Africa Union: New wine in old bottles
By: Mengisteab Tesfamikeal
January 8, 2004

When the African Union was established to replace the defunct Organization of African Unity, many Africans were relieved that now that the OAU was gone, Africa could breathe a sigh of fresh air. Every African knew that the OAU was one of the most ineffective and disastrous organization in Africa. In its three decades of existence, the OAU registered more failures than successes.

If any success of the OAU, it was finishing the ground works laid by the Pan Africanism to free Africa from the yoke of colonial rule and perhaps, bring about equality, justice and progress on the continent. Perhaps, after three decades of existence, one can easily say that one of the greatest achievements of the OAU was its struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Another milestone is that the OAU has survived for more than three decades.

However beyond these so-called accomplishments, the OAU appears to be failing, creating disunity and chaos on the African continent. For example, the OAU was the most corrupt organization in Africa. In the last three decades, there were conflicts, starvation, deceases and internal conflicts on the continent while African leaders wasted the meager resources of member countries.

While countries struggled with many problems, including the Sub-Saharan, Arab differences; poor decision-making and distrust of the organization; human rights abuses and financial constraints; African leaders indulged in their lavish spending and buying villas in foreign countries at the same time surrounding themselves by private armies whose budgets surpassed that of their respective countries.

The OAU did nothing to curb the conflicts on the continent, and perpetuated the conflicts more by the ill-fated spending by member countries at meetings that yielded nothing more than a gathering of leaders and their entourage. The frequented expensive hotels, enjoyed fine wines, food, and oh yes, a leader could have as many women as he pleased; courtesy of the host country. There was no accountability.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the so-called Headquarters of the OAU, is notorious for corruption and mismanagement. Even the OAU Headquarters has never been maintained to represent a site that holds the history and memories of Africa. The OAU gave deaf ear to the suffering of the African people from North to South, and from East to West.

President Issaias Afeworki, in his speech during the time Eritrea joined the OAU made the following remarks. "We are joining the OAU not because of your achievement, but because you are our African brothers." I believe that President Afeworki's statement made it clear to the OAU it was a complete failure. In his views, the establishment did not resolve Africa's problems, but suppressed them in order to maintain its status quo. I believe the founders of the OAU were leaders of wisdom who encouraged member countries to combine their economies into sub-regional markets that would ultimately form one Africa-wide economic union; as later reflected in the Lagos Plan of Action; which many believed was a step in the right direction. But one can argue that the foundation of the OAU did not happen by accident. It was designed to keep rulers such as Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Jumbo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kenneth Kunda of Zambia, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, William V. S. Tubman of Liberia, and other founding members in power for lifetime.

Even during the Derg rule in Ethiopia, the OAU gave deaf ear to the suffering of the Eritrean and Ethiopian people. When Mengistu murdered thousands of innocent children during the "Red Terror," the OAU did nothing. The OAU cannot say that its leadership did not know of the atrocity committed by Mengistu, because the murder happened in Addis Ababa, the OAU Headquarters, and Asmara and many cities in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

I don't have to remind Africans or those who have followed the developments in Africa since the establishment of the OAU. I could innumerate corruption in the OAU in the last 30 years, but time will not allow me to do so in the essay. But here are some of the failures of the now defunct Organization of African Unity: Failure to resolve conflicts between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan; failure to resolve the internal conflicts in Liberia; Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone; and failure to pay attention to other regional conflicts like in Angola, Mozambique, Chad and Polisario and Algeria.

It is a shame to read newspapers articles or watch Nightline and read or hear about how African leaders, such as Mubuto of Zaire, Taylor of Liberia, Mengistu of Ethiopia and others loot their national coffers to enrich themselves and their cronies. The OAU leadership never criticized these leaders, since the OAU leadership was also the leadership of Africa. To be frank, the OAU was a disgrace to Africa and to Africans and the world at large. Like millions of Africans, I gladly welcomed the death of the OAU and think the rest of the world should do the same.

Once we buried the OAU, many Africans were relieved and had great hope that the African Union (AU), which replaced the OAU, and was inaugurated July 9, 2002, in Durban, South Africa, would not repeat the same mistakes made by the OAU. Although the AU consists of the same members of the OAU, it has a different focus: to fight poverty and corruption, canvass for the economic recovery of Africa and hold members to a standard of government and respect for human rights. I feel that the AU will come out with fresh ideas and activities to promote Africa. But surprisingly, the AU is moving in the same direction of the OAU. For members of the AU, it is business as usual. The AU is one of the guarantors of the Algiers Agreement (UN, EU, and USA). So far, the AU has neglected its responsibility by not enforcing the decision of the Boarder Commission.

