HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, Chairman – Crown Council of Ethiopia
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, friends and distinguished guests. It is an honor to be among such noted and informed scholars and intellectuals, here at the venerable Institute of World Politics. I want to especially thank Professor Juliana Pelon of the Institute for her efforts in organizing this event, and also acknowledge, my old friends, John Lenczowski, Ambassador and Margaret Melady — thank you for coming.
This evening’s topic: Africa’s multicultural tradition and its possible interaction with the current Arab trends in the so-called Arab Spring, has proven challenging and in many respects, far too finely drawn. While considering the matter, it has become obvious to me that Africa’s multicultural traditions, when juxtaposed against history and the realpolitik of today, are small — but nonetheless important — component parts of the unique, infinitely complex and substantially unknowable socio-cultural-political-economic dynamic, driving the people and institutions of modern Africa, and of its regional neighbors, towards change. Consequently, and I trust that you will understand, I want to briefly present what I view as primary drivers and relevant history affecting social and political change in Africa and the Arab world. Hopefully later, when considering my comments in perspective, you will draw your own informed inferences as to how this confounding tapestry of history and happenstance is woven together. And then perhaps, if you would be so kind, you can tell me what you have discovered — it will be much appreciated.
Finally, when addressing such obviously motivated and well informed scholars as yourselves, it is my custom to present select thoughts and concepts to stimulate and encourage your questions later in the Q&A period following this talk.
Let me begin with a simile. The historic record of actions toward Africa, undertaken both by Africans and extra-territorial players most prominently, is much like a situation where one has fallen victim to a vicious assault, and the police have arrived after the fact to take a report. While the victim’s account substantially satisfies the concerns of the constabulary, the reality is that the victim’s predicament remains unimproved; that which was done cannot be undone.
It seems to me that the global policy establishments’ disappointing after-the-fact institutional tendency to ascribe linear cause-and-effect relationships in defining the complex historic, social and political reality driving the Arab Spring uprisings is naïve and overly simplistic. In Washington, for example, the US policy establishment holds more fractious tribes than Iraq, each with its own political agenda and media/congressional constituency. How one wonders, can actionable truth ever be discovered in such a contentious interplay?
From a personal perspective, the most cogent and elegant explanation of the general principles fomenting and underlying the current tumult may well be offered by best-selling author and Risk Engineering Professor Nicholas Taleb.
Professor Taleb points out that virtually all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments are representative of specific anomalous phenomena that he terms “Black Swans”. According to Taleb, “Black Swans” or “statistical tail-end events” possess the following attributes:
- First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.
- Second, it carries an extreme impact.
- Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
Taleb explains that virtually all complex systems – social, economic and otherwise – that have artificially suppressed volatility tend to become extremely fragile, while at the same time exhibiting no visible risks. “In fact”, says Taleb, “they tend to be too calm and exhibit minimal variability as silent risks accumulate beneath the surface. Although the stated intention of political leaders and economic policymakers is to stabilize the system by inhibiting fluctuations, the result tends to be the opposite. These artificially constrained systems become prone to ‘Black Swans’ — that is, they become extremely vulnerable to large-scale events that lie far from the statistical norm and were largely unpredictable to a given set of observers.”
“Such environments” he continues, “eventually experience massive blowups, catching everyone off-guard and undoing years of stability or, in some cases, ending up far worse than they were in their initial volatile state. Indeed, the longer it takes for the blowup to occur, the worse the resulting harm in both economic and political systems.”
“What the world is witnessing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere,” Taleb concludes, “is simply what happens when highly constrained systems explode.”
Viewing a contemporary map of African countries shows the borders imposed on the African continent by the European colonizers during German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck’s Berlin Conference (1884). A map of Africa’s tribal or cultural groups, however, reveals much more complexity. European colonists in 1884 were wholly indifferent to existing groups and cultures as they laid down the State borders, and most of these borders still exist today.
A modern map of Nigeria, for instance, neglects the fact that there are over 250 different languages in use in Nigeria today.
