Stinking Shame On The So-called African Union
By James W. Harris
January 24, 2003
Talking about making a big blunder and embarrassing a people that are already backward? Then just consider seriously the recent assumption of the chairmanship of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Commission by Libya - a rare opportunity for Africa to have shown the world that it is now ready to straighten up finally and move on, leaving the past behind. But many thanks to South Africa for blowing our chance once again by giving the position to long-time dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, since it's no secret that he definitely will be the one calling the shots from behind the scene.
And putting all jokes aside, it surely will turn out to be the gravest mistake made by Africa in this new millennium! If this huge "booboo" is not a scandal at the UN, then I certainly don't know what it is.
No, I'm not at all upset or troubled by Libya's assumption of the position simply because the United States strongly opposes it, even though it has its own ‘fish to fry' with that country's ruler. Or, because several well-respected human rights groups, like, the New York-based Human Rights Watch, have complained vehemently about Libya's chairing of the commission, despite its own dismal record on the issue. Not at all!
Frankly, I'm very, very upset because Libya, under its current eccentric ruler, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, obviously does not deserve the chairmanship or the privilege to represent Africa at this particular juncture of its long drive towards becoming "totally free" for many solid reasons.
A few of them are: (1) The fact that Libya is today one of the chief exporters of senseless violence throughout the African continent, and probably far beyond, alone should disqualify it from holding such an important and ‘symbolic' position. I mean, just look around the continent. There's Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and, of course, Siamese twins, Liberia and Burkina Faso, among other places that he's helped to completely ruin over the years. Does this not matter at all to South African President, Thabo Mbeki and the others who are supporting Libya for the position against common sense and logic? Apparently not! (2) The continued suppression of the basic human rights, such as, freedom of speech and of the press, of the Libyan people by Col. Gaddafi's brutal regime is yet another good one. Not to mention the many accounts of human rights abuses there (Libya) that have been well documented by Amnesty International (AI), among others.
Coming closer to home, let's take the case of the now lawless and "failed" state of Liberia, a country massively ravaged by war, where Col. Gaddafi's stooge, Charles Taylor [who once referred to Libya as his second home], reigns supreme with impunity, keeping his people ‘in check' usually by cruel and barbaric means. Before I forget, I'd just like to mention that both Taylor and his close friend, Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaore, the man that's said to have murdered the young and vibrant, Thomas Sankara, a new breed of African leader that was far ahead of his time in cold blood, are graduates of the Colonel's School of Destabilization and Anarchy. It did not matter that Blaise and the late Thomas had supposedly been friends from their early childhood!
But indeed, in some cases, things just don't seem to look right, regardless of how much we struggle to understand them. Sadly, this is apparently one of those cases, and I guess, we'll have to get over it one way or the other. But this is not right, and personally, I see it as a betrayal of the African people's trust in their "democratically elected" leaders, like, Mbeki. Really!
That so-called African leaders, many of whom unfortunately share the same "value system" as the Colonel, could give Africa's seat to the very repressive Libyan regime doesn't surprise me all at. I mean, why should it! What has completely shocked me, though [and should also shock other well-meaning Africans], is that Libya was able to pull it off in grand style by defeating the US's strong efforts to thwart its chances, surviving a secret ballot vote by 33 in favor; a pitiful three against (said to be those of the US, Canada and Guatemala); and roughly 17 others abstaining. What a sad day for human rights in Africa and worldwide.
But on a more serious note, how could this have happened in this day and age in which the clarion call for justice, freedom, human rights, "equality", the rule of law, etc., are becoming louder and louder everywhere? The immediate answer that comes to my mind is that things like this happen when people become inconsistent and fail to stand up for the principles they believe in at a time when it counts the most.
In order to fully understand what has happened here, we may as well go back to where it all started - in the already irrelevant so-called African Union or AU, an organization that was purported to have been replacing the aged and seemingly ineffective Organization of African Unity (OAU) for the betterment of the African peoples and continent based on, amongst other things, "good governance".
Like its predecessor, the AU was destined to make such a bad call, mainly because of the way it was being put together and who was primarily behind it. No African should entertain the idea that a "club" dominated by a rather slick group of repressive dictators could ever change a severely backward continent for the better just because their organization had changed its name. That's being too unrealistic, and more besides, things just don't work that way in our one world!
If the desired changes will ever come to Africa, then, we as Africans must first alter the fundamental way that we do things, especially, the way we THINK. And that alteration should include making the correct choices and decisions whenever we're given the opportunity. One correct choice would have been to give the chairmanship under question to the African country with the best human rights record in the group. This undoubtedly would have not only avoided Africa from being thrown into such a bad light, but it also would have gained the continent some much-needed respect at long last.
But the simple truth about the OAU being transformed hastily into the AU, is that Col. Gaddafi apparently wants to take full control of the organization to mould it wrongly in his own image. And for the life of me, I don't see why a revered leader, like, Nelson Mandela, as well as other Africans, can't see through the smoke screen. I really don't!
Most of all, it is of significance to note also that he (Gaddafi) seems to be determined to buy Africa with cash after being shunned by his Arab brethren - thanks to Libya's enormous oil wealth that the Colonel has turned into his personal "pepperbush" [to borrow the words of his protégé, Charles Taylor]. Else, why are Africans dead silent or on what basis was Libya chosen for the human rights position compared to other African countries? I sincerely think that we should demand some answers from our so-called leaders, don't you think? Something surely isn't right here.
