The AU should be pro-active and intervene in Sudan/South Sudan dispute

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We have come to that time of the year again when we as a nation remember where we are coming from. It is now two years since South Sudan broke away from the greater Sudan in July 2011.

We have come to that time of the year again when we as a nation remember where we are coming from. It is now two years since South Sudan broke away from the greater Sudan in July 2011.

 

The sad thing is that up to now, there is no way of knowing when the stale-mate in Abyei will be solved.

Under the auspices of the AU, South Sudan and Sudan last year agreed on a roadmap to be used in resolving the pending issues between the two countries. The proposal addresses fundamental questions of eligibility for Abyei Referendum (where only residents will vote), the date of the referendum (October 2013), the chair of Abyei Referendum Commission (to be an appointee of the AU Commission) and special status of Abyei area.

This proposal was prepared by three prominent African leaders (former presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Burundi). This was supposed to be an African way of resolving African problems.

The roadmap made it very clear that if the parties failed to agree on any of the pending issues, then the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) will come with a proposal that will be endorsed as final and a binding resolution. But as things stand now, the two parties have failed to agree yet the AU has not been able to rise to the occasion and provide a solution.

Just to get a right perspective about this issue, it would be worthwhile to look at the situation in other African countries. Early this year, AU member countries voted to petition the International Criminal Court to return the cases facing the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to Kenya. The AU countries were of the view that African countries have the capacity and should be allowed to solve their own problems. The ICC responded by saying that the ICC process is a legal and not a political process. Much has not happened since then and the two cases are set to start later in the year.

We have other conflict situations in other parts of Africa. In Somalia right now, there is a conflict where some regions have declared themselves as being autonomous from the newly established authority in Mogadishu. This situation is threatening to tear the country apart. The AU is yet to respond to that situation.

Egypt has once again exploded, resulting into the death of tens of people and injury of thousands of others. The president who was democratically elected was ousted by the military and an interim president installed. The AU responded here by suspending Egypt from the union. This is too little too late because they failed to respond in time to forestall the occurrence of death.

Kenya has been having a dispute with Uganda over a small island on Lake Victoria called Migingo. The dispute has been raging on for over two years now. The two countries have been unable to come to any agreement. Meanwhile, the AU has been silent as residents of the island live in uncertainty, not sure whether they belong to Kenya or Uganda.

These are just a few of the situations that come to mind when one thinks of cases that need the urgent intervention of the AU.

Back to the Sudan / South Sudan case, as we report elsewhere in this issue, the nine agreements on the post-secession issues signed on 27th September 2012 have been put to a halt by the unilateral decision of Bashir to refuse to implement mutually agreed decisions.

The AU seems to be unable to deal decisively with the issue, which is threatening the very stability of the two neighbouring countries that are mutually dependent on each other. As long as these issues are not solved, there is no way the citizens of the two countries will be able to enjoy what their countries have to offer.

The AU should now move with speed and show that it has the teeth to bite. Asking the West not to intervene in situations in Africa when the AU cannot adequately deal with the small disputes as mentioned above will not wash.

Without doubt, AU has been a big let down in Africa. It seems that it is only interested in protecting the interests of the big men of Africa who misrule their countries and squander their resources. When it comes to protecting the interests of the majority poor, the AU has proved to be lethargic.

 

If the AU wants to be taken seriously in future, it should rise to the occasion and make a ruling on the Abyei issue without fear or favour. For the people of Abyei, two years of independence means nothing if they cannot participate in the affairs of their country.