Pre-colonial Africa was dominated by tribal religions. Islam subsequently spread into Africa from the northwest, while European colonizers brought Christianity to much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas a process of acculturation occurred in the Islamic areas (Islam completely replaced earlier religions), transculturation occurred in many of the European controlled areas as Christian beliefs blended and combined with existing tribal religions creating different, unique, Christian, or African-Christian, religions.
The colonial boundaries imposed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have become the State boundaries of today. These artificially created structures, surrounding and concentrating large numbers of dissimilar cultural groups (tribes), have tended to breed and exacerbate inter-group tensions and rivalries, and larger inter-country conflicts — Sierra Leone, Sudan, Angola, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, and Rwanda being contemporary examples of this dynamic.
Considerations for Africa’s rapidly evolving future must now include a new element that we have not seen before on the continent: a younger, globally aware generation, with increasing social expectations and demands, and a willingness to militantly take matters forcefully into their own hands. The recent events of the revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring graphically demonstrated the inspiring and sometimes tragic spectacle of youthful activist willing to suffer grievous injury and even death for their social aspirations. Whether the end result will be good or bad is unknowable at this juncture, however, one can state with confidence that the probability for continuing and increasing social protest and unrest in 21st century Africa (and within the region) is substantial.
In considering contemporary multiculturalism and the nascent democratic institutions which are presently being forged in the crucible of revolution, it is critical to remember that one shoe does not fit all — never has, never will. In every state and region, the introduction of Democratic institutions will inevitably produce varied and unexpected outcomes. Further, there always exists the possibility of “Democratic Paradox” — when democratic institutions and traditions choose to freely embrace something less than, or other than, democracy. While ideally, the hopefully democratic institutions evolving will encourage and empower recognition of minority rights, cultural pluralism, gender equality, and equality under the law — this has not always been the case. The persistent challenge always remains — even in the developed nations with democratically selected institutions — how to protect the rights of minorities and other marginalized groups, from both democratically imposed “tyrannies of the majority” and the frequently intolerant and authoritarian tendencies of absolutist religious belief.
My wish for Africa and Ethiopia in particular, is a more stable, participative, prosperous and tranquil future. Previously during the Cold War period — Russia and America’s brutal African proxy wars more pointedly — if an African sought to remove himself from the horrors of war, conflict, poverty, etc. there was always the emergency escape-hatch of out-migration to the developed world, or at least, to a less chaotic world. Today, for the people of Africa and others, this option has been severely restricted and effectively no longer exists. Immigrants are frequently no longer welcome.
Paradoxically, the African continent’s revolt against colonial powers provided a centralizing common cause to which all Africans could rally and feel committed. In the Post-Colonial period this boundless font of hope and energy has morphed into a less focused, less cohesive, and energetic phase in a general war against poverty. Yet it is possible perhaps, that the seminal and rapidly unfolding events of the Arab Spring will prove a catalyst for something else.
EXTRA-TERRATORIAL ACTORS: AFRICA “IN PLAY”…
Post-colonial Africans have unwittingly, in many instances, become pawns of extra-territorial players in power games they have neither fully understood, nor benefitted from. Proxy wars and cross-border conflicts abound — Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somaliland, Sudan and Egypt among some of the more prominent.
We Africans have unfortunately seen this scenario before — various nation states increasingly viewing our continent as an area of major geopolitical importance and contention. By the end of the decade, for example, sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become as important a source of U.S. energy imports as the Middle East. China, India, Europe, and others are aware of this and are all competing with each other and the United States for access to Africa’s abundant oil, natural gas, and other natural resources. The world’s major powers are also becoming more active in seeking out investments, winning commercial contracts and markets, and building political support on the continent.
European countries and Brazil are stepping up their aid and investments as well.
Due to China’s pragmatically inspired and highly effective non-interventionist approach on African issues of governance, human rights, and economic policy, China’s activities on the continent are increasingly characterized by Washington as being a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests and values. For example, China has combined its large investment in Sudan’s oil industry with protection of the government of Sudan from UN sanctions for the ongoing attacks in Darfur.
From Washington’s perspective, Africa has also assumed crucial strategic importance in the war on terrorism. Terrorist cells struck U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. More recently, terrorist organizations are said to have established footholds in West Africa’s Sahel region. Africans, we are told, have also been recruited for terrorism in Iraq and implicated in the Subway bombings in London.
