For how long must Africa's backyard be cleaned for
Tuesday, 15th May, 2007
By Opiyo Oloya
The AU has failed President Museveni and betrayed the
Last week, Uganda announced a December timetable for
the withdrawal of its 1500 troops serving as peace
observers in war-torn Somalia.
But while romantics may applaud Uganda's stand-alone
deployment and liken it to the actions of the ancient
Roman hero Horatius Cocles who single-handedly
defended the Pons Sublicius bridge that led across the
Tiber to Rome, against the Etruscans enemy, the
reality is that the African Unity (AU) betrayed
President Yoweri Museveni and failed the
people of Somalia.
Todate, better resourced armies from richer African
nations like Nigeria, South Africa and Libya continue
to sit on their hands to watch the Somalia fireworks
from the sidelines. The 8000 stabilisation troops
promised earlier in the year by the AU failed to
Last week, sensing utter failure of AU impotent policy
in Somalia, spokesman Assane Bam pointed the finger at
the European Union which he
accused of failing to pay the promised $33m towards
the Somalia mission.
Yet, how can money be the problem when Libya and
Nigeria alone can raise the entire amount in less than
10 minutes of pumping oil out of the
Must Africa always rely on money from Brussels or New
York or Ottawa before it can pick up the shovel to
bury the faeces in its own backyard?
The failure of the mission, in any case, has nothing
to do with Uganda's military capability, but rather
symptomatic of crippling regional and continental
attitudes towards Africa's many problems.
Foremost, when it comes to acting in concert for the
common continental good, the African Union is full of
delinquents who shirk their duties.
They look to Europe and America instead, as if someone
else is responsible for Africa's problems!
Such heavy reliance on outside help for solving
Africa's problem has its roots in the paternalistic
colonial era when the colonisers ostensibly
knew best what was good for Africa.
Subsequently, many African leaders still subscribe to
the notion of "Let's wait for Daddy to sort out the
So, for instance, while the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) dithered about what to do with
the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire in 2002, it was left to a
handful of French Legionnaires to keep the peace.
In Darfur, with a genocidal crisis well underway,
African leaders continue to wait for international
intervention from "somewhere over there".
Then there are those African nations that must first
pose the question:
"What is in it for me?" While this may be a fair
question for policy-making, the tendency is to ignore
valid altruistic reasons such as those advanced for
intervening in the Serbian war in which ethnic
Albanians were being butchered by Serbs in Kosovo in
the former Yugoslavia.
For instance, the 1999 crisis in resource-rich
Democratic Republic of Congo drew Uganda, Rwanda,
Zimbabwe and others eager to protect their
strategic interests in the area rather than saving
poor Congolese lives.
That self-interested attitude means that many African
leaders think: "What's there to die for in Somalia?"
For Ethiopia and Eritrea, the two arch-enemies deeply
involved in the crisis, the Somalia conflict is an
extension and continuation of the bitter war the
neighbours fought in May 1998, during which each
accused the other of invading its territory, and
battling for every inch of disputed land.
Each nation believes that control of power centre in
Somalia will provide permanent strategic advantage in
the age-old dispute over territory.
There are also the head-in-the-sand African nations
that are strategically located next to crisis points,
but choose to do nothing.
Though grudgingly taking in Somali refugees, Kenya
generally takes the approach: "Don't worry, be happy."
But what truly speaks directly to the failure of the
AU mission in Somalia is the narrow-minded cliquism
within the AU itself.
Although UN Resolution 1725 of December 2006
authorises "member states of the African Union to
establish a protection and training mission in
Somalia", the member states themselves have taken
sides in the fight between the Transitional Federal
Institutions (TFI) and the Union of Islamic Courts
For example, Arab League members within the AU like
Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea have been opposed to the
deployment of troops in Somalia.
While Libya promised some money, it has so far given
zilch to the mission! Algeria has provided logistic
support by helping to airlift Ugandan troops to
Sadly, the factional sniping within the organisation
has rendered the AU a toothless dog that barks at
shadows but has no real bite.
The obvious conclusion is that even if there was peace
to observe between forces loyal to the TFI and the
UIC, there are no peace observers to do the job.
Sadly, as Uganda troops find their way back home at
the end of their short mission, another African
problem will be left smoldering while
observers lament lack of international intervention.
The AU will coin many shamelessly useless resolutions
imploring the Somali factions to seek peaceful
dialogue to resolve the crisis.
People will continue to die. In fact, left doing the
donkey work meant for the African Union, Uganda should
fold up tent immediately for quick
exit from Somalia.