If that the post-colonial African State and the period

If
the sixties and the seventies, marked the opening of the frontiers of freedom
in Africa and the strengthening of the membership of the OAU, the eighties and
the nineties, brought to the fore, the contradictions and complications from an
unfair and unequal international economic system, which along with the
disappointment of Africa’s performance in the crucial area of good governance
and political emancipation combined with a level of economic development and
Human Rights abuses, created crises of governance, that impacted negatively, on
the hopes for peace, security and stability in Africa.

It
is a well-known fact, that the post-colonial African State and the period of
the late seventies and the early eighties coincided with the early beginnings
of political, economic and social decadence, a period in which