Another reason for Africa’s increasing global importance is its being the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is rapidly reaching the stage where it not only produces a steadily rising death toll but could also undermine social and political stability, as well as the prospects for economic progress on the continent. What the United States (and others) learns from public health and epidemiological investigations in Africa will be critical to whether it is possible to stem this nascent pandemic from spreading across Asia and into Russia.
THE ARAB SPRING
US: While the end result of the dramatic political transitions presently underway in the Middle East and Africa remains unclear, it is crucial to understand that these events have not occurred in a vacuum, and contrary to the belief of many, history did not begin yesterday. All these occurrences, to one degree or another, are the result (intended or otherwise) of the convergent and cumulative manipulations of myriad domestic and extra-regional players, in frequently brutal pursuit of their individually perceived regional (and personal) interests.
In Tunisia, the most recent developments could provide a catalyst for robustly proliferating democracies across the Maghreb, Africa, and indeed, the entire Arab world, or it could deteriorate into a situation like that of Algeria in the early 1990s, where democratisation was abruptly halted, and the country plunged into a murderous civil war, when it became evident that a democratically elected Islamist government might legitimately come to power.
Despite Washington’s obvious prior knowledge — at least in 2009 — of Tunisia’s blatant human rights violations, abuse of power and the existence of a police state, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress June 30 (2010) of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Tunisia for the refurbishment of 12 SH-60F Multi-Mission Utility Helicopters, being provided as Excess Defense Articles, and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $282 million.
In justification, the DSCA request offered (in part) the following comment:
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for economic and military progress in North Africa.”Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress June 30 2010
In mid-April, The New York Times reported, “even as the United States poured billions of dollars into foreign military programs and anti-terrorism campaigns, a small core of government-financed organizations” channeled money to democratic movements within these countries. The Times quotes Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy explaining, “We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking.”
Clearly, the recent onset of anti-government demonstrations against US client states, across Africa and the Middle East, has brought the blatant hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy into uncomplimentary and certainly undesired focus and Washington’s foreign policy inconsistencies, in Africa and the Middle East most prominently, stand exposed.
Fundamentally, while various powerful elements of U.S. influence have been attempting to promote a wave of democratic revolutions in the regions, at the same time, equally powerful elements of Washington policy have worked to maintain regional status quo by providing substantial support for anti-democratic, albeit politically pliable, autocrats. As a Top Secret National Security Council (NSC) briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”
Continued and in some cases increased foreign assistance following the September 11th attacks had the benefit of giving “the United States leverage on key foreign policy issues, since it can make assistance contingent on cooperation,” notes a recent RAND report. But these assistance programs “can have a negative effect on democratic development by strengthening a state’s capacity for repression,” and as one study concluded “the more foreign police aid given [to repressive states], the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become.”
With the arguable exception of Portugal, France stands unique in modern political annals in the powerful and seemingly inseparable synergy between itself and its former African empire. When it realized that decolonization had become inevitable, Paris implemented a masterpiece of political genius: undertaking all that was necessary to leave Africa and doing so in such a way as to effectively retain their authority and access to their former colonies.
For years, academics and state policy establishments assumed that France’s special relationship with Africa had become an anachronism, one that would eventually wither and die a natural death. But this has not proved to be the case as it persists today in Gabon and Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire, for example.
Historically, French leaders have maintained a policy of nourishing a profound emotional complicity in their African counterparts. In his memoirs, de Gaulle’s advisor Foccart insisted upon the importance of maintaining deeply personal relationships with African presidents, far beyond what protocol required. Such a philosophy rests upon a fundamentally racist and politically-convenient notion that Africans, “joyous by nature,” as Chirac once said, “are simply big children”. It is this presumed immaturity that empowers France to act in a way so undemocratic in Africa that its practices would be unimaginable back home in democratic France.
Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s trusted advisor, Jacques Foccart, was the architect of France’s neocolonial ruse. His methods were simple: install trusted African politicians, some with French nationality, as the heads of these 14 new states and maintain a firm, French grasp on their natural resources. It was a system ripe for mischief that inevitably institutionalized corruption and instability — and could hardly persist without massive, abuses of human rights.