In fact, the deception to hurriedly create the so-called AU and subsequently put the Colonel in charge of it has been so great that some people have actually gone so far as to credit the Libyan ruler falsely as the originator of the idea of an African union, never mind that the whole concept has been around for many, many years, long before him. As far as I know, it goes as far back as the days of Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, et. al. And so, please let's not fool ourselves!
Like many ‘progressive' Africans that are very hopeful that one day the once "dark" continent will unite on the basis of democracy [or whatever "system" that gives them the most freedom and human dignity], I'm sincerely convinced that Col. Gaddafi's Libya lacks the moral integrity and international standing to represent Africa, particularly, in its role as Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission. To my best knowledge, the man does not even have the mental frame of mind to pick up from where African giants, like, Dr. Nkrumah or President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, amongst others, had left off. His is certainly an attempt to use Africa for his own selfish designs. In short, he's no Nasser or Nkrumah, but a known merchant of death in disguise!
Notwithstanding, some of the Colonel's blind admirers would argue that he's a "good" man, a true Arab/African revolutionary, a man that has build his oil-rich dessert nation into a modern-day empire, a man who loves his people, etc., etc. Then I ask: are the ordinary Libyans free to think "freely" for themselves? Did the ordinary Libyans vote Col. Gaddafi into power? Is he not responsible partly for the demise of the Liberian nation that has led to the untimely death of more than 250,000 innocent people at the bloody hands of Libyan-trained thugs, many of them, drugged child soldiers? Is he not also partly responsible for the present destabilization of the entire West African sub-region?
Granted even that the standard of living in Libya is higher comparatively than that of other countries in the region in terms of, say, health care, housing, education, etc., as Gaddafi's supporters always say, they still will have to provide me with reasonable and logical answers to the questions above in order for me to take them seriously.
But what really baffles me in all of this is the tremendous support that Libya seems to be getting from Mbeki's South Africa - a nation that should know better than to submit the name of a "rogue" state to take Africa's chairmanship of the world body's Human Rights Commission. Additionally, it should know better because of its own experiences with the ugly Apartheid system that almost tore it apart. That's why I believe that something "fishy" could be going on in the so-called AU. Obviously, when you see a nation like South Africa yielding its moral leadership position to an otherwise isolated country like Libya, something has to be wrong somewhere. And I bet, we'll never know what it is.
Admittedly, the mere fact that the authoritarian and repressive regime of Libya was given preference over other African countries, bothers me the most. And if things continue to go this way, I have no doubt that Col. Muammar Gaddafi could soon emerge as THE ultimate ruler of Africa under one umbrella, the so-called AU. So much so for the freedoms and human rights of the African people! Frankly, I dread that day, but it could be possible ONLY if we sit and do nothing.
Personally, I really don't care about how most so-called African leaders think or what they do, because I've come to know exactly what they're all about - greed, self-aggrandizement, raw state power, nepotism, tribalism, etc. But I am greatly concerned about the behavior of men, like, Mbeki and Mandela, who continuously appear to be courting the likes of the Libyan dictator at the detriment of the African peoples and continent. Even his fellow Arabs, who Col. Gaddafi is naturally closer to than Africans, could have done better in their selection, if given the opportunity, I'm sure. That's why I agree with those who say that the AU is nothing more than "old wine in new bottle" - it has to be!
While I truly don't know what could be going on in the minds of men, like, Mandela and Mbeki, amongst other widely respected Africans, their flirtation with the Colonel could possibly lead the continent down the wrong path as Gaddafi surely won't know what human rights means if even it struck him right in the face. Moreover, I'm pretty sure that Africa could be brought into sharp disrepute with the rest of the ‘civilized' world if Libya were to continue to play a leading or dominant role in African affairs.
For Liberians, especially, the reality that Libya is now heading the UN Human Rights Commission [thanks to the so-called AU] should be very alarming for obvious reasons - the Libyan ruler's personal role in bringing total destruction to their once peaceful country by training, arming and then unleashing Taylor and his drugged thugs on the Liberian nation and people, an act that's almost unforgivable. Again, none of this matters to the AU.
Therefore, Liberians, wherever they are, have the God given right to be angry and I certainly won't blame them for venting their frustration and utmost disgust in any way possible. I really won't. What about protesting directly to the AU for a starter? That would be good, wouldn't it!
All of a sudden, it seems that the so-called AU has forgotten how the despotic Gaddafi regime treated (mistreated) his African compatriots when he shamelessly booted some Nigerians and Ghanaians as well as Africans of various nationalities out of his country for unknown reasons not too long ago.
In fact, as I'm doing this very article, a Nigerian named, Nathaniel Jackson Ikpato Notibo, and three Ghanaians, whose names are not immediately known, are scheduled to be executed any day now in Libya for allegedly killing a Libyan, one Mr. Mohammed Nojeb Mustapha, despite appeal from Nigeria and others. I guess, that's what one has to do to take Africa's place in an international organization like the UN.
Indeed, the wrong way in which this very important decision was made will surely haunt the suffering continent in the years to come. Worst of all, this will also bring the already backward continent nothing but grief, stinking shame and continuing distrust of Africa's so-called leaders. We definitely can do better than that!
May God quickly awaken Africa from her deep coma and save the mineral rich continent from further bloodletting, self-destruction and tyranny.