BY: Tegenaw Goshu .“The African Union Organizes the 6th Annual Continental Forum of Election Management Bodies’?”
This is the title of a report I read on Satenaw website (English). The report reports that the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union “organizes the 6th Annual Continental Forum of Election Management Bodies November 28 and 29 in Nairobi, Kenya.” It sounds great as far as the general perception of making elections as democratic and participatory as they should be is concerned. The report reminds us about the importance of the Forum by saying that it is “to advance democratic and participatory governance in Africa”.
I would like to argue that this continental body that was established in 1963 (56 years ago) with the name OAU (Organization of African Unity) has made a remarkable success story with regard to its most important objective and role of dealing with the challenges of decolonization , enabling the newly independent countries to be viable , providing those people who were struggling to become independent and those who were languishing under a very inhuman political systems such as apartheid or the brutal rule of white supremacy with necessary support.
The problem arises when we try to look into the very question of what happened after decolonization or political independence. Did those politicians who claimed themselves as leaders of liberation keep the promise and hope they preached, or did they become brutal and cynical masters of their own people? Sadly enough, the truth was and is the later. Yes, they succeeded in getting the objectives I mentioned above (decolonization and political independence) accomplished. Unfortunately enough, they couldn’t make the continental body (OAU or the present AU) an instrument for the prevalence and development of democratic political culture which is said to be the second most important chapter of the political history of the continent. They rather used it as a club to deal with their own agenda and interests of how to rule and how to reconcile their differences and conflicts of interest in order to avoid public resistance and uprising against their undemocratic and illegitimate political power. They used the body as the forum to stand together and condemn any resistance movement of the people which they believed to be a threat to their limitless and abusive political power. This very ugly and cynical way of doing politics has continued in a more systematic and deceitful manner throughout the history of the continental body OAU and now AU.
I do believe that nobody with his or her rational/reasonable mind disagrees with the very horrifying reality on the ground on one hand, and “the success story” by those dishonest politicians and bread winner employees of the Union on the other hand are terribly falling apart. Needless to say, all aspects of people’s lives on the ground in almost all African countries are deeply and widely different from the highly flowery/rosy political rhetoric by those self-aggrandizing and stupidly hypocritical political leaders of Africa who have of course made the Union the very club of their own highly dramatized and orchestrated political game at the very expenses of the people.
To argue that the continental body (AU) and its varies departments like the so-called Forum of Election Management Bodies that have nothing to do with genuine and independent management of elections can deliver meaningful input is either a political stupidity or the very evil-driven mentality of “who cares as long as the Body and its Parts remain the sources of our delightful life styles by the very standard of the poverty-stricken and politically oppressed people of Africa”.
It is self-evidently clear that the change of its name (AU) which was declared to be the Union of the people rather than the very CLUB of brutally undemocratic or nominally and deceivingly democratic leaders has never been realized. It still serves as the same CULB with a systematically cosmetic elements of changes that can be done even by a typical body of dictatorship. Almost all leaders of member counties are still trying hard to maintain their political power by brutally suppressing or oppressing or deceiving their own innocent people in their own respective countries.
It was in 2002 (17 years ago) that the name OAU was changed to AU (African Union) and the difference was/is said to be a transformation from the Union of leaders (the club of leaders) to the Union of the people . Alas, what a hypocritical and disingenuous political game at the very expenses of terribly impoverished people of Africa!
What is painfully frustrating is when it comes to the question/issue of to what extent African leaders were and are real agents of democratic systems of governments and by doing so a real or meaningful agents of changes of peoples’ lives particularly since the change of the name AU (17 years ago). Sadly enough, compared with what the people should deserve, African leaders have horribly failed. Let me make myself clearer as follows:
a) The very perception or assumption of making the Union the Union of the people was and is totally bogus or fake and an insult to the innocent people of Africa because it has never been the case in practical terms.The very reality on the ground clearly shows that the Union has continued to be a very CONVIENIENT CLUB of the leaders (rulers) of each member country.
Though it is true that very few are relatively better than the very majority of them, the totality of the their policies and programs have failed because of the cynical, disingenuous, hypocritical and brutally misleading behavior of those leaders who have come to power by hook or crook and go away by giving in to the next political elites who continue doing the same if not the worst way of ruling. This is still the very painful vicious cycle of African politics.
b) Understandably enough, the very majority of the leaders (rulers) are not statesmen at all. They are not skilled, experienced, respected and above all willing to lead by the power of practical example that goes beyond a generations. They are elites of self-serving by any means including cynicism, hypocrisy, and hit-and -run type of political game. They have never been independent of those former colonial rulers and other powerful actors of world politics who have no any real sense of concern about the untold sufferings of the people as long those severely corrupt leaders are willing to advance their (foreign powers’) respective national interests. Leaders in our continent do play a “friendly” relationship with those powers in order not only get their voracious self -interests satisfied but also to make them (their own self-interests) fatter and more “delightful” at the very expenses of the people who continued to be hit hard by all aspects of the horrifying situations.
- c) They (African leaders) are highly if not incredibly corrupt to the extent of exchanging the very interests of their own people (national interests) for their own wildly limitless self- interests and the interests of those around their palace politics. That is why although they claim themselves as a “true representatives” of the people of their respective countries and the people of the continent in general in the arena of international relations such as UN and its organs as well as programs, they have never been effective as they claim to be because they always watch not how to fight for the interests of people to the end, but how to win the support and favor of the former colonial powers and other developed countries of the western hemisphere. Not only this, but they also try hard to maintain their tyrannical political power and by doing so to get their monstrous self-interests satisfied by playing unwritten cold war style policy. They do dance between China and Russia on one hand, and the western powers on the other hand.
