A RESPONSE TO DR MICHAEL J.K. BOKOR'S: 'HAVE NIGERIA, SOUTH AFRICA, AND GABON BETRAYED THE AFRICAN UNION?'
In his article (http://www.modernghana.com/newsp/321330/1/pagenum2/have-nigeria-south-africa-and-gabon-betrayed-the-a.html#continue) Dr. Michael Bokor makes a complex case that Nigeria, South Africa, and Gabon betrayed the African Union by agreeing with the recent UN resolution on Libya which is antithetical to, effectively displaced and put on hold, AU’s own non-violent proposed solution and plans. He recommends that those three countries should therefore be expelled from the AU, not only for the above, but for the implication that AU was thus sidelined, and then, snubbed by the UN—the same UN which showed deference to Arabs (Arab league) in a problem located geographically on the continent of Africa. He believes that those countries were used as pawns in the International War games. The article goes ahead to point out foreign / International duplicity by its nefarious acts (and or lack of morally correct acts) and unholy alliances with these same countries at various times. “By endorsing this international military action against one of their own, Nigeria, South Africa, and Gabon have given the AU a bad name in international circles,” he says.
Dr. Bokor’s case is weakened by uncharacteristic naiveté. “Peaceful solution” or non-violent solution as proposed and planned by the AU is not anything that AU has ever accomplished. “Peaceful solution” for AU and in Africa usually means: “do not really interfere with whatever is going on there; but give the impression that you are doing something serious and tangible…” which works out that the problem will continue and worsen until the better-armed party crushes the hapless, or until there is a chaotic stalemate if the parties are near-evenly armed. I would challenge anyone to point out where “peaceful solution” has worked out in Africa, except for Sudan / South Sudan, which I will get to. Applied to Libya, AU’s peaceful resolution by now, even, would have paid off mightily for Gadhafi: he would have murdered all Libyan people’s opposition, end of story. And, that would suit AU just fine: problem resolved! because while the AU would be shuttling around and talking about “non-violent solutions,” Gadhafi would have attacked, bombed, burned and mass-buried tens and thousands of the peoples of Libya, and soon, AU would forget about this.
For a closer look at AU itself, didn’t Gadhafi try to usurp it at one time, acting like an arrogant Maximum Leader in his delusions that he was King of Africa, and Africa should be all Muslim and all Africa should speak Arabic? That was after Nigeria’s own Maximum Leader (masquerading as a democratically elected president), Olusegun Obasanjo tried the same with AU, until he found out that even “personal ownership” of AU (just like he owned Nigeria then) was like owning nothing: the AU did not provide the kind of platform necessary as a stepping stone for his own delusional selfish global pursuits such as the UN Secretary-Generalship. So, in fact, AU mirrors its constituent member-countries where despots and hegemonists rule and winner-takes-all in a do-or-die practice, with exactly the same results of dysfunction and prostration. Therefore, let’s not place high hopes on the AU or give it high marks for continental achievement: various typically selfish African leaders use the AU as a larger football (more full of hot hair) and football field than their own respective luckless countries.
I must thank Dr. Bokor for citing the case of Biafra and stating it correctly when and where Nigeria and her leaders have done everything to misinform the world and rewrite history by stating that the Igbo / Biafrans caused the Biafra-Nigeria war. Today, the same Nigeria and her leaders refuse to acknowledge that they committed genocide against the Igbo of Biafra of such a magnitude as to render Rwanda a child’s play and dress rehearsal; they have not apologized, but have actually continued to punish the Igbo in all ways, including rejecting superior Igbo technology, industry and know-how even while forcing the Igbo to stay in Nigeria. While Nigeria thus does everything to prove that it in fact is not one nation, on the one hand, but continues to insist with coercion and in psychological denial that Nigeria is one or is united, on the other hand, she is not suited to play any meaningful or moral role on the African stage nor on the Global platform either.
Nigeria is HYPOCRISY writ large, so all her actions will be seen that way; in which case, there is always an outside party waiting to exploit any such action. While these “outside parties” / foreign countries have a share of the blame as Dr. Bokor has stated, the bulk of culpability goes to Nigeria itself and to her peoples for this crime. For that matter, the forerunner of the AU, the then OAU, bears more blame in this matter than the foreign stakeholders; after all, it was the OAU which allowed the putschist Northern Nigeria-led Nigerian Military government to prevail on it and it thus failed to take meaningful action, hence allowing Nigeria a freehand in murdering not one million but more than 2 million non-combatants of Igbo Biafra origin—children, pregnant women, elderly men and women, by starvation. Who can forget the Kwashiorkor pictures of Igbo and Biafran children?—and if you do, even today, there is an auction-item at eBay UK selling a picture of “an Albino Biafran Kwashiorkor Child”—imagine that! The way I see it, AU / OAU and Nigeria deserve each other.
