Is the African Union’s posture emboldening ‘the Strongman?’

By Timi Obafemi

A coalition of Western nations have slammed the Congolese authorities over its restriction of access to communications facilities in the aftermath of the General Elections held in the country on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

The nations which include the United States of America, Canada, Switzerland and the multi-national delegation of the European Union, EU say that they are worried over the restrictions imposed on internet, text messaging and radio broadcasts within the country even as everyone is waiting for the outcome of the collation of votes from the process.

In a joint statement from their diplomatic representatives in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, the Westerners equally expressed their concern over reported denial of the rights of electoral watch-groups and opposition monitors to fully observe the ongoing collation exercise.

Meanwhile, analysts are wondering whether the African Union has done enough in helping to keep outgoing President Joseph Kabila under check given particularly his expressed lack of enthusiasm for the polls in the first place.

This is on account of the group’s seeming quietness on the state of affairs in the country at the moment. Given the historical concern over the relative ineptitude of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity, OAU to promptly intervene in internal conflict situations in the continent, the worry is whether the AU has not continued to hold on to the crippling doctrine of ‘non-interference in the internal affairs of other African nations’ to the collective hurt of the people of the continent.

This is moreso when it is recalled that one of the AU’s last public comments was its November 27 call on the European Union to lift the travel ban placed on several high-level officials of the Congolese government that had allegedly been involved in suppressing popular agitation for President Kabila to respect the constitution and conduct long overdue polls.

Rather than heed to the demands of its people, the authorities went on to hound and brutallise protesters, leading to the death of many. Analysts say that it is such poorly thought out statements that had emboldened the Congolese strongman and his associates in government and the Electoral Commission into going ahead to further hound the opposition, disenfranchise millions of voters, expel the EU mission chief in Kinshasa and now slam a communications ban on the nation. They therefore urge that the AU should come out quite strongly in ensuring that outgoing President Kabila would be told in clear terms that even Africa would not condone his excesses.

The provisional results of the polls are due to be declared on Sunday.

President Joseph Kabila of Congo

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