It’s a season of bullets versus bread at the African Union
A The Difference Editorial
Tuesday’s formal inauguration of Moussa Faki Mahamat as the Chairperson of the African Union would surely be a personal triumph for the accomplished diplomat and politician, as well as his originating nation, Chad and its long-time dictator, Idris Deby. But this newspaper is not impressed. And we will tell you why.
To begin, we note the process of his emergence. Thanks to the complex, but also increasingly more opportunistic nature of political competition on the continent, it took an agonising six months to make the transition. Begun at the penultimate summit in Kigali, Rwanda, that session produced no winner and the process had to be carried on till early this year when it was eventually concluded on January 30, after some seven rounds of voting. While Africa deserves a less protracted electoral arrangement that will ensure that we continue to keep our eyes on the ball, maximally, it is also to be noted that there is indeed a sense in which the relative ‘poverty of talent,’ substantially contributed in reducing the entire contest to an essentially ‘cloak-and-dagger’ affair. Which indeed is a pity.
Equally, the 56-year-old Faki, though widely regarded as an astute political deal-maker and who continues to be seen as the architect of Chad’s nomination to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member and also of the country’s presidency of the AU in 2016, is really not known to stand for any solid, progressive and patriotic values. Where we are as a continent and people today, a deal-making capability is not enough. The continent is in a grim and harrowing state largely and there is therefore a lot of progressive work to be done from the catalysing office of AU Chairperson.
To be fair to him, the new Chairperson does come with a most impressive CV, ordinarilly. He headed the AU Commission on Peace and Security at the Nairobi summit in 2013, and has also been a former Chadian prime minister and was until his election also the current foreign minister of his country.
But these really are part of his current challenge as given his vantage position in the politics of his country, and one that has meant that he has had a decisive say in all the military and strategic operations his country was and is engaged in places like Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic, the Sahel and the Lake Chad region, it really has to be explained how much real progress, he has helped bring to the table on these and related engagements.
Again, given that Chad, is well known for seeing itself as a sort of champion of military intervention even in the midst of very extenuating domestic circumstances, an immediate challenge then would be how to prevent the new helmsman from further consolidating on this ‘bullets over bread’ framework.
In this vein, Moussa Faki, who has been chairman of the council of ministers of the G5Sahel, a military anti-terror alliance made up of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, of which Ndjamena is the driving force, would therefore need to be reminded that there is indeed a bigger picture. Combating terrorism militarily is indeed good but even more critical would be ridding the continent of dictatorial and militaristic leaderships like the one he has long been in bed with in Ndjamena for very many years now, and whose disregard for the rights of citizens is a major precipitating factor for some of the terrorism that makes growing the continent such a tough chore. For the task that we have at hand, bullets are not enough, Mr Faki.
However, given the popular view in the West that all that the world needs to be done in relation to Africa is to pacify the continent and ensure that it does not have an overly disruptive effect on the overall tenor of relations in the global arena, Faki’s election is likely to please both Europe and the United States of America. Over the years, these power blocs have supported Faki, Deby and Chad in the fight against Boko Haram and other jihadist groups, while also turning a blind eye to the human rights and dictatorial extremities within the nation itself. Instructively, the former French colony is also the headquarters of the French counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.
This would then explain why some of the most vociferous objection to Faki’s candidacy in the first place had come from Chadians who insisted that he was not a fit and proper person to lead the continental body, given his involvement with a government that has for 27 years muzzled internal dissent and literally put the 12.83 million people of the nation at its mercy.
And this point is corroborated by the fact that Moussa Faki is reputed to be very close to President Deby who was reelected in April 2016 for a controversial fifth consecutive term, that was widely criticized because of serious irregularities. Deby who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1990 is like Faki, of the Zaghawa ethnic group, leading analysts to the conclusion that in Faki’s emergence, Deby may have succeeded in placing a most trusted ally in a position that would continue to help him maintain his unchallenged hold over his nation even as he continues to expand Chad’s influence in the AU and on the continent.
For this newspaper, the Moussa Faki matrix for developing Africa is too limited. Like his counterpart at the Africa Development Bank, AfDB, we want to see his grand vision of where the continent should be going next. This is what made the engagements of illustrious African statesmen like Salim Ahmed Salim and Kwame Nkrumah so notable. Faki had better sit down now to put together a grand vision if he expects any real progress to be associated with his term of office. We are not impressed this far and hope he would surprise us.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Chairperson