Postcolonial Africa went through and is still attempting to escape the senseless and cruel strife that is going on for many different reasons. These reasons include ideological, tribal, religious, power struggles, geopolitical, resource competition, secession, and separatist conflicts, among others.
It is indisputable that ethnic factors, or identity politics, have significantly contributed to the political chaos in many African countries. In addition, the absence of persuasive ideological political parties, the fear of an internal putsch, and the resulting incapacity to commit to negotiations created significant obstacles.
The resolution of postcolonial conflicts demands the reconstruction of a complex theoretical framework, which in turn requires extensive empirical details. All of these conflicts share a common cause: an absence of progress in areas such as economic development, political stability, democratic liberties, human rights, and a culture of advanced dialogue among communities.
Africa will not progress if it takes a simplistic approach to identifying the roots of the ongoing confrontations, and there is no single response or remedy for the continent’s numerous conflicts. Having a “Panel of the Wise,” despite being one of many potential solutions, is not, however, a bulletproof answer to most of the problems that the continent is currently experiencing.
One can only speculate that Africa’s historical and current governance systems, together with the continent’s political economy, social identities, and cultural ecologies, all have a role in perpetuating these hostilities. While Africans continue to act the same way they did yesterday, all hope of seeing a different outcome is utterly impossible.
Thus, reconfiguring historical experiences and ways of thinking, restructuring institutional and governance patterns in accordance with a local knowledge system, and correlating with an ever-changing global system are critical.
The composition, purpose, and mandate of the Panel of the Wise (PoW)
According to the African Union, one of the crucial foundations of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) is the Panel of the Wise. Article 11 of the Protocol Relating to Establishing the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) selects the AU PoW. It charges it with assisting the AU PSC and the Chairperson of the Commission in the area of conflict prevention.
Established in 2007, the AU PoW comprises distinguished African figures from the continent’s five geographical regions (East, West, Central, North, and Southern Africa).
Hifikepunye Pohamba, former President of the Republic of Namibia; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia; Dr. Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, former Vice President of Uganda; Amr Moussa, former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States from Egypt; and Honorine Nzet Bitéghé, former Minister for Social Affairs from Gabon, currently serve on the Panel of the Wise.
It is wonderful to have such illustrious panelists on board, but the names on it show how Africa continues to rely on an elite-driven approach to solving its problems.
There are three major criticisms that need to be highlighted with regard to the method that the PoW uses to carry out the execution.
First and foremost, the mission requires a strong secretariat and long-term commitments. Second, the Panel of the Wise has to be more diverse, representing other sectors such as civil society, academia, the private sector, the military, young people, and women. Third, the mandate and organizational structure have to be expanded to cover the regional, sub-regional, and national levels in light of the conflict situations in Africa.
The AU Act’s mandate to construct a single defense policy for the continent works hand in hand with its peacebuilding functions to avoid the revival of conflict in member countries. Similarly, post-conflict reconstruction includes the transition of society from conflict to peace by rebuilding its social, political, and economic institutions, which contributes to an all-encompassing strategy for resolving endless disputes.
As a further justification for adopting the Protocol, the AU acknowledged that the “illicit proliferation, circulation, and trafficking of small arms and light weapons” posed a grave threat to the peace and security of Africa. Moreover, it undermines the progress made by African nations to improve the standard of living of their populations through economic development. The main goal is to protect the sociocultural environment.
The Protocol also aims to protect the lives and property of Africans, improve their well-being, and set up good conditions for long-term development.
The conflicts that have arisen in Africa due to a wide range of factors can be broken down into macro and micro factors. At the macro level, the colonial powers’ creation of arbitrary borders, the negative impact of external debt, and the extent of poverty have a replicating effect. At the micro level, the primary issues include reasons like the misinterpretation of heterogeneous ethnic composition or identity politics, incompetent political leadership, corruption, and secessionist and separatist ambitions.
In the contemporary African and international setting, secession and separatist agendas are outmoded paradigms. The imperialism scheme in Africa has continued unabated despite the supposed “end” of colonial authority. The neo-liberal agenda finds fertile ground in Africa precisely because secessionist and separatist agendas remain active, intending to create weak and fragile states across the continent.
