Why aren't African leaders giving more for famine relief?
African leaders talk often of 'African solutions for African problems,' but the paltry $70 million pledged at an AU famine-relief conference raises questions whether this mantra is just rhetoric.
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John Akokpari, a researcher on Africa's international relations at the University of Cape Town, says that the AU's agenda for African solutions to African problems has been on paper only. He sites lack of capital as the primary factor, despite the continent's abundant resources, and the AU’s relatively small pledges at this week’s pledging conference illustrate this. While the AU may aspire to lead the charge to solve problems on the continent, Mr. Akokpari says, everybody, including the United States and the UN, knows that the body lacks the capacity, so the AU is simply ignored.Skip to next paragraph
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Even so, the AU and its members – notably South Africa – have been pushing for a greater African role on the global stage, particularly in the effort to mediate political crises such as the recent near-civil-war in Ivory Coast, and the ongoing conflict in Libya.
In Ivory Coast – where former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the presidential race, despite UN and AU observer reports that Mr. Gbagbo had lost the election by wide margins – former South African president Thabo Mbeki, in his role as the AU’s mediator, accused France of imperialism and pushed for a negotiated settlement in his report to AU chair Jean Ping. Mr. Mbeki’s mediation role was largely ignored. France provided military support to Mr. Ouattara’s forces, who eventually captured Gbagbo and claimed the presidency.
In Libya, where the US and other UN Security Council members began to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, an AU delegation was turned away from a meeting with Muammar Qaddafi and the National Transitional Council. Once again, the AU’s designated mediator was a South African – in this case, President Jacob Zuma – who urged a negotiated settlement. South Africa, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, had voted for the Libyan no-fly zone resolution on the grounds that it would prevent the use of military forces against unarmed civilian protestors. South Africa later complained that NATO and other countries like France and Italy had overstepped the bounds of the original UN Security Council resolution, and were providing military support to the rebellion that has eventually brought an end to Mr. Qaddafi’s rule in Libya.
Yet for the advocates of African solution, today’s challenges are just a sign that Africans need to press harder for their right of self-determination. At a lecture to students at South Africa's Stellenbosch University on Friday, former President Mbeki suggested that African solutions to African problems will never be achieved without a mindset change on the capabilities of Africans, both on the part of Africans and the international community. He urged the students to challenge perceptions of what Africa is capable of.