Africa must Define its Role in Global Security

The New Vision The theme of the recently ended African Union Summit in Kampala was deservingly “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa”. But the fury occasioned by the July 11 twin bombings in Kampala overshadowed the summit theme.

It was, therefore, not surprising that the Somali File, for over 20 years classified as an NFA (no farther action) case, was upgraded to top draw.

As the Somalia case is brought to the fore, the question is: what is Africa’s role in global security? Or rather, how can Africa’s security be integrated into global security concerns?

Africa has only been relevant in global security as a battle ground of ideological disagreements or conquests. From the time of Alexander the Great, the establishment of Carthage by the Phoenicians and the consequent Roman conquest of Carthage (and in recent history the Scramble for Africa), Africa was merely a battleground.

Africa’s first participation in global politics and economy was through a lopsided trade interface in which Africa was a passive source of raw materials. The riling rider to this is that these raw materials were people and ivory.

The fight against colonialism constitutes Africa’s first active and deliberate participation in shaping global politics, security and economy. However, the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was the first afro-conscious institutional action or mechanism initiated by Africa as a player on the world platform.

The OAU may have changed to African Union (AU) and the administrative functions and structures may have changed to suit the obtaining security and political dynamics, but the strategic objectives behind the vision of a united Africa in peace and prosperity remain relevant today as it was in 1963.

Africa in world politics

Africa’s strategic challenge is weak administrative practices and structures that occasion the following: national security (or insecurity), corruption, climatic change, disease, poverty, world trade imbalances and functional illiteracy.

The biggest debate at AU headquarters now is over the transforming the AU Commission into the AU Authority; with functional capacity and capabilities to respond to crises with limited political bureaucracy.

There is an attempt to make the AU relevant to the municipal entities that constitute Africa as a political block. There is an African Parliament, an African Court, the Peace and Security Council and several sector arms. All these are aimed at responding to current challenges.

Current realities

Somalia has not had a constituted government since 1992; in effect a classic description of as failed state.

The Kampala bombings, claimed by al-Shabaab, are a clear act of terrorism. The word ‘terrorism’ is an American political and security word that has been internationally adopted as an ideological disposition associated with militant Muslims.

And because of the terrorism tag, there is this thinking that the Somali file should be passed on to the US as part of ‘their’ global war on terrorism. Good. But still bad; because Africa would need to have other strategic incentives or interests to attract the US to absorb or adopt her (Africa’s) security challenges.

Africa has been the beneficiary of 19 UN Missions beginning with the Congo Crisis of 1960 to date. For a people who treasure their independence (in Africa, the word ‘independence’ is racial), being policed by the international powers can be psychologically humiliating.

The Somalia case should awaken African leaders to create a sustainable continental framework under which members can review national, continental politics and security.

The AU should also look at how regional power blocks like IGGAD, East African Community, ECOWAS or SADAC can take the lead in the resolution of conflicts in a particular region.

This can be done with the AU making a strong stand against elections thefts, military take-overs. And of course the mobilisation of the international community to adopt the African position on a particular case.

Otherwise the Somalia case would not have got this far.

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