The enemy of Africa and Africans is easy to spot if you look at who has been funding and promoting separatist and secessionist movements across the continent over the past half-century.
There is no doubt that the secession and separatist conflicts in postcolonial Africa have not only hampered economic development and market opportunities, but they have also made people more narrow-minded. It has undoubtedly increased our social and political consciousness of the how and who behind Africa’s secessionist and separatist drive, as well as our familiarity with the subject and its motivations.
As a matter of fact, offering solutions for contemporary political and socioeconomic concerns in Africa necessitates understanding how complicated and threshold problems can be approached using an effective form of empiricism.
Providing an empirically based solution that is thoroughly supported by the principle of empirical knowledge and can be accepted on the basis of proof and a knowledge-action proposition is a common strategy. This necessitates the participation of a wide variety of stakeholders, including those from the private sector, academia, civil society, and the government.
What roles do the government, the AU, civil society, and citizens play?
In postcolonial Africa, the AU and national governments have done their best to manage regional security among African states, despite the fact that the scale and intensity of these wars are unprecedented and frequently out of control.
A fundamental theme of the critique is the continued importance of the African Union and national governments in the prevention and management of intra- and inter-state conflicts on the continent. However, Africans must ask themselves why, despite the presence of the OAU or AU for the past six decades, they have not been able to establish a people-centered institution capable of addressing continental security.
The role of civil society players in discourses, projects, and programs that promote peace and security on a global scale is becoming increasingly significant. There has been a worldwide increase in civil society’s ability to intervene in and shape efforts to avoid and resolve conflicts and establish peace; nonetheless, Africa remains behind.
In particular, civil society has been essential in the transformation of security from a “state-centered” to a “people-centered” process. We cannot undermine unabated individual contributions.
Recent peace talks between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF are a good illustration. The AU, in partnership with the governments of South Africa and Kenya, convened and hosted the meeting. In this peace talk, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka led the process. Even if the AU designated them, none of them is a member of the Panel of the Wise of the AU.
Africa is in dire need of charismatic leaders such as Obasanjo. Africa has a number of thinkers and knowledgeable men and women if there is an institutional structure capable of identifying and addressing these individuals.
Obasanjo has a unique personality that only comes around once in a lifetime. He is a politician, a military general, a father, a husband, a diplomat, a peacemaker, a pan-Africanist, and a farmer. It may be challenging to find a combination of these fields, but there are many skilled individuals out there.
With the same effort, the AU must focus as early as possible on the potential conflict areas between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Also, a lasting solution for Libya is preferable to creating a vacuum for foreign players. Besides, the conflict in northern Mozambique, Mail, and Niger has to get appropriate attention.
With this in mind, the AU should design a continental disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration plan to ensure development. There is an upbeat claim that the possibility of a peaceful continent is attainable. This goal served as the impetus for the AU’s flagship effort, titled “Silencing the Guns in Africa.”
The objective of Agenda 2063 is to put an end to all wars, conflicts, and gender-based violence in Africa and prevent genocide from occurring on the continent. A simplistic phrase like “Silencing the Guns” will not bring about lasting peace; instead, it will take grassroots activism and practical measures.
With this notice, it is highly appreciated for those designated by the AU for mediation between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF to receive the recognition and honor they deserve. The peace process may or may not continue in good faith; thus, we must wait and see.
Nonetheless, the Ethiopian government may consider dedicating or naming a road or a school after Obasanjo, Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Kenyatta for their excellent public service and participation in this initiative. Additionally, the AU must support women’s engagement in conflict resolution efforts. In this area, we would like to see strong and knowledgeable leaders such as Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Similarly, the AU must recognize former Presidents Thabo Mvutuhlwa Mbeki and Salim Ahmed Salim for their significant contributions. The efforts and contributions of those who engaged in South Sudan, Sudan, Central Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Niger, as well as other notable figures and ordinary citizens, are also greatly appreciated.
Seife Tadelle Kidane (PhD) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC); Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg.
Contributed by Seife Tadelle Kidane