The African Union (AU) has come under criticism for its perceived ineffective role it has played on the continent. Speaking to members of the media after paying a visit to Grace Mugabe to offer his condolences, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema was asked if the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was playing the role it’s supposed to play. Malema replied, “SADC, there is no such a thing. AU, there is no such a thing. It’s a group of old people who protect each other. They don’t protect the interest of their people. It’s a club, it’s a gentleman club”.
Malema’s statement is not too far off from what many people think of the AU and other regional bodies. The AU has tried to attain the kind of clout that other other bodies such as the European Union has attained in Europe. The AU, which receives more of its sponsorship from foreign aid has been unable to assert itself politically and militarily in spaces that needed intervention. For many, the AU is seen as nothing but a roaring toothless lion.
The invasion of Libya by the United States, Britain and France further left many Africans with no hope in the AU. The AU’s strength has equally been tested in various contentious elections on the continent. The elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo further made many doubt how reliable the AU could stand with the truth without bending to foreign interference.
Watch and listen as EFF leader Julius Malema tells our @bbmhlanga that SADC and AU are useless clubs were leaders protect themselves and not the people. @TrevorNcube @NewsDayZimbabwe pic.twitter.com/mUqH7kCoVW
— Heart and Soul TV Radio (@HStvZim) September 23, 2019
While the AU tried to take bold steps, including suspending Sudan from the organisation, following the killing of protesters, many still wanted more cogent steps. Commenting on how the AU appears to be non-committal on issues of leadership, Malema added, “They don’t call each other out. They are unable to say you are wrong here, you are wrong there”.
Malema proposed a way forward saying the youths must get involved in politics and lead. Malema decried the apathy of youths to politics, leaving politics for older people. Still speaking on the AU, he said, “AU has a plan called 2063, and those people won’t be there in 2063. They won’t take responsibility. We the youths must stop suffering from political apathy and take the future into our own hands. . . We know that if we say 2063 now and we fail, we will be held accountable in 2063 because we will still be there. But our leaders won’t be there at that time. Young people must start reawakening themselves and take politics seriously. When it comes to voting, they don’t vote. When it comes to political participation, they don’t participate”.
We visited Mama Grace Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe today to offer our condolences and to personally thank her for looking after President Robert Mugabe until the last minute. We viewed the body of the true Pan Africanist. #Gushungu #EFFAtBlueRoof pic.twitter.com/tLyfbZzHKU
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) September 23, 2019
The various regional bodies on the continent have been criticised in the past for failing to uphold democracy. With many African country struggling with leadership issues, and no political determination to move their countries forward, these bodies for many people have been nothing but mere appendages that are ineffective in solving problems affecting the population.
The declarations such as The Abuja Declaration in which AU countries agreed to allocate 15% of their budget to improve health is not implemented by governments. In July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, the AU 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security was signed by African leaders with the decision to allocate 10 per cent of national budget to agriculture and rural development within five years. These and many more declarations and agreements have been nothing more than paper documents that end up forgotten.
There is no doubt that there is an urgent need for the AU to reform itself, and implement policies and decisions it takes. A major first step in showing its seriousness is for the AU to fund itself.