There is a way that “peaceful solution” can work in Africa. That happens only with the adherence to “Self Determination,” which means that every ethnic nation of Africa has its own original sovereignty which must be recognized and respected, allowing it to exercise her native right to control and manage the entire gamut of her Destiny and her own resources, including inter-national relationships, in spite of the subtending State. The exercise of such a right can and should lead to any endpoint chosen by the ethnic group, whether it be political reconfiguration, autonomy or outright separation from the subtending State. That’s what happened in Sudan / South Sudan to finally effect a “peaceful solution.” If that region can now find the will to continue to apply Self Determination to the remaining sub-areas of contest, without slipping to the wonted ways of conflict and gunpowder, we should all see the beauty of this paradigm.
In a broader interpretation, peoples of the world have taken Self Determination to mean that the people have a native right to determine their own governance, in spite of the current government. So, the right of Self Determination does not only apply to ethnic groups alone, but to any group of peoples, including the general citizenry of a nation: they can demand to wrest control of their collective destiny from the existing government. This is how the current Arab peoples’ uprising against their feudalistic governments is seen, and this is why it will continue to spread. Self Determination is to the people what Human Rights is to the person. Whenever people become aware of their individual personal human rights, “re-awakening” and empowerment occur at the personal level. When people collectively understand their Self Determination rights, nothing will stop them from ultimately collectively exercising such group rights, especially when faced with, or in the presence of hardship caused by a pernicious government.
The UN has a resolution in full support of Self Determination, passed in September of 2007. Ironically, AU / OAU actually has an older and more committed resolution and equivalent of Self Determination in the form of the African [Banjul] Charter, adopted in 1981 and “entered into force” October 21 1986. (See especially articles 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23). It carries a commitment to enforcement where the UN’s version does not. Unfortunately, none of the African country-signatories to the Banjul Declaration has ever remembered this document of ethnic people’s rights at any time, talk-less of at the times when it would really count (ask Obasanjo!). Nor has AU as an apex African organization.
Supposing the AU had come out and stated clearly that the peaceful resolution for Libya it has in mind is based on the application of the Self Determination principles of the AU / OAU / African Banjul Charter. That would have put Gadhafi on notice that the peoples of Libya have an inalienable right to choose and determine their own governance, and he is obligated to accept such popular decision, choice and judgment, more so since he, supposedly, is a “leader” in AU; and that the AU always stands by the people of Libya in their legitimate exercise of their Self Determination rights, in keeping with the Banjul Charter. And then, the AU insists on it. That’s how peaceful resolution would work. But the AU never articulated nor remembered its most powerful document and Charter. The blame should not be placed on the world for not taking AU seriously.
For all the criticism of the current US role in this crisis, speaking about the Obama administration and not the preceding ones, it is in fact only the US that has articulated a clear-cut support for Self Determination as a foreign policy, pushing it through in Sudan / South Sudan case when there was otherwise an obvious lack of will to bring it to fruition. While many are having problems deciphering Obama’s stand, when one listens to him and analyzes what he is saying and doing, one will find out that he is abiding by the principles of Self Determination. Not surprising: after all he is the only US President who understands not only the power and importance, but also, the necessity of applying Self Determination to Africa’s problems. To make sure he puts the stamp and power of US administration behind Self Determination, he first (and even) reversed the US vote on the cited UN Self Determination Resolution from a No (one of only 4 Nays then) to a Yes. In a recent New York Times Op Ed piece, he praises Self Determination as an effective principle and tool bringing a peaceful separation of South Sudan and an end to that erstwhile intractable war. Perhaps, the AU can take a cue: then, “peaceful solution” based on a solid principle of Self Determination can have meaning and produce the desired results for AU actions.
There is a new thinking and new movement among Africans today. African problems have not and cannot be solved by organizations like AU without a sound basis. African problems will not be solved by the UN or the rest of the world by any of the methods they have tried and are still trying today if the basis is not sound. African peoples themselves have been unable, and will not solve these problems—blame foreigners all they like—unless they understand that a sound basis is necessary. Such basis is not “free and fair elections,” term limits, corruption-free polity, availability of leadership, poverty eradication and all the “usual suspects” typically harped on by pundits far and wide. That one sound, solid and natural basis that everyone can easily understand and agree on today is Self Determination: the right of a people to determine their own destiny and control their own resources, to build and build on equitable relationships which they enter into only consentingly and with mutuality. Barack Obama, the US President who happens to have African roots, clearly understands and is applying this. It is time for all Africans to understand and apply Self Determination, thereby to inform and educate African Organizations like AU that that is the principle and crux of the effective solution to African problems.
Dr. Bokor’s article has made it possible for me to articulate this view: for that, I am grateful to him.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD, [email protected]