I really wonder how these African leaders who were not willing and able to build their own Headquarters got it built by China and accepted it back as a “great gift” can have a real sense of moral and political ground. It is very sad to see a vast continent endowed with great natural and human resources being unable to afford the financial resources to build its own Headquarters. This is why it is very difficult if not impossible to believe that the continent can play a significant role in balancing the power of world politics that can meaningfully favors the very interests of the people of Africa.
- d) I do really wonder what kind of advancement of democratic and participatory governance they are talking about. How many member countries are showing a real or meaningful progress let alone establishing a meaningful good governance that should be characterized by a truly democratic way doming politics? When, Where, and how they courageously and effectively help the people of Africa who have continued paying huge and bitter sacrifices in order to make their dreams for a democratic political system reality? Are they (African leaders) not doing the opposite (against people’s struggle for freedom and justice)?
What did they do when the innocent people of Ethiopia had to face intimidation, harassment, brutal interrogation, mental and physical torture and incredibly inhuman killings for the last quarter of a century for the simple reason they tried to exercise their basic democratic and human rights? Didn’t they declare all the very undemocratic, brutally and systematically orchestrated elections of TPLF/EPRDF free, fair and democratic? It is these people who are now telling us about their Annual Form of making elections democratic, fair, and free in a much more historic fashion. What a terribly deceitful and disingenuous political discourse and behavior!
There is no doubt that these disingenuous politicians and bread winner employees of the Union will repeat the same disgraceful and terribly deceitful testimony about the upcoming election by the current government of ODP/EPRDF or may be the so-called unified Prosperity Party (the rebranded EPRDF) to be wonderfully democratic, free and fair. It is an open secret that this continental body and its various political arms were used to declare the very tragic elections for the last quarter of a century to the extent of admiring an extremely hypocritical and brutally dictatorial regime of the late Ato Meles Zenawi. Needless to say, they are in the process of repeating the same if not the worst wrong doing at this very critical moment in our country by giving their “blessing of historic victory” to the current ruling circle and government in the upcoming elections.
To this end, they have a good for nothing personals of the so-called the National Election Board of Ethiopia led by Ms. Birtukan Mideksa who terribly became the very good playing card (puppet) of the very cynical, hypocritical, disingenuous and conspiratorial political elites of the former TPLF/EPRDF and the current ODP/EPRDF or the rebranded Prosperity Party that is the very replica of EPRDF. It is painfully disturbing to see individuals like Ms. Birtukan Mediksa who got the admiration of the Ethiopian people and international recognition because of their political role in the struggle for the prevalence of genuine democracy in the country and the high price they paid being used as speaking tool for a very doomed to failure political game of EPRDF’s politicians.
It is in this very ugly political and socio-economic situation that the very interests of the people of the continent in general and the people of each country in particular are totally lost.
Look at the PHOTO UP at the top of the report very carefully and try to compare and contrast this very cheap way of doing politics on the much untold sufferings of the people that is self-evidently clear on the ground. This is how they play their brutally disingenuous if not tragic political game.
Do not get me wrong that what I am saying is nothing positive happened. No at all! This is because there is and there will be positive things in any brutally dictatorial or tyrannical regimes leave alone in organization like the one we are talking about . What I am saying is that compared to where the people of Africa are now in every aspect of their lives, it is not far from the truth that the very idea of transforming this continental body from OAU to AU in order to make it the Union of the people was/is totally absurd if not terribly hypocritical.
Whatever the case we may raise and argue, one very bitter truth will remain seriously challenging. As long as the people of Africa remain not fortunate enough to get timely and effective help from their educated and courageous children in order to make their dreams for democracy reality in their respective counters, this continental body (call it OAU or AU) will remain the very CONVEINEIT CLUB of disingenuous, disgraceful, disgusting, corrupt politicians and the beneficiaries .
This has a very significant implications to our own case which is going not only in a very wrong direction but also a very devastating destination. That is why I strongly believe and argue that we cannot remain indifferent to the very behavior and practice of leaders or politicians of this continental body (AU) if we have to bring about a democratic system in our country that could have a powerful cross boundary positive influence!
The people of Africa cannot effectively and irreversibly bring about a truly democratic system in each member country unless they give due attention and do something about the very critical question of how to make this continental body a body that should be responsible and answerable to the very will and interest of the people. This is because it would be foolish enough for us to expect the emergence and development of the culture of democratic system and good governance in a political environment in which leaders present themselves as witnesses and defenders of each other’s undemocratic if not dictatorial behaviors and practices. Needless to say, the AU has been used and still is being used as the forum for advancing not the very just cause of the people (democracy and justice), but the very self-aggrandizing and voraciously power mongering leaders and disgustingly opportunist political elites and intellectuals.
Let me conclude with the following. If we want to see not only a democratic country of Africa but also democratic countries of Africa and gradually a democratic Africa, we have to recognize the challenges we are facing with a strong sense of understanding and try hard to find out appropriate and effective strategies and plan of actions and to act up on those strategies and plan of actions with a real sense of common concern and concerted efforts. The very proverb “If there is a will, there is a way” is so powerful if we are serious enough about the very essence of freedom, justice, rule of law, human rights, equal opportunity, sustainable peace , compassion, shared prosperity .