With 60,000 troops remaining on the African continent, the French Army could rush to the aid of their friends at a moment’s notice — and had already agreed to do so as part of defense agreements in which certain key clauses remained secret from the government. DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure), The French secret service, was also positioned, to undertake, as required, the removal of the Paris-favoured dictators’ most formidable political rivals. Consequently, the list of French Africa’s opposition figures that are believed to have perished in this way is scandalously long.
The greatest criticism of France’s economic neo-colonialism wasn’t that it existed in the first place, but that it has so robustly survived the Cold War. To be fair, during this period when both Moscow and Washington were behaving ever increasingly violent in their respective spheres of influence, Paris’s meddling in Africa seemed relatively benign. And today, it would be unimaginable to see the British prime minister interfering in the succession of the Ghanaian or Kenyan heads of state. Yet French President Sarkozy did precisely this last year with an early endorsement for Ali Bongo who subsequently succeeded his deceased father in Gabon’s disputed presidential election. In fairness to Sarkozy, his endorsement had substantial historic French precedent as Bongo senior — the world’s longest reigning autocrat after Castro, and recipient of substantial US foreign aid during the Bush administration — was himself installed by de Gaulle back in 1967; and Jacques Chirac had similarly backed the son of Togo’s Gen. Gnassingbé Eyadéma in 2005.
While doggedly focused on supplying 40 percent of France’s uranium needs, Niger may be the world’s second-largest uranium producer, but it remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. In 2005, Niger ranked last out of 177 countries on the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index. Sixty-three percent of Niger’s population lives on less than a dollar a day; and the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was $280 in 2005. The French secret service was widely rumored to have ousted the country’s first president, Hamani Diori, in 1974 after he stated publicly that his country benefited not one bit from the mineral’s extraction. Niger’s current instability — three coups since 1996 and an ongoing internal rebellion — is directly linked to the French national imperative of maintaining control of its strategic resource.
FRANCE AND THE ARAB SPRING
Sarkozy’s newfound concern for Libyan democracy contrasts sharply from only three years ago, when he welcomed Gaddafi with open arms during a five-day state visit to France. On that occasion in December 2007, Sarkozy ridiculed critics of Gaddafi’s visit by saying: “If we don’t welcome countries that are starting to take the path of respectability, what can we say to those that leave that path?” Meanwhile, Sarkozy’s chief diplomatic advisor, Jean-David Levitte, insisted that Libya had a “right to redemption.”
Sarkozy has expressed little support for the recent uprisings in the Arab world, which deposed long-time friends of Paris, including Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In the case of Tunisia, Sarkozy reluctantly fired his loyal foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, after it publicly emerged that during the height of the recent political upheaval in Tunisia, she borrowed a private jet from a Tunisian businessman linked to Ben Ali in order to polish her suntan in the Tunisian seaside resort town of Tabarka. According to a related report in the French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, Alliot-Marie also offered Ben Ali the “know how” of France’s security forces to help him quash the fighting in Tunisia, just three days before he was removed from office.
In Egypt, it has also emerged that French Prime Minister François Fillon and his family had accepted a free holiday from Mubarak, complete with a private plane and Nile River boat, only weeks before the Egyptian president was removed from office.
Viewing reliable open-source facts from the periphery suggests that Sarkozy’s about-face vis-à-vis Libya derives from the following:
- French politics, and
- The closely related issue of Muslim immigration.
With only thirteen months remaining before the first round of the 2012 presidential election, Sarkozy’s popularity is at record lows. Polls show that he is the least popular president since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958. Of course, Sarkozy’s main rival is not Gaddafi, but rather Marine Le Pen, the popular new leader of the far-right National Front party in France. A recent opinion poll published by Le Parisien newspaper on March 8 has Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in January, winning the first round of next year’s French presidential election.
In the past three months, Le Pen has single-handedly catapulted the twin issues of Muslim immigration and French national identity to the top of the French political agenda. In recent weeks, Le Pen has established a pervasive presence on French television promoting the threat to France and Europe of a wave of immigrants from Libya.
