failed to achieve some of its objectives, but supporters argue that it’s powers are restricted so as to allow the members’ heads of state to remain in control.
Kenyan political analyst and lawyer Danstan Omari says the AU is a “dead bulldog” that lacks mechanisms to enforce any of its mandate.
“It’s a talk show that has no impact at all. If you don’t have the mechanisms to enforce anything, then why are you there? So in my own view it’s a body that needs to be completely removed,” Omari told the Associated Press.