From the Editor’s Keyboard

AU pumps oxygen into Gaddafi

By  | 3 July 2011 at 05:26 | 414 views

The African Union, for those who don’t know, is Africa’s premier political organization with a membership of 53 African countries with headquarters in Addis Ababa. Although most African countries are poor, you don’t want to mess with this organization.

It has clout and it has the potential to make Africa a super power one day in the form of a United States of Africa. One of the African heads of state that had been vigorously calling for a United States of Africa guess it, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya whose home address is now known to only very few people. The pilots of NATO war planes would love to bomb him out of existence if given the chance. Yes, the man is in trouble, very bad trouble.

But at an AU summit over the weekend in Malabo, capital of tiny but oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the heads of state, in a show of defiance to their Western counterparts, released a statement saying they do not subscribe to or respect the recent arrest warrant slapped on Gaddafi by the International Crimnal Court headed by Argentine jurist Luis Moreno-Ocampo. This is one of several instances the AU has been ignoring ICC arrest warrants. There was the case of Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir whose forces have killed thousands of civilians in a part of his country called Darfur and former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, now based in Senegal.

There are several reasons why African leaders are taking this stance, principal among which are:

1. They say Western leaders are shameless hypocrites who commit horrible crimes all over the world but are never punished. They point fingers, for example, at the United States government which they say is not even a signatory to ICC agreements.

2. Many African intellectuals think Gaddafi is being hounded because of the United States of Africa project (which he strongly supports) and which they say many Western leaders do not like because a United Staes of Africa means less exploitation and stealing of Africa’s wealth by Western governments and businessmen and women. Getting rid of Gaddafi will lead to the death of the United States of Africa project and the aspirations of the African people, these intellectuals argue. A lot of the world’s wealth is found in Africa and trade with the continent or lack of it affects a lot of Western economies.

3. Gaddafi has used Libyan money to help most of the cash-strapped African countries and has been financially supporting the political and economic unification of the continent. Most African leaders are grateful for this and will stand by him through thick and thin.

But on ther hand, a lot of African intellectuals and politicians are embarrassed by the fact that Gaddafi has stayed in power for too long (over 40 years) and has caused the death of too many Libyans.They are therefore gently asking him to step down and allow free and fair elections in a multi-party democratic setting. Gaddafi, it seems, is ready to do that as long as there is a guarantee that his enemies would not throw him in jail or even kill him.

It is thus reasonable to imagine that the question of impunity was exercising the minds of those African leaders when they met in Malabo but their problem was how to end the civil war in Libya without punishing Gaddafi in one way or the other.

Most of them were democratically elected and they want to see an end to tyrannical and despotic rule in Africa. They also want to see an end to injustice and mass murders on the continent; but they want to do it the African way and not by taking instructions from Westerners who they say do not practise what they preach but would rather say, "Don’t do as I do; do as I say." The African leaders are saying: "This is bad advice, very bad advice. We don’t like it and we will not follow it."

So, in conclusion, it seems to me the only way African leaders could promptly support the West in human rights and democracy issues is when they see Western leaders who commit crimes against humanity are swiftly arrested and punished, especially leaders from G8 countries.