Occupy Africa? The AU in the ICU as US Special Forces hunt down the ‘spokesperson of God’

The death of Gaddafi in many ways showed the African Union (AU) to be weak and impotent. When the Libyan leader started shooting Libyan civilians, the regional body was silent. When NATO intervened to protect civilians and civilian protected areas following a mandate from the UN Security Council, the neocolonialism mantra went into overdrive. When he was shot dead in Libya, the AU’s silence was louder. The Libyan episode is deeply ironic because Gaddafi, during his tenure as Libya’s leader, called for the creation of an African military to defend Africa. Gaddafi’s vision was far-reaching, calling as it did for the establishment of a United States of Africa to rival the United States and the European Union. “We want a single currency. We want one African passport,” he declared. In theory, many Africans share this vision. Indeed, many of Africa’s statesmen and leaders paid lip service to it. The truth of the matter is that, in a continent ravaged by war, poverty and corruption, these ideals would prove impossible to achieve as more of Africa’s leaders sought to entrench their positions using violence and appropriating national resources for their personal use. The natural result has been war, war and more war.

Unsurprisingly therefore, all of the cases before the International Criminal Court (ICC) are from Africa, an unfortunate reality that has created tension between the Court and the AU. A notable case that the Court has attempted to prosecute relates to one Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony proclaims himself to be the “spokesperson of God” and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit which the group believes can represent itself in many manifestations. Combining local religious beliefs, mysticism, traditional religion and Christianity, the LRA claims to be creating a theocratic state. It is accused of widespread human rights violations and breaches of international criminal law, including murder, abduction, enlisting child soldiers and sexual enslavement. The group operates in northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central Africa. The AU neglects or refuses to condemn, prosecute, wage war against or otherwise censure the LRA. Innocent civilians die daily, women are raped every minute and children give up their innocence as armed conflict consumes their existence. Fellow Africans continue to go about their usual business as if nothing is going on.

American foreign policy chimes against this bleak background. At the early stages of his presidency, the Obama doctrine had been difficult to articulate. George Bush had made Obama’s job easier with his pugnacious approach to global politics. Calls for peace and a need to end the war in Iraq were a strong feature of Obama’s first campaign, leading many to believe erroneously that he would be anti-war. Various of his National Security Strategy documents abandoned the aggressive tone of a ‘war on terror’ and focused instead on a ‘network of hatred and evil.’ Obama, it was thought, heralded a new era, characterized by making peace with the world. Over the last year, Obama has learnt the art of war. He has overseen the US military play a key role in the killing of Osama Bin Laden and more recently regime change in Libya through the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. Most recently, he has stretched his tentacles over to Africa in a hundred-strong Special Forces mission designed to disband the LRA. Obama’s motives are unclear. Yet STILL, the AU is silent.

Admittedly, the LRA has committed atrocities and must definitely be disbanded, if not destroyed. But for how long will Africa’s leaders and its people look on as foreign missions carry out the all important task of peace building in Africa’s own backyard?

Gaddafi was bad, but his idea of an African military was not bad at all. Africa needs to protect itself against itself. Gaddafi is now dead while the AU languishes in the intensive care unit.

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