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African Union Summit discusses greater unity

Part 2: Adopts positions on Sudan and Somalia

Published Jul 8, 2009 1:28 PM

Sirte, Libya, was host to the 13th African Union Summit held July 1-3. The AU, an organization representing all 53 independent states in Africa, held extensive discussions on how to build unity and cooperation on the continent.

Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, who is the AU chairperson, utilized his experience and political clout to strongly advocate for the formation of a continental government. This has been a goal since the mid-1960s when the early independence leaders who were revolutionaries struggled against the onslaught of neo-colonialism, where the imperialist powers sought to control Africa even after its political liberation from colonialism.

This year’s summit was held amid a worsening global capitalist economic crisis that has plunged 53 million more Africans into poverty over the last two years. The AU debates reflected the ongoing struggle for unity and development.

No unified continental government was created this time. The AU did agree to transform the executive committee of the organization—the Commission—into an Authority comprised of a chair, vice chair and 10 secretaries. These officials’ specific portfolios will theoretically expand into institutional power over defense, diplomacy and international trade.

The Xinhua press agency reported July 4 that Qaddafi “held intensive bilateral and multilateral talks with African leaders during this summit, to persuade those who take different views to support the creation of the AU Authority.”

The report noted: “When meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma, the Libyan leader stressed that Tripoli and Pretoria play significant roles in boosting the AU development and establishing the new AU executive organ. During the meeting, Zuma conceded Libya’s efforts to set up the United States of Africa.”

In the summit’s aftermath, the Libyan leader expressed satisfaction with the efforts toward greater unity and cooperation.

Since the 1963 formation of the Organization of African Unity, renamed the African Union in 2002, the concept and demand for continental unity has been a consistent theme among progressive and revolutionary organizations and leaders. Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Ghana revolution that won national independence in 1957, stated repeatedly that African unity and socialism were the prerequisites for genuine economic empowerment and political stability.

OAU co-founder Nkrumah hosted the continental summit in Ghana in October 1965, just four months prior to his removal from office in a right-wing military and police coup backed and financed by the United States under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. During this summit, Nkrumah stressed the need to go beyond national independence toward a unified Africa that would oppose Western hegemony.

At the OAU Summit on Oct. 21, 1965, Nkrumah stated: “In spite of these resolutions and declarations, in spite of all good intentions, in spite of our plans, the naked fact, alas, is that Africa is still an impoverished continent, immobilized by the lack of political cohesion, harassed by imperialism and ransacked by neo-colonialism.” (“Revolutionary Path,” 1973, pp. 304-5)

The Ghanaian leader later said, “This is so because our unity is still incomplete and ineffective in the face of grave threats to our existence. What use is it to us then that our continent is so rich in material and human resources? ... The OAU must face such a choice now—we can either move forward to progress through an effective African Union or step backward into stagnation, instability and confusion—an easy prey for foreign intervention, interferences and subversion.” (“Revolutionary Path,” p. 307)

AU on Sudan and Somalia

At this 13th AU Summit, the general consensus was to oppose the International Criminal Court warrants that have been issued against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other leaders of that country. The AU passed a resolution of noncompliance with the ICC and accused the Western states of failing to take into consideration repeated calls by the AU to suspend the warrants against the Sudanese leaders.

Jean Ping of Gabon, chairperson of the AU Commission, told the media that the resolution of noncompliance affirms, “If you don’t listen to Africa and take our proposals into account, we are going to act unilaterally.” (VOA News, July 6)

A handful of Western-allied states expressed unease about the AU’s defiance toward the ICC and consequently the imperialist countries. Even though many other states, including the U.S., do not recognize the ICC’s authority, these same states use the warrants issued against Al-Bashir to weaken and pressure Sudan, Africa’s geographically largest nation-state and an emerging oil-producing nation.

Botswana Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani said his government did not agree with the AU declaration, citing treaty obligations with the ICC. Also the French-backed government of Chad, which neighbors Sudan and is another oil-producing country, voiced displeasure with the AU position.

