AFRICAN Heads of State and Government meet this weekend for the African Union (AU) 35th ordinary session of the organisation’s assembly amid a myriad of security, climate, economic and developmental dilemmas. The AU is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year following the formation of the continental body in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
The bloc was birthed in the Sirte Declaration of 1999 and later founded on May 26, 2001 to replace the Organisation of African Union (OAU) of 1963.
The main aims of the AU are set out in the Constitutive Act some of which include promotion of peace, security, stability, democracy and acceleration of political and socio-economic integration.
But as the leaders meet and the 20th anniversary celebrations in July this year, it is critical to assess how the continental body has performed to address a plethora of challenges facing Africans, Zimbabweans included. Although Africa is not necessarily a homogenous society, problems trailing some of its 1,3 billion population are the same.
Threats to democracy can be witnessed in many African countries including Zimbabwe. The forthcoming AU summit is happening at a time when Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was recently deposed through a coup led by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba. The AU has reacted by suspending Burkina Faso.
In recent years, coups have become common place in Africa. Zimbabwe is no exception as the late former Robert Mugabe was deposed in November 2017. Authorities denied that it was a coup; some call it a military takeover/intervention. Even academics are still debating whether or not the ascension of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to power was via a coup.
However, what is apparent is that democracy is under threat as the gun seems to be leading politics instead of vice versa. Even the conflation between the military and the ruling party, particularly in Zimbabwe, is worrying.
Hence, as the African leaders meet over the weekend they should take concrete measures to silence the gun in line with Agenda 2063. The aim was to silence the gun by 2020 but this has dismally failed as coups have returned to Africa. United Nations (UN) secretary-general António Guterres, in September 2021, noted that “military coups are back,” as Africa has had over 200 military takeovers from the 1950s to date.
Apart from security issues, African leaders should come up with practical solutions to deal with the poverty affecting millions of households across the continent. Climate change which has had disastrous consequences due to floods cannot be ignored. Covid-19 continues to decimate communities and instead of waiting for vaccine donations from western and Asian governments, home grown solutions should be considered.
The AU has to live up to its 2022 theme to accelerate human capital, social and economic development.