Why is the AU quiet on this important matter? One thing that comes to mind is that, the AU is corrupt and is following in the same footsteps like the OAU it has replaced. Nothing has changed, but the names only. I believe that the OAU is alive and kicking and enjoying the good life in Addis Ababa. If Africa's corrupt leaders cannot curb corruption and nepotism in their own countries, what makes one to believe that they will bring about changes in the AU? It was wishful thinking. Recently the Eritrean Ambassador to the AU was recalled by the Eritrean government in protest of the AU for neglecting its responsibility. So far the Eritrean government honored the EEBC ruling, but the guarantor is not enforcing the EEBC ruling. The Eritrean government's message to the AU is powerful and put the AU on notice that business is not as usual. If the AU doesn't enforce the ruling, the creditability as well as the existence of the AU will be in danger. The AU is at a crossroad and failing at this point could spell its in-effectiveness. Eritrea will prevail as usual because Eritrea is right. There is no question about it. As for Ethiopia, the home base of the OAU and now AU, probably benefits financially, but they have paid dearly and heavily in human cost. Ethiopia is one of the countries in Africa that is suffering from HIV/AIDS. Millions of Ethiopians are dying from AIDS. What a price to pay. This epidemic can be directly connected with the Mengistu regime as well as the Meles regime. During the Mengistu era it was a common practice for the government to offer Ethiopian women to visiting government officials, many of whom came from countries devastated by HIV/AIDS epidemic. These officials were involved in unprotected sex and in return these women engaged in unprotected sex with Ethiopian men, thus spreading the disease. The result is devastation in human cost in Ethiopia.

Currently there are thousands Ethiopian children who are orphans as a result. That is the price Ethiopia is paying at the present. I personally feel sorry for the Ethiopians after all they are our African brothers. The Eritrean struggle was always against the Ethiopian government not the people of Ethiopia. Unfortunately the Ethiopian people were never blessed by good leaders who care about their people. Such as Haile Selassie, Mengistu and Meles. As to the minority (Woyane) leaders of Ethiopia, their days are numbered. It is high time the Woyane gangs respect the EEBC decision because they have already agreed to abide by it. The ruling of the EEBC is final and biding. If the role was changed between Eritrea and Ethiopia on the EEBC ruling, the Ethiopians would have made so much noise by now and the international community would have supported them.

Why is the international community quiet? I am also sure if the International community enforces the ruling, the gangs in Addis Ababa would have implemented the ruling. It is so clear the hypocrisy of the international community. The Woyane gangs keep asking for dialogue with Eritrea. What is there to discuss? It is finished and done. What we need now is for the boarder to be marked. We know what the Woyane gangs are doing is to prolonging their rule. The truth may bend but at the end the truth will prevail and the Woyane days are numbered. As always the Eritrean struggle continues and in the final analysis, as always, Eritrea will be exonerated. As true statesman, President Isaias Afwerki showed the world through his patience approach to the EEBC ruling that he is a peaceful man who abides by the international rule On the other hand, the Ethiopian ruler showed his true color by acting as a spoiled child. That is the difference between Isaias Afwerki and Meles.

The Ethiopian people are blessed with many rivers throughout the country. Almost 85% of the Nile River is from the Ethiopian side (Blue Nile). As we are keenly aware the life of Egypt is the Nile River. For Ethiopia to suffer from continued starvation is a shame. Howard Cosell a well known sport announcer once said "having the ball is not enough but once you have it what to do with it". The Ethiopians have so many rivers and other resources but that is not enough; they should know what to do with the rivers and the other resources. They would rather spend their meager resources to buy weapons to colonize other people such as the Eritreans, the Oromo, the Somalis and many others.

Ethiopia with 67 million people better wake up and start building dams and irrigate the land and feed their people. If they continue this adventure of colonizing and neglect the need of their people, Ethiopia will remain a basket case. As we are aware East Africa is still suffering from drought. In Eritrea the joint effort between the government of Eritrea and Eritreans in the Diaspora are working very hard to take care of the Eritreans who need help while the Ethiopia government is bagging the international community for assistance. Bagging is becoming a culture in the Ethiopians establishment. Rather than working hard to feed their people they are ready for another conflict with Eritrea while the United Nations does nothing, practically. The UN is spending over $250 million to have the peacekeepers (4,200 soldiers) station in Eritrea for the last three years.

Common sense tells you once the EEBC ruling was reddened quickly you implement the demarcation and move the peacekeepers and save over $250 million a year. At present the UN is involved in several conflicts throughout the world. They need every dollar they can save and after all the UN is one of the guarantors of the Algiers agreement. Therefore the EEBC decision should be implemented without delay.

The Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, is more concern about his image rather than save millions of African lives. Because of his indecision over half million Rwandans died. He turned blind eye to the Rwandan situation. I am sure the blood of the Rwandans is hunting him at this time.

Again unless he forces the Ethiopians to abide by the Eritrean and Ethiopian Boarder Commission decision more Eritrea's and Ethiopian's will die. Kofi Annan a Ghanaian national, you tend to think he will take a lot of effort to assist Africa, unfortunately during his tenure more Africans died in Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, etc. It is high time for the Secretary General to play a positive role in Africa than what he did up to now.

He shouldn't worry more about his image than the millions of Africans who are dying each day from conflicts, diseases, and starvation. It is the responsibility of the international community to see that the EEBC ruling is implemented as soon as possible other wise we will see another conflict in the horn of Africa. If the international community doesn't enforce the ruling in the future other countries will not respect any more ruling. As for Ethiopia if they started another conflict they are going to loss again because the unity of the Eritrean people much stronger now than in 1998. For the sake of peace I hope the Ethiopian leaders will come to their senses and avoid another war. In war nobody win even when you win you loss.