AU our toothless dog and its response to Burkina Faso

There are a couple of events now that have happened in my life that I can vividly remember where I was and what I was doing.  I remember the scents, feelings that come with what was happening at that time and what was going on around  me. Unfortunately these events are not happy moments. From the top of my head  they include the death of Princess Diana, the death  of Nelson Mandela, the Westgate terrorism saga in Nairobi among others. And now to join this list is the toppling of the Blaise Campaore government in Burkina Faso , something that is still fresh and with a lot of evolving events. I will always remember where I was when the youth led protest movement toppled the longest serving president of Burkina Faso.

 I was in Dakar, Senegal for the Silencing Guns in Africa conference hosted by the African Union Department of Political Affairs. This is
a conversation  that started in September with a  youth consultation on how we can best put an end to war on this continent. It was followed by a women /gender consultation in Kigali and now this was  a high level dialogue.  We had just started the opening ceremony when a colleague sent me an email and said : Tweet this. The link was a BBC story that said ‘Burkina Faso parliament set
ablaze’ .  The email read:
“This is what it is all about. Standing on the side of good governance and stability. 
If we are talking about silencing the guns, we must talk about
 ending impunity which includes absurd constitutional change. 
If we keep quiet in the face of tyranny, we will forever remain in the shadow of the rest for the world”

 Here was something  happening in real time ‘in our backyard’– how better to address this than use this as a live example.This took a while for me to sink in as so much was going on at the moment.  There were a few loose ends in regard to internet availability in the room and something to do with projection that we were busy trying to sort out.

In the next hour during the plenary session; my colleague Philip Thigo kept showing slides of what was going on in Burkina Faso as reported by the BBC  and Twitter with a one Cyrille’s account being followed keenly. He was tweeting from Burkina Faso and had been a part of the youth pre –forum meeting on how to silence guns.  Within minutes the participant attention was not on the proceedings of the conference, but rather the the screens.  I was also following Nnnena who was tweeting live as well.

Fast forward :t he day’s events were crowned off with a Press Conference where His Excellency Olusegun Obasnjo, Mr Ibn Mohammad head of UN in West Africa[whose first day of work in that position was 30th October] and the Commissioner Department of Political Affairs Dr Aisha Larabi  Abudullahi got to say something. Proceedings of this can be found here. The commissioner read a statement which was then taken on as the official AU statement on BurkinaFaso. The trio left the next morning for Ouagadougou.

African Union our toothless dog:

In history; the African Union has never responded to any crisis  as quickly as we saw for Burkina Faso. And I would like to say that Twitter enabled this action. It was going to be an unfruitful  48 hours if there had been no mention and attention drawn to what was going on in Burkina Faso.

As tweets were being displayed on the screens, there were questions like: “Why is the African Union responding this late? And I ask; If you have read the Charter on Democracy ,Elections and Governance What would they have done before this constitutional crisis? What is their mandate? I am told that according to hierarchy : the first response was supposed to come from ECOWAS, because they are the RECs that Burkina Faso belongs to. The RECs have the first mandate to show up and say something. [And I agree this bureaucracy will be the death of us].This we get to see in the initial entourage to Ouagadougou. Mr Ibn Chambas Mohammed was sent as the UN envoy and he arrived  in the city on 31st October. However ECOWAS has just sent an envoy and as a result HE Obasanjo could not go earlier as rumored that he wanted to after the Press Conference.

Until this week I had really ever cared about what the mandate of the AU was or what was needed to make the AU a better institution or what they do. I have never been to Addis Ababa but I have interacted with people that work there and have done some work with the Department of Political Affairs. This is what I have learned in the last couple of days; It is we the member states that make this institution a toothless dog. You and I know especially if we have been born in Africa that the government or your area member of Parliament will not intervene in a domestic brawl going on in your compound. And in some instances your neighbor can only look on and tell the story later, rarely will they come to intervene even when someones  rights are being violated.

Most of these interventions tough require resources. The African Union as an institution is supposed to be supported by the member states that subscribe to it. They are supposed to remit a certain amount of money every year to support the institution. Currently most of if not all African Union activities are supported by  other donors like UNDP, GIZ, etc. This as we know has very many disadvantages as there are advantages. The AU then is allowed to carry out its mandate however in partnership with development partners. As we know ; these always have their own agendas, most of which are in our interests.  So there goes our toothless dog: Who cripples it? I wonder.

One thing is for sure though : we are grateful for social media.

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