By Beauregard Tromp The Star
Africa is confronting the wars ravaging its countries at the African Union summit, writes Beauregard Tromp from Maputo.
Conflicts raging across the continent dominate the debate among Africa's leaders gathered here for the second ordinary summit of the African Union.
Africa is for the first time grappling with the wars and massacres which have plagued the continent since independence and sabotaged its growth and develop-ment. But the wars are still outpacing by far the efforts to tackle them.
Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao asserted here that the number of conflicts was decreasing. If so, that is a highly relative concept because no less than 11 conflicts are on the agenda.
Two are especially pressing. Officials have received reports that Burundi rebels from the Forces for National Liberation of Agathon Rwasa, fighting the transitional government now headed by fellow Hutu Domitien Ndayizeye, had cut off the capital Bujumbura and were dropping mortars in the city. Government forces bombarded the hills around the city to push back the rebels.
South Africa is at the forefront of ensuring peace and stability in Burundi as part of a 3 500-strong African peacekeeping force. Officials are anxious for the SA forces to be reinforced by proposed contingents from Ethiopia and Mozambique, but a lack of funds is delaying this.
The other urgent crisis is in Liberia, where a fragile ceasefire seems to be all that is preventing rebels from invading the capital, Monrovia. Behind closed doors, officials here expressed strong support for the US to send in forces to prevent the sacking of Monrovia and stabilise the country while peace talks continue.
The officials dismissed objections from Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi to the presence of American troops in Liberia. But Gadaffi himself has meddled heavily in Liberia and other West African countries, and one African official retorted angrily that if Gadaffi did not want the Americans in Libya, he should "pour money into" the fund to get an African peacekeeping force there.
Financing remains one of the biggest obstacles to Africa's efforts to deal with its own conflicts.
South Africa and some west African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Mali, are about the only countries able and willing to engage in these operations under the auspices of the African Union or its subsidiary bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
Mali has just decided to send up to 1 500 troops to help maintain the June 17 peace deal signed between the Liberian government and rebels, but it is unlikely to be enough to bring peace and stability.
But SA for one is struggling under the financial burden of its Burundi mission especially, which has so far cost over $180-million (R1,3-billion), of which just $20-million has been funded by donors, according to Dr Jakkie Cilliers, head of the Institute for Security Studies.
He welcomed a proposal here by the European Union's development commissioner Paul Nielsen for EU members to divert 1,5% of their bilateral aid funds into a peacekeeping fund of some E250-million (R2,1-billion) to help finance Africa's own peacekeeping efforts.
But Africa's legal powers are also lacking for aggressive AU inter-vention in conflicts.
This would be available in a Peace and Security Council (PSC), which the AU decided to establish at its founding Durban summit a year ago. On paper, it has substantial powers including the command of an African Standby Force, comprising contingents from various African countries, to intervene in conflicts. It is supposed to be operational by 2005 and fully functional by 2010. There is also discussion about the creation of a Rapid Deployment Force.
Outgoing AU chairman President Thabo Mbeki had over the past year urged his peers to ratify the protocol to establish the PSC so it could be established at this summit, but this will not happen because only 14 countries have ratified the protocol - well short of the minimum of 27. Many countries are dragging their heels because they are concerned about how the PSC would impact on their national sovereignty.
In an apparent reference to them, Mbeki in his address to the opening session of the summit yesterday urged his peers "to place our individual national interests within the context of our continental and collective interests".
The summit is also to discuss another issue important to SA and that is where to locate the proposed Pan African Parliament (PAP). SA is putting in a strong bid against Libya.
Gadaffi is said to have built an impressive structure in Sirte, his hometown, to host this organ but SA and other progressive African countries are concerned at the message the AU would send to the world if it decided to locate the continental parliament in a country that does not respect democracy.
Although Gadaffi is trying to buy the votes by paying the AU membership arrears of many poorer countries, SA is still believed to hold the edge, as it commands the support of regional powers such as Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt.
SA Speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala, who has been lobbying to bring the PAP to SA, is scheduled to address leaders today on the PAP.
The AU was also to readmit Mad-agascar, which was suspended last year because President Marc Ravalomanana was deemed to have seized power unconstitutionally after accus-ing sitting President Didier Ratsirika of rigging elections. The island nation was mooted to host the AU meeting next year. This had not been decided at time of going to press. Some countries opposed the move, saying that Madagascar is too close to France.
A potentially battle for the chair of the AU commission was averted when Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo announced that Amara Essy, the interim chairman, was withdrawing from the contest.
His only rival, former Malian president Alpha Konare, has the backing of all the regional powers, but the voting process had threatened to create division, especially among West African states.
Although it is not said openly, SA had long been gunning for Essy and even plotted his removal at the formation of the AU a year ago.
Its position is that the AU should be led by a former head of state. Also, Essy is seen as too close to France and that, coupled with Madagascar potentially being the next host, could give France too much influence.
The election of commissioners to serve with the chairman and vice chairmen as the executive of the AU has also proved contentious. Many countries disputed the agreed rules that half the commissioners should be women. They argued that independent consultants had mostly ranked male candidates as better qualified. But the summit stuck to its original intention that women would have to be equally represented.
SA scored an important victory when the AU decided to postpone for three years the scheduled move of the secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) from Midrand to Addis Ababa.
SA and most northern countries supporting Nepad fear it will lose its critical independence if it falls into the clutches of the AU Commission - and that moving it now would certainly have killed its momentum. Published on the web by the Star on July 11, 2003.http://www.thestar.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=225&fArticleId=186295