For A People Centred African Union: Lessons from Burkina Faso

By Desire Assogbavi

Following the events that take place in Burkina Faso, which led to the fall of the regime of Blaise Compaoré and the seizure of power by the military, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union met on November 3rd, 2014 and gave a 15-days deadline to the military to hand over power to a civilian authority of consensus. The Concil specifically “demanded that the Army Burkina Faso leaves power, which must be transferred to a civilian authority, in accordance with the Constitution, within a maximum period of two weeks …”

This is certainly a positive and categorical position in favor of the rule of law and democracy which our brothers and sisters of Burkina Faso are looking for. I was then expecting (perhaps naively) a very positive response from the people of Burkina Faso vis a vis that support of the AU. However I have seen a totally different set of reactions posted online. Here is a selection that I copied from the website of Radio France International –  RFI. I have tried to avoid the most insulting comments:

  • “Where was the AU, the Union of dictators, when Compaore threatened democracy by denying the right to change of power in Burkina Faso? What we want is an Union  of peoples who care for progress on the continent”
  • “The AU !!! they still exist ??? “
  • “Go to hell! Where was this UNION of DISHONESTS when Blaise wanted to do his constitutional coup? What did the AU do or said when NATO killed his father Gaddafi? “They are concerned only about their pockets and their stomach …
  • “When Blaise was killing the revolution we heard neither the AU nor France nor the United States nor the United Nations …”
  • “We urge the AU to say a word about what is happening in DRC before it is too late, soon there will be revolt against the constitutional revision
  • “The African Union is an organization to be removed from the list of international organizations because of its inefficiency …”
  • “Why the AU would not punish Blaise Compaoré when he wanted to amend Article 37 and now it is the people of Burkina it wants to punish shame in all its institutions”
  • “Better for the AU to deal with Ebola, we set our business …”

In all honesty, these comments reflect a real feeling experienced by the people  of our continent vis a vis the only Pan African organization that we have. These comments must alert the African Union leadership. These comments should be taken seriously.

The African Union has responded positively but unfortunately too late … as usual … after the people had themselves driven the dictator out with all the risks that this entailed. There was not a single statement of principle towards Compaore since he was trying to change the constitution to run for another term after 27 years of absolute power following the murder Thomas Sankara Lingani and Zongo. Today, the African Union itself is chaired by another author of Coup, the Mauritanian Abdel Aziz … the Peace and Security Council is chaired by the Equatorial Guinea, a country led by another author of coup, Obiang Nguema (35 years in power) …. Many other presidents have seized power for decades and are not ready to go: Dos Santos (35 years), Robert Mugabe (34 years as PM and PR) Paul Biya (32 years), Sassou Ngesso (30 years), Museveni (28 years), Isaias Afwerki (23 years), Yahya Jammey (20 years) etc, the list goes on …. Unfortunately they are the African Union decision makers … So who can say what to whom?

What is the way forward?

1- The Commission of the African Union and its leadership must play their role as the engine of the Union seizing appropriate opportunities to publicly remind Heads of States of the commitments contained in the beautiful texts and principles they themselves, adopted including the shared values

  1. The AU should make a serious, honest and non-discriminatory efforts to encourage citizens’ participation in its business and make the AU and its challenges better known to African citizens.

3- The AU Commission must react faster and make upstream position on the basis of existing texts and principles when such problems arise. This would catalyse its credibility with populations

  1. The Union and the Commission should understand that without the support of the African people the organization is doomed to failure. It must work seriously to show people concrete acts and facts it can generate. I am convinced that it is capable if the political will and courage are there.

5- Having worked for 8 years with the African Union (not for AU ), I am convinced that the AU is full of important resources and potentials that are still unused … leadership must be depoliticized and get to work with courage with the sole objective a collective welfare and the future of Africa, which already lags far behind.

PS: My opinions are personal, they are that of a son of the continent and do not commit the organization for which I work.

I also recommend you read my blog last week: Options for Burkina Faso

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