Gathering in Brussels undermines African unity

EU-Africa Summit may lead to increased imperialist interventions

The EU-Africa Summit on April 2-3 in Brussels was not attended by several key African leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Eritrea and Sudan. The European Union bypassed guidelines set down by a leading organ of the African Union, the Peace and Security Council, in convening and carrying out the summit.

Held under the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace,” the conference advanced no real initiatives for the continent. Yet, the EU is deepening its military interventions on the continent; it plans to send soldiers into the volatile situation in the Central African Republic.

Summit conveners reported that 36 African heads of state attended. The AU has 54 members; all are independent, with the exception of people of the Western Sahara who are under Moroccan occupation.

Morocco, which withdrew from the AU over the recognition of the Sahawari Arab Democratic Republic in the Western Sahara, was invited. So was Egypt, which the AU suspended after the military coup on July 3, 2013. The EU had announced that invitations would be extended to individual African states, not to the AU as a regional body.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta contemplated not attending because his security director was denied a visa, but it was finally granted.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Karinja Kibicho explained to the April 3 Zimbabwe Herald that the State House had cancelled the trip due to Belgium’s “unexplained refusal … to issue an EU travel visa to the head of presidential security. The refusal of a visa for a vital member of the Kenyan delegation sent the wrong signal that the EU is in a position to dictate even the security arrangements of African heads of state.”

Kibicho stressed, “These actions in their totality make for an unfortunate precedent in the proper running of international relations. The government notes that if indeed the EU-Africa Summit is intended to advance mutual interests, such a worthwhile goal must be rooted in the recognition that Africa and EU countries are meeting in Brussels as partners and equals.”

Malawi President Joyce Banda, chairperson of the regional Southern African Development Community, also did not attend the summit.

More imperialist intervention looms

Prior to the EU-Africa Summit, a crisis gathering was held on April 1 involving the political and security crisis inside the CAR. Thirteen European states and 12 African nations attended pre-Summit talks, along with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

After that meeting, the EU announced that it was establishing a military mission in the CAR, sending 1,000 troops, to join thousands of U.N.-coordinated soldiers. About 8,000 foreign forces occupy the CAR, including 2,000 troops from France, the former colonial power in the mineral-rich state.

Despite France’s military presence and 6,000 allied African troops, violence against the minority Muslim population is continuing. One-quarter of the population of less than 5 million has been displaced. Thousands of members of the Muslim community remain trapped, even in the capital of Bangui.

The new interim government of President Catherine Samba-Panza and Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke was installed in January after the forced resignation of Michel Djotodia, who headed the Muslim-dominated Seleka Coalition. Seleka took control of Bangui in March 2013 after France refused to provide any security assistance to Francois Bozize’s ousted government.

EU Foreign Policy Minister Catherine Ashton indicated that troop deployment would take place soon because the EU has a firm “determination to take full part in international efforts to restore stability and security in … Bangui and … across the Central African Republic. It is vital that there is a return to public order as soon possible, so that the political transition process can be put back on track.” (Deutsche Welle, April 1)

Nonetheless, the enhanced intervention of France with U.S. logistical support has worsened the security and humanitarian situation inside the CAR.

Food assistance pledged by the U.N. has not been forthcoming, as Muslim shopkeepers and traders have fallen victim to the Christian-dominated anti-Balaka militias, who have facilitated the looting of businesses and the disruption of transport routes. The U.N. estimates that 19,000 Muslims are in mortal danger; tens of thousands have already fled to nearby Chad and Cameroon.

The presence of both Chadian and French troops has drawn widespread opposition throughout the CAR within both the Christian and Muslim communities. During the EU-Africa Summit, Chad announced that it was withdrawing its military forces from the CAR.

France has been accused of siding with the Christian community and not actively pursuing the armed anti-Balaka militias. Chad, on the other hand, has been charged with favoring the Muslims due to their efforts to transport people out of areas where violent campaigns are taking place against them.

The progressive movements in the United States and Europe must be alert to growing imperialist military intervention in Africa. All troop deployments, including those orchestrated by the EU, should be taken up and opposed.