The current crisis in Libya and Ivory Coast has exposed the African Union, (AU) and Arab League, as institutions incapable of conducting contemporary diplomacy.
During the crises, both the AU and the Arab League have at best engaged in reactionary and often limited efforts in unlocking the political crises, without success, thus necessitating external interventions. For institutions that pride themselves upholding the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty, although both concepts are under fierce examination, this must come as a blow.
During Kenya’s and Zimbabwe’s election the AU invoked the principle of non-indifference and intervened in both cases. In both cases, they didn’t achieve the optimum results, but they succeeded in stopping the violence. However, when Libya and Ivory Coast crises erupted they were handed a glorious opportunity to charter new grounds in conflict resolution in their respective spheres, and they failed to rise to the occasion, and they instead displayed grave dereliction of duty.
In Ivory Coast, since last November, when the election was held, the AU has not managed to make any headway in installing the legitimate winner of the election, the opposition leader, Allasane Quatarra, as the president. As a result, the incumbent President, Laurent Gbagbo, has remained the president despite the international community recognizing his opponent as the legitimate president. The AU not only failed to tell Gbagbo to accept the election result, they failed even to do this basic international relations protocol of recognizing the opposition leader, Allasane Qautara’s presidency. Bearing in mind the tortuous history of Ivory Coast, the AU should have done better than being loudly silent.
The recent revolution in North Africa and Middle East was an opportunity for the Arab League to show diplomatic stewardship and political agility, and liberate the Arab masses from the tyranny of their leaders. Leaders, who, mostly came into power through coup and family inheritance, and sustained in power by the West’s short sighted believe that they were the firewall between the region’s take over by the fundamentalists.
The constant refrain in the region is that the region can easily slide into anarchy, and be taken over by the fundamentalists, has been bandied around for a while, and reinforced and perpetuated by these leaders themselves. In the fight between the Arab Streets and these kleptocrats the Arab League has maintained studious silence.
If Arab League has proved spineless during the Libyan crisis, the AU has been indecisive in the Ivorian Crisis. It is a testament to the significance of the Arab League’s support for the resolution, that when asked the turning point in obtaining the UN Security Council to impose a no fly zone on Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, the game changer was the Arab League acquiescing .
If the Arab League gave in to the US and NATO’s demands, the AU remained largely impotent in the face of Gbagbo’s intransigence, so much so that Gbabgo, a man besieged in his own presidential bunker ignored their multiple efforts by the AU to appoint a negotiating team. Amry Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League and Jean Ping AU has been the faces of their respective organizations ineptitude.
We never know how the events in Libya will pan out, but in Ivory Coast Gbagbo has been forced to surrender. And he’s currently guarded by the United Nations forces. The bulk of the forces that fought against the Gbagbo’s forces are from France.
Based on France’s rotten history of involvement in the internal affairs of West Africa, this latest episode in Ivorian must be tinged with disappointment and relief ; disappointment that the leader that the voted for in November is allowed to assume the reins of power several months later, relief that this episode is over, and the worst is behind them, hopefully.
For the AU and Ping, who have been capital hopping in order to unlock this crisis, this end must be a relief accompanied by an empty feeling of impotence, albeit, self-inflicted. More critically for the AU, is where France will stop next in its adventure of being the police of the Francophone Africa?
For the Arab league and Amry Moussa, although frankly Gadhafi never had any substantive respect for them, aside from symbolic relationship, but the Spector of AU, which has failed even in its sphere of influence, beginning to mediate for a political deal in the Libyan crisis, must be rubbing of salt on their already wounded pride.