Regarding Somalia, the AU pledged additional support for the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. “We welcome the support of the recent AU heads of state summit in Libya for the government ... and we have a firm pledge for the increase of the AU peacekeepers,” Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told journalists in Mogadishu. (BBC, July 5)

The forces of the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) have remained at 4,300 troops supplied by the U.S.-backed states of Uganda and Burundi. These troops have been accused of attacking civilians in urban areas, resulting in the displacement of 165,000 people from Mogadishu alone since May. The AMISOM forces fight alongside TFG units to prevent the seizure of power by the Islamic resistance fighters of Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, who control large sections of the south and central regions of Somalia along with many areas within the capital.

Although a few other African states said they would send reinforcements to AMISOM, none has yet done so. The current U.S.-backed government in Somalia has made a direct appeal for intervention from neighboring African states as well as the “international community.”

Following TFG assurances it was getting greater AU support, Al-Shabaab rejected the notion of strengthening the AMISON mandate. “It is a chance for our mujahideen [holy warriors] to seize weapons from AMISON soldiers should they come out of their hideouts,” Al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Dhere told the July 5 Kenya Daily Nation.

“It will be a great chance for our fighters to test their fighting skills that will surely lead to the defeat of the foreign soldiers,” he added.

Al-Shabaab’s Sheikh Ali Dhere condemned the AU Summit leaders who met in Libya for discussing agenda items that work against the Somali people.

More importantly, despite the statements by the TFG government, the July 5 Kenya Daily Nation reported, “The AU Summit, however, did not conclude a resolution allowing the Amisom peacekeepers to directly support the TFG.”

Overshadowing the statements made during the AU, the U.S. pledged additional military support to the TFG. Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said, “The U.S. is glad that the Africa Union and IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) did take up the issue of Somalia at the Summit in Libya and have taken a strong stance on the issue under their wings for close and careful consideration. The U.S. will continue to look for ways of providing support to the TFG (Transitional Federal Government). ... This will include military support in terms of arms and material resources but not manpower.” (Xinhua, July 4)

How U.S. imperialism stifles African unity

Washington’s constant attempts to both influence and dominate African affairs complicate the efforts aimed at unification. Although the AU defied the U.S. position on Sudan, it has been unable to effectively rebuke the Obama administration on the question of sovereignty and noninterference in the political situation in Somalia.

Since the Bush administration’s involvement in Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia between December 2006 and January 2009, the Horn of Africa region has been further militarized and destabilized. Many consider the humanitarian situation in Somalia the worst on the continent. At the same time, there is an ever-increasing presence of U.S. and NATO warships, along with vessels from other countries, in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean off the coasts of Somalia and Kenya.

Under the guise of fighting piracy, the imperialist states are poised for direct military involvement inside Somalia. In addition to the so-called anti-piracy campaign, the imperialists blame the Al-Qaeda organization for the advances of the Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam forces that have taken over large sections of the country.

Both these Islamic resistance groups, however, have denied affiliation with Al-Qaeda. Their main motivating force has been a desire to rid Somalia of AMISOM units and the U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu.

The so-called pirates who patrol Somali waters say that imperialist states and multinational corporations are responsible for the destruction of the coasts and the fishing industry through illegal theft of sea life and dumping of toxic chemicals. No deaths took place in the seizure of vessels by the pirates until the U.S. Navy killed three Somali youths who had taken a ship under their control and were negotiating its release.

Workers and all nationally oppressed peoples in the United States are facing the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. In Africa and other developing or so-called Third World countries, the global crisis in capitalism has relegated tens of millions more into poverty.

These conditions prevailing internationally provide opportunities for workers and oppressed in both Africa and North America to demonstrate solidarity in opposition to U.S. militarism and imperialism. Perpetual wars and destabilization efforts in Africa by the U.S. have not resulted in greater prosperity for workers in the U.S. In fact, resources utilized for imperialist wars contribute significantly to the decline in living standards among workers in the highly industrialized capitalist states.

Therefore, the defeat of world capitalism and imperialism can be achieved only through greater collaboration among the working and oppressed peoples throughout the world.

Azikiwe has traveled extensively in Africa and has followed developments related to the ongoing quest for development and unity on the continent.