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ANALYSIS: African Unity Will Remain Illusionary Without Values October 20, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Indeed, civil society organisations (CSOs) have played a major role in democratic transitions in various African countries, and have at times checked questionable government agendas – such as the successful campaigns against extending presidential tenures in Zambia in 2001 and Nigeria in 2006.

But the environment that enables activist groups to contest political matters in South Africa or Ghana does not exist in, say, Algeria or Ethiopia. Restrictive legislation in many countries imposes strict conditions on CSOs, effectively giving governments powers to veto their activities. In Ethiopia, measures such 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP) have placed politically-inclined activism largely out of bounds.

African Unity Will Remain Illusionary Without Values
Analysis  
 ‘African unity’ has been one of the most consistent themes in African political thought. Since independence, the vision of a continental order stretching from Cape Town to Cairo and from Dakar to Dar es Salaam has been an entrancing one. Africa, rather than being a geographical descriptor, would be a geopolitical identity.

Can Africa plausibly find common ground for a common future? Unity requires more than intra-African cooperation or opening borders – it needs a foundation of common values. ‘Africa’ must stand for something.

This has been recognised, implicitly and explicitly, by the African Union (AU) since its founding. In 2011, an AU Summit was dedicated to ‘Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values’. It pledged to ‘promote and encourage democratic practices, good governance and the rule of law, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law, as part of efforts for the prevention of conflicts.’ Unity features prominently in the continent’s current 50-year developmental blueprint, Agenda 2063.

These are worthy objectives, aligned with the demands of African and international governance and human rights agreements. And the values they represent are far more in evidence in Africa today than they once were. Multi-party politics is ascendant, and, in contrast to the laissez faire approach of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity, coups are forthrightly condemned. However, there is still no strong condemnation of leaders tampering with constitutions to circumvent term limits.

But it is increasingly recognised that democracy implies different things in different environments. Democracy should not be equated with ‘freedom’ – recent history has shown that electoral regimes can coexist with authoritarian governance, producing what has been termed ‘illiberal democracy’ or ‘competitive authoritarianism’. The standard of constitutional governance, the willingness to allow citizens to form pressure groups and of the media to report and comment are arguably better gauges of countries’ values than holding elections.

Freedom House puts this in perspective. Using data on political rights and civil liberties, its annual Freedom in the World Index grades countries as ‘free’, ‘partly free’ and ‘not free’.

Of the AU’s 54 states, 11 are rated free, 18 partly free, and 25 – or nearly half the total – not free. The AU encompasses states ranging from among the freest on earth to among the most repressive.

The Country Review Reports of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) – the continent’s innovative governance review system – underline what this means for political life.

Click here to visit SAIIA’s APRM Toolkit, a comprehensive repository of APRM reports and other documents for civil society, academics, students, journalists and donors.

Thus, constitutional governance – separation of powers, the rule of law and so on – is respected in parts of the continent, but not in others. Mauritius can celebrate a long tradition, while post-apartheid South Africa has made a considerable contribution to international jurisprudence, particularly through the concept of ‘transformative constitutionalism’. In other countries, weak courts and legislatures, and executive dominance undermine robust constitutionalism. And in some countries, formal governance arrangements are not designed to limit powers. The APRM report on Rwanda, for example, says that ‘instead of separation of powers, what seems to have prevailed in the strictures of the Constitution is, in fact, fusion of powers.’

Perhaps more serious is the lack of continental consensus on freedom of association. The ability of citizens to combine to press their interests is a vital asset for democracies. Indeed, civil society organisations (CSOs) have played a major role in democratic transitions in various African countries, and have at times checked questionable government agendas – such as the successful campaigns against extending presidential tenures in Zambia in 2001 and Nigeria in 2006.

But the environment that enables activist groups to contest political matters in South Africa or Ghana does not exist in, say, Algeria or Ethiopia. Restrictive legislation in many countries imposes strict conditions on CSOs, effectively giving governments powers to veto their activities. In Ethiopia, measures such 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP) have placed politically-inclined activism largely out of bounds.

That these contrasts in governance values are accommodated within the AU – its professed commitment to democracy, constitutionalism and human rights notwithstanding – raise serious questions about the prospects for continental unity. They also question the plausibility of Agenda 2063. It is difficult to imagine a functioning continental order when the orientations of its individual countries are so different.

These divergences also raise questions about the nature of Africa’s emerging democratic order. Thomas Carothers has argued that it is mistaken to see the contemporary blend of democracy and authoritarianism as a transitional phase. It may prove a durable form of governance, and one with an attraction for many governments on the continent. An observer of Ethiopian politics notes confidentially that around 20 African countries have expressed an interest in the CSP as a possible model. All of this advances the possibility that if a value consensus did emerge among the AU’s members, it might be based on the perceived need for security and state dominance over society.

This is a jarring prospect for Africans who envisage an Africa of greater openness and freedom. The implication of this is that Africa’s civil society and its activist community must recognise that campaigning for democracy and freedom cannot be confined exclusively within national boundaries. What happens elsewhere matters.

Until ‘Africa’ can decide what values it embodies, unity will be elusive. What those values are depends on the will of Africans, governors and citizens alike, to make them a reality.

*Terence Corrigan is a Research Fellow with the Governance and APRM Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs. This article was first published in the Mail & Guardian, and is based on a forthcoming SAIIA Research Report entitled Building Freedom? Securing Constitutionalism and Civil Liberties in Africa – An Analysis of Evidence from the APRM. To sign up for an email alert when this and other governance-related SAIIA work is published, click here.