Gaddafi had earlier stated that Europe faces an “invasion” by an army of African immigrants: “You will have immigration. Thousands of people from Libya will invade Europe. There will be no-one to stop them any more,” he warned on March 6 in an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
During an earlier visit to Italy in August 2010, Gaddafi sought €5 billion a year from the European Union to help stop illegal immigration which “threatens to turn Europe black.” At the time, Gaddafi asked: “What will be the reaction of the white Christian Europeans to this mass of hungry, uneducated Africans? We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and cohesive continent or if it will be destroyed by this barbarian invasion. We have to imagine that this could happen, but before it does we need to work together.”
Consequently, challenged by Le Pen’s rising popularity, Sarkozy is now using the Libya intervention both to play the role of the respected statesman on the international stage and to address French/European fears over mass immigration from North Africa.
In Egypt, we all witnessed on the evening television news, during the dramatic events leading up to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, that Tahrir Square was filled with chants and signs pleading with the U.S. to stop funding Mubarak’s repressive government. The throngs of largely peaceful Egyptian protestors methodically collected rubber bullets, shotgun shells, and teargas canisters with the names of American military contractors prominently emblazoned on them, and gave them to the news agencies to broadcast to the world. Indeed, the Mubarak regime has been variously reported to have received at least $60 billions in U.S. aid during his rule.
An April 14, 2011 New York Times report further illustrates Washington’s profound policy contradictions: “The money spent on these programs [democracy building] was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.
Such blatant hypocrisies in Washington’s regional foreign policy have typically resided in the shadows when it comes to the national debate. But the democratic fervor and uprisings against U.S.-backed dictatorships in recent months makes such counterproductive mainstay of American foreign policy difficult for Washington to hide. The crackdowns many of these regimes have engaged in to suppress the popular revolts exposes the U.S. as cynically complicit — working both sides of the fence, so to speak — in that suppression. Increasingly, Muslims and others in the Arab world have been crying hypocrite. “No system of government,” Obama said in his speech in Cairo in June 2009, “can or should be imposed upon one nation by another.”
TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA
As commentators have tried to imagine the nature of the Arab uprisings, they have attempted to cast them as many things: as an Arab version of the eastern European revolutions of 1989 or something akin to the Iranian revolution which toppled the Shah in 1979. Most often, though, they have tried to conceive them through the media that informed them — as the result of WikiLeaks, as “Twitter revolutions” or inspired by Facebook.
Social media has played a role, but it should not be overstated. Precisely how we communicate in such moments of historic crisis and transformation is important. The medium that carries the message shapes and defines as well as the message itself. The instantaneous nature of how social media communicate self-broadcast ideas, unlimited by publication deadlines, fawning and otherwise compromised editorial censors and broadcast news slots, explains in part the speed at which these revolutions have developed, their viral and fractal-like spread across a region. It explains, too, the typical loose and non-hierarchical organisation of the protest movements that have been unconsciously modeled on the decentralized and constantly evolving structure of the web itself.
In Egypt, three months before Mohammed Bouazizi immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid, there was a similar case in Monastir. But few knew of it because it was not filmed. What made the clear difference in the Bouazizi affair was that the images of Bouazizi were put on Facebook.
In Egypt, details of demonstrations were circulated by both Facebook and Twitter and the activists’ 12-page guide to confronting the regime was distributed by email. The Mubarak regime — like Ben Ali’s before it — pulled the plug on the country’s internet services and 3G network. Creatively, the social media was quickly evolved to a time-tested, “analog” Twitter equivalent — handheld signs held aloft at demonstrations telling where the people should gather the next day.
Where social media had a major impact was conveying the news to the outside world; bloggers and Twitter users were able to transmit news bites that would otherwise never have made it to the mainstream news media. Other uses for social media were to transmit information on medical requirements, essential telephone numbers and the satellite frequencies of Al Jazeera — which was and is being continuously jammed.
Libyan activists solicited sympathetic Egyptians to send their cell phone sim cards across the border so they could communicate without being bugged.
THE 21ST CENTURY
Conflict and war equal disruption, equal impoverishment, equal population flight and out migration…
Merely fifty-odd years ago the decolonization of Africa began and arguably, a dystopian view for the next half-century might witness the economic re-colonialization of the continent. Though this time, the new imperialism will be more subtle, brutally efficient and markedly less benign.
