OAU parley faces an Africa divided, not united
A stormy meeting lies ahead for this month's Organization of African Unity summit which is expected to dwell more on the differences that divide the continent than on promoting pan-African unity.Skip to next paragraph
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One likely showdown at the June 24-27 summit here in Nairobi, which will bring together many presidents and one king, is the thorny issue of the western Sahara. There, Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas are fighting the Moroccans who annexed the territory when Spain left in February 1976.
King Hassan of Morocco has announced his intention to fight the OAU scheme of a cease-fire a referendum to allow the people of western Sahara to their future.
Also on the agenda, is a request for the admission to the OAU of the Sahara Democratic Arab Republic -- the Polisario government. The OAU avoided a vote on this highly contentious issue at last year's summit in Sierra Leone. Morocco has threatened to withdraw from the OAU if the Sahara Republic is recognized.
Equally emotional is the issue of Chad, where the presence of several thousand Libyan troops has been called by President Sadat of Egypt as "illegal intervention." The OAU has called for a neutral African peacemaking force in Chad, but so far nobody has been able to get this together.
Asked about the call for sanctions against Libya over its activities in Chad, Kenya's foreign minister, Dr. Robert Ouko said: "The problems we hope will be looked at in their entirety in Nairobi, such as the transitional nature of the government in power, impending elections to allow the Chadians to elect a government of their own choice, the continued presence of Libyan forces in Chad and Chadian complaints about interference from other countries." Dr. Ouko said: "there must be a solution, because we cannot treat Chad as though it were an extension of some other country into which anybody can walk and stay there."
The liberation of Namibia is now a routine OAU agenda item and the coming summit will be concerned once more with finding a way to get South Africa to comply with the UN plan for Namibian independence, or to step up assistance to the SWAPO liberation struggle. There is bound to be more discussion on plugging the loopholes of an oil embargo against South Africa, and concerned discussion on the controversial attitudes of the United States towards the whole southern Africa issue.
Human rights in Africa presents the OAU with one of its most delicate challenges. The excesses in recent years of Idi Amin in Uganda, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Empire (now reverted to the Central African Republic), and Macie Nguema of Equatorial Guinea prompted the OAU to draft a charter on human rights. The charter was originally brought up at the last summit in Sierra Leone, but deferred because of differences between governments over the definition of human rights.
Few governments, especially the dictatorships in Africa, really feel secure on this question. The charter recognizes among other things that everyone regardless of sex, color belief or status has the right to life, liberty, and security of his or her person. Nobody should be kept in slavery or punished in an inhuman or degrading way. All are equal before the law, and no person should be arrested or exiled because of someone's whim. All should be presumed innocent until proved guilty of an offense. The charter recognizes the fundamental freedoms, of thought, belief, conscience, opinion, expression, and freedom to join in assembly or association with others, the right to work and equal pay, and the right to education and to create a family.
But differences have emerged. Madagascar prefers to deal with group rights instead of individual rights. Senegal, the Gambia, and Botswana, among others, want to lay down the rights and duties of individuals as well of peoples.
Whether the heat engendered by the political questions will cool for the delegates to discuss human rights -- or pressing economic problems -- is doubtful. A plan of action for economic self-sufficiency was drawn up at the extraordinary economic summit in Lagos last year involving the fusion of various regional economic groupings. The loo ming issue is the growing problems tied to underdevelopment.