Ethiopia: a spectator on the sidelines of the AU
Trying to go into detail about the sacrifices Ethiopia has made for the realization of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) or its successor, the African Union (AU), is akin to preaching to the choir thus will not be delved into further. Nevertheless, Ethiopians were examples for their African brothers and sisters, who have not forgotten the great Battle of Adwa and then the battle with the Fascist regime.
It can be remembered that Ethiopian warriors, the basis for igniting Pan-Africanism, have fought hard beginning from supporting the struggles of our African fellow‘s separation from colonialism, to bringing the idea of creating a common gathering organization and seeing it come to fruition. These Ethiopian visionaries, even though they have created a space where Africans could gather in the face of a mammoth task which demanded sacrifice; what is the benefit of this organization for Ethiopia? And what did Ethiopians do to benefit from this organization? And strengthened further, what did the organization do to work for the common benefits of all Africans? Is the AU correctly working on the continents problems and desires? Or is it just getting stressed about pointless issues?
Addressing this type of unifying questions is of paramount importance. What is the benefit of the AU for Africans in their entirety and for Ethiopia alone? And if we could say the AU has given benefits, what could it be? What is lacking should be asked to. And if there are any mistakes made by the Union, it should be addressed publicly and changed.
In the recent conclusion of the AU’s 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the newly elected Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, said conflicts in Libya and South Sudan are the main focus. What about the problems and chaos’s in other countries, to whom are they left for?
The AU, a congregation of 55 member states, in its 57 year history, either be it an internal or an external problem, has witnessed many conflicts leading to a loss of African lives. There are many countries incapable of entering development by the use of their natural blessings, due to civil wars and disorder. Many lack peace instead of resourcing their vast farming lands, water resources, precious stones or oil fields. Fleeing war and hunger, many young Africans have surrendered to death in oceans and deserts. This being not enough, multitude of Africans have been a subject of imprisonment, torture and even forced to be refugees, due to those civilian or military dictators who have come to power and do not want to let go of power. Even now, in some African countries, dictators still loom large.
What did the Union actually do while Africa became a playground for dictators, poverty, and backwardness? If it does not grow and change with the times, it does not justify its presence. And a Union that does not stand for the overall worrying problems of Africa is pointless.
Returning to Ethiopia’s case, from the overall problems Africa is faced with, we can raise two fundamental problems. The first point being what is the purpose of the AU to Ethiopia? While the second question is off, what did Ethiopians do to benefit from the AU?
History shows Ethiopia, during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I, has gone through ups and downs to build a common gathering house for Africans. To see this blessed vision take hold, a lot has been sacrificed by those Ethiopians. As history attests, Ethiopian visionaries came to the institutions aid when it encountered dangers of crumbling, faced with different problems and challenges at different times.
However, Ethiopia, faced with her fair share of different problems, has never gotten anything from the institution; and because of that Ethiopians are filled with regret. When Ethiopia was repeatedly invaded by Somalia and insurgents from the northern parts of the country, the institution has not been seen standing up against the transgressions on its charter. Many innocent lives have been lost due to countries transgressions of a charter which dictates, the boundaries of all African countries are that of what it was during their colonial period.
Leaving everything aside, in Addis Ababa, where the Union’s head office is located, Ethiopians by and large cannot find work other than be a daily laborer or a security guard. Even though a colossus modern building was erected in the city, her children have no participation other than to look at the building afar. It needs to be asked why?
It is estimated that around 500 million people leave along the Nile River, of which Ethiopia contributes 86 percent of the waters. When Ethiopia decided, for the first time in its history, to construct a power generating dam; the tests facing the Horn of Africa country, to this hour, is clearly known.
Even though Ethiopia, wanting to escape the grasp of poverty, has spent nine years building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), while at the same time following the rule of equitable use of water and without causing damage to downstream countries; Egypt has continuously tested the country’s resolve with failures to reach an amicable consensus. The outlook for the three riparian states reaching an agreement remain bleak and even the involvement of the World Bank and the US does not show signs of things abating soon.
Amid all this tests, how come Ethiopia, through the African Union, could not find a just mediator? This question concerns both the Union and the Ethiopian authorities. Would it be wrong if someone raised this as an example and say, “Africans cannot solve their own problems?”
Ethiopians say ‘no to being subject to colonial rules,’ say ‘we do not want to hear agreements that go against equitable use,’ and say ‘our developmental rights should be respected,’ etc. What does the AU say? And what are our ministers saying to the Union? What will it be if an agreement is not reached? Or are we waiting for fellow Africans to bear arms, just because we cannot agree on how to use what nature has given us. Urgent answers are needed for these questions.
Every time the AU holds an assembly in Addis, welcoming guests and returning them safely to where they came from, has been the trend and an applauded culture of Ethiopians. Nonetheless, it is known that the road closures create social and economic harm. It can also be said there are incomes received from delegates spending. However, weighing the use of the Union for Africa in general and Ethiopia, in particular as a host nation, still has many issues. Among them, are promoting the hard to implement agendas presented without a proper planning and full participation of members. In Africa, guns will fall silent, when freedom and equality are realized. Otherwise, African dictators and warlords will only silence their guns when they use silencers.
What should come first is to listen to the heart beats of Africans so as to have an effective and result oriented institution, rather than bring agendas that does pass for not more than slogans. Let the roots of dictatorship, theft, and robbery be unplugged. Let there be only leaders as a result of the ballot box rather than incumbents growing old by continuously amending constitutions. Let it be said, enough, to those dictators who do not know elections or parliaments, and lead without reproach. The Union should separate itself from old procedures and get up to speed with current times. The institutional changes started two years ago, should be concluded, and strive towards becoming an institution where all Africans, in one voice can say is ours.
Instead of asking for aid and acting on behalf of donor countries, African countries should set themselves free. Meanwhile, Ethiopia, a spectator on the sidelines, besides being just a host, should take the leading role.