Great powers are no longer interested in administering wild places, still less in settling them — only exploiting them. African gangster governments sponsored by self-interested Western or Asian powers could easily become the central theme in 21st-century African history. But it is when China, then America, then India and perhaps even Russia follow, that an all-out scramble for Africa will truly be resumed.
Most recently, Washington has been unlucky in the pilot projects it has chosen. Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, have proven among the least amenable places to pick for biddable states. But there is more than the unfolding and as yet unseen consequences precipitated by these Asian adventures, as well as France and America’s earlier calamities in Vietnam that may have temporarily distracted Western minds from thinking about the existing opportunities for economic-colonialism in sub-Saharan Africa.
It has been the accepted central myth that black liberation movements were formidable. They were not. They were no Vietcong or Algerian FLN. The true lesson from 20th-century sub-Saharan Africa is not how irresistible were the forces faced by European imperialism, but how easily, and for how long, African liberation forces were resisted.
Why then did the great (and lesser) powers of the day turn their backs on empire in Africa in the 20th century, and why in the 21st might their successors return to an interest in acquiring political control?
European imperial powers eventually lost the will rather than the capacity to subjugate and govern overseas populations and resources. A world in which all could buy and sell at will on the global market was arriving; it is a world, however, that is now feeling the pinch in the natural resources which Africa possesses in abundance. Meanwhile, the continent in many places is run by outfits that resemble gangs rather than governments. At their most dysfunctional (as in the Congo) this disintegration seriously impedes the extraction of resources, because security, communications and infrastructure are subject to frequent malfunction and failure.
But a solution beckons: buy your own gang. You hardly need visit and are certainly not required to administer the gang’s territory. You simply give it support, munitions, bribes and protection to keep the roads and airports open; and in turn, it pays you with access to resources. You dress-up your arrangement for the edification of your customers, constituents and the global community by spinning the arrangement as “helping Africans to help themselves” or “security assistance”.
Djibouti in Africa’s far northeast, in and near the Horn of Africa, may well represent the 21st century’s African neo-colonial prototype. This diminutive albeit strategically located country exists in a category of its own by remaining fundamentally subordinate to both the military elements of its old colonial master France and more recently, Washington’s Djibouti based Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Washington has maintained its military base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, since 2003, and established a naval surveillance facility in the Seychelles.
By their blatant snubbing, marginalizing and summary dismissal of African AU leaders’ efforts on their own continent to negotiate a Libyan cease-fire (Gadhafi’s substantial and well known AU patronage notwithstanding) Washington and the general media have once again revealed that Chirac’s colonial “paternalism” is alive and well in Western policy circles.
The deal negotiated earlier this month (April) by the African Union (AU) and accepted by Ghaddafi proposed an immediate ceasefire, the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, protection of foreign nationals, a dialogue between the government and rebels on a political settlement, suspension of NATO air strikes and the organisation of humanitarian relief efforts. This would create the basis for talks aimed at setting up “an inclusive transition period” to adopt and implement “political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis” recognising “the aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy, political reform, justice, peace and security, as well as social…development”.
The AU delegation was headed by South African President Jacob Zuma and included presidents Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville and Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Oryem Okello.
In concluding, Africa’s quest for the universal yearning for freedom must transcend the continent’s pre-modern loyalties to sects, tribes and ethnicities. The evolving challenge is to build inclusive and enabling democratic institutions where people’s voices count. Leaders and Foreign Powers can no longer be allowed to promote and exploit divisions along sectarian, tribal or regional lines that can lead to anarchy and civil war. The cynical time-proven colonial game of divide-and-conquer can no longer be tolerated – it is no longer acceptable. Africa has experienced modern ideologies from nationalism to communism all in the end benefitting the usually predatory interests of extraterritorial players. For Africa to progress economically, it is certain that we must progress beyond being simple commodity and raw materials providers and develop a manufacturing/processing economy producing innovative, high value finished products for domestic consumption and export alike.
Since we still have major challenges ahead such as strengthening our democracy, and upholding Human Rights throughout our country, we pray for God’s guidance to help us find a way to manage our differences in a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation so that we may work for our common good.
Long live Ethiopia, our beloved country!