*By Paul Ejime
Rwanda’s decision to deploy 1,000 soldiers and police personnel from July 10 to help quell the al-Shabaab jihadist insurgency in Mozambique’s troubled northern Cabo Delgado province is a reminder of the erstwhile effective pan-Africanist solidarity initiative that facilitated the decolonization struggle and emancipation of Black Africa.
The gas-rich northern province of Mozambique has since 2017, come under deadly attacks by the jihadists believed to be affiliated to ISIS, resulting in the deaths of some 3,000 people and displacement of 800,000 others, half of them children.
According to international humanitarian agencies, some of the areas are under the jihadists’ control and inaccessible, with nearly a million people now facing severe hunger, while French Petroleum giant Total has suspended a US$20 billion LNG project in Mozambique indefinitely, due to the violence.
The Rwandan deployment followed the defence cooperation pact signed by President Paul Kagame and his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi in 2018. The Rwandan Defence Forces have explained that the country’s contingent plan “will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilization and security-sector reform (SSR).”
One notable achievement of the Rwandan reinforcements was the retaking by government troops of a police station in Awase, a small but strategic settlement near the key town of Mocimboa da Praia, which had been an insurgent base for nearly a year. Some 30 insurgents have also been taken out in battles with the support of the Rwandan forces.
Also, under a recently agreed three-month deployment plan to assist its beleaguered member state, the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), regional super power, South Africa has authorized the deployment of 1,500 troops to Mozambique.
However, thefact that Rwanda, a non-SADC member State, had to deploy its troops to Mozambique before the regional bloc is not lost on defence analysts. So, there have been some muted diplomatic discontents over Mozambique’s decision to give priority to its bilateral pact with Rwanda over and above the SADC multilateral cooperation.
Even so, the reality is that the deadly and costly insurgency in northern Mozambique required an urgent solution. This raises the question about the relevance and effectiveness of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building blocks of African integration, political and socio-economic development and progress.
Before independence, a group of Southern African countries formed the famous Frontline States (FLS) coalition against the white minority regimes, especially in the Apartheid enclave. But the FLS also received tremendous support directly and indirectly across Africa from Cape to Cairo, with Nigeria in West Africa as an adopted member of the group!
With its huge Black population and later, petro-dollar, Nigeria had embracedwith strong determination and commitment, the African decolonization struggle even before its own independence from Britain in October 1960.At that time, the anti-apartheid struggle was ineffective; most Western countries supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, while colonialism and discrimination against Blacks were largely unchallenged.
Africa badly needed a strong voice, a rallying point and leadership, and Nigeria was a good fit. According to the South African Institute of International Affairs, between 1960 and 1995, Nigeria alone spent over US$61 billion to support the end of the obnoxious Apartheid system, more than any other country in the world. A number of high-profile Southern African black personalities were offered asylum in Nigeria, including former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, while some personnel of the now-ruling African National Congress (ANC) also received military training and other material, financial and diplomatic support from Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Africa-first foreign policy, which breathed new life into the struggle for independence of many African countries such as Angola (1975), Zimbabwe (1980), Namibia (1990) and South Africa in 1994, was itself a product of the foundation laid by pre- and immediate post-independent Africa leaders. They included the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of DR Congo, NnamdiAzikiwe and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balawa of Nigeria,Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, William Talbot of Liberia, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau/Cabo Verde, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
Others were SekouToure of Guinea; Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Modibo Keita of Mali, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, and Sylvanus Olympio of Togo, to name but a few. These all played their part and were later succeeded by the likes of Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, on the still-to-be-realized United Africa project.
But regrettably, some 60 years afterpolitical independence of African countries, the once-vibrant pan-African fervour appear moribund or dead. Given the pre, during and immediate post-independence context under which they operated, many past African leaders must be proud of their achievements, which their successors were supposed to build upon and surpass.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU)was set up in May 1963, followed with the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa in 1980, to among other objectives, boost Africa’s self-sufficiency by minimizing dependence on foreign assistance and maximizing own resources. This was reinforced with the adoption of the Treaty on the African Economic Community (AEC), the Abuja Treaty in 1991, which entered into force in May 1994.
The African Union (AU) succeeded the OAU in 2002. The “Pillars” of theOAU/AU and theAEC, include the Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN-SAD)formed in 1998, the 21-nation Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) set up in December 1994, to replace the Preferential Trade Area, which expired in 1981 andthe six-nation East African Community (EAC) formed in 1967, collapsed in 1977, and revived in July 2000.
There was also the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS or CEEAC in French, established in 1983, as successor to the Central African Customs and Economic Union, UDEAC formed in 1964, which with the mainly inactive Economic Community of Great Lake Countries (CEPGL), formed in 1976, made up the Common Market for East and Central Africa (CEMAC) in 1999.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/CEDEAO), was set up in May 1975, with eight of its Francophone member States and Guinea Bissau forming the West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA in 1994. Still within ECOWAS, the five Anglophone countries and Guinea Conakry formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), in 2000.
There is also the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) founded in 1986, and the SADC, which started as the informal Frontline States grouping,before it morphed into the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1980 and then transformed into the SADC in August 1992.
The Arab Maghreb Union AMU/UMA, formed in 2008 and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), set up in October 2001 and later,with its African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), were also envisaged as continentalpillars. For good measure, the NEPAD had the approval of leaders of G8 countries in July 2001; and other international development partners, including the European Union, China, and Japan.
Nineteen years on, whether the Addis Ababa-based African Union has lived up to its potentials or the goals of the founding fathers of the OAU, which played pivotal roles in the decolonization and emancipation of Africa is subject of debate.
But the bitter truth is that Africa, with its rich endowments of natural resources, enviable tropical climate and some 1.3 billion people, representing some 16% of the world’s population, today bears the heaviest burden of curable diseases, poverty, socio-economic inequalities including high unemployment, natural and man-made disasters and endless political conflicts accentuated by mismanagement and bad governance.
To many pan-Africanists, the AU failed a very basic test spectacularly, by not raising a finger when former Libyan leader MoammarGadhafi was literally murdered by rebels supported and armed by Western powers led by France. Gadhafi was not only instrumental to the formation of the AU; he was until his death, the largest individual financier of the organization. Today, from West to Central, North and Southern Africa, the majority of citizens are victims of one governance deficiency or the other, either engineered by fellow African elites acting internally or in cohort with their foreign collaborators to keep Africa down, and even worse than before independence.
There are tensions across many African countries,characterized by coups or attempted coups in Mali, Chad and Niger, troubling leadership crises and security challenges in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Senegal, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, The Gambia, DR Congo, Central African Republic, inequalities in South Africa, and separatist upheavals in Cameroon and Mozambique, among others.
ECOWAS, which showed great promise at its formation, especially on regional integration peace and security agendas, including the setting up of its renowned military peacekeeping arm, ECOMOG that helped end the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, is today hindered by leadership deficit, the canker of many African organizations, including the African Union, which has been unable to impress upon Ethiopia, its host country to end the needless bloodbath in its northern Tigray region.
Contemporary African leaders must wake up to the fact that the rest of the world does not owe the continent a living. Africa must find African solutions to African problems, including proactive and rapid response defence and security mechanisms at national, regional and continental levels. Until then, the continent and its people will remain victims of the machinations of powerful players in a globalizing and fast-moving world. Above all, African cooperation, integration, unity and solidarity are more compelling now than ever!
*Paul Ejime, a Journalist, Author and former Diplomatic/War Correspondent, is a Consultant on Communications, Media, Elections and International Affairs