 

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Africa: Of the AU’s Itchy Bottom and Smelly Fingers November 3, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Colonizing Structure, Ethnic Cleansing, Free development vs authoritarian model, Genocidal Master plan of Ethiopia, Groups at risk of arbitrary arrest in Oromia: Amnesty International Report, Human Rights Watch on Human Rights Violations Against Oromo People by TPLF Ethiopia, Janjaweed Style Liyu Police of Ethiopia, Jen & Josh (Ijoollee Amboo), The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, The Mass Massacre & Imprisonment of ORA Orphans.
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Africa: Of the AU’s Itchy Bottom and Smelly Fingers

OPINION

http://allafrica.com/stories/201411020126.html?

Listen to this African Union – if you go to bed with dogs then you will wake up with flies!

Africans revere wise-saying and proverbs. I am African and the AU is as African as it can get. So, surely the regional body must listen up when I introduce my ranting with yet another popular saying – He who goes to bed with an itchy bottom wakes up with smelly fingers.

Does the AU have smelly fingers?

Yes! I will tell you why.

The majestic African Union, formerly the Organisation of African Unity has been sitting in the bosom of the tyrant, quietly hiding its shame from the world as one of its very own perfects the art of torture and repression.

The AU sits in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It glows and gloats about being the regional master for a liberal and fairly democratic Africa while its host, the Ethiopian regime has thrived over decades stifling descent and beating to a pulp the people of Oromia region.

The Oromo from Ethiopia’s Oromia region are a sad story of cruelty and gross human rights violations that has persisted unabated for years.

There is no sugar-coating the testimonies of brutality that flow from generations of Oromo descent.

As you read this, you may need to quickly grab a copy of a report that has just been released by Amnesty International on the plight of the Oromo of Oromia region in Ethiopia.

The report Because I am Oromo is a summary of human ruthlessness at its worst. It reads like a rendition from the slavery years when Africa was wilting under the colonialism invasion, only that this time, the perpetrator is African.

It is a scenario that is all too familiar with the region. A regime in power aspires to stay in power and clamps down on any voice of dissent especially from within. If the dissenter is a community, then woe unto them because the regime will victimise the community from generation to generation and make it a crime to be born in such.

And to imagine that this is something that the African Union is aware of and has been aware of ever since and yet still persists is sacrilegious to say the least.

Because I am Oromo is a painful walk into the reality of the sufferings of one of the biggest ethnic communities in Ethiopia for the mere reason of dissenting with the government.

This reality is beyond comprehension because sadly, torture to the Oromo almost comes as second nature, thanks to an oppressive regime.

“We interviewed former detainees with missing fingers, ears and teeth, damaged eyes and scars on every part of their body due to beating, burning and stabbing – all of which they said were the result of torture,” said Claire Beston of Amnesty International.

Claire was referring to the myriads of real-life testimonies given to the researchers on condition of anonymity.

In Oromia it seems, almost every house-hold of the Oromo has experienced the wrath of torture and police brutality.

In the streets and in the village squares in the Oromia region sits the shadows of men and women who have been physically brutalised and maimed while emotionally and psychologically scarred for life in the hands of Ethiopian security forces.

When I speak of torture, I speak of state-sanctioned gang rapes to both men and women, electrical shocks, water-barding, thorough beatings, detentions without trial, forced disappearances and arbitrary killings that continue with shocking impunity. And this list is not exhaustive of the actual violations as detailed in the report.

The profiles of brutality are vast in Because I am Oromo. Infact, Amnesty International says they spoke to more than 240 victims of this brutality in a period of one year.

It is these heart-wrenching testimonies and the impunity of how the violation is meted that leaves a real bad taste in my mouth when I think of the AU sitting pretty in its headquarters in Addis Ababa as if absolutely nothing wrong is going on in its backyard.

The truth is that the people of Oromia region have been under siege for almost three decades now. The OAU knew this and the AU knows it too for they are one and the same, right?

So when the AU focusses the world’s attention to the many wonderful things that the continent seems to be getting right and totally ignores the situation of the Oromo people its pretence stinks to the high moon of repression.

Somebody please tell the AU that with every sip of Ethiopian coffee they take from their air-conditioned Chinese-built headquarters, the blood of the Oromos is spilling on the floor under their feet, enlivened by the silence they have mastered over the atrocities committed by the Ethiopia government against the Oromo community.

Somebody tell the AU that its emblem and its flag, and its national anthem means absolutely nothing to the children of the continent for as long as the children of Oromia weep at the graves of their executed fathers and quiver at the feet of their physically tortured and traumatised mothers.

Somebody tell the AU, that the Clarion call – ” Oh sons and daughters of Africa, flesh of the sky and flesh of the sun, let us make Africa the tree of life” is utterly nonsensical if it does not flinch as the sons and daughters of Oromia are crushed under the whims of repression.

Somebody, please remind the AU that Africa’s children do not give up on liberty struggles. They, as member states, never gave up on the colonial liberation struggles so why do they imagine that the people of Oromia are any different?

Like I have said, there is blood on the floor of the AU as Africa’s leaders meet to deliberate and panel beat the continent to shape and as they do it sleeping on the bed of the hospitality of the Ethiopian government, they know that they sleep with an itch in their bottoms which they cannot ignore for they will surely wake up with smelly fingers!

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https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/amnesty-internationals-report-because-i-am-oromo-a-sweeping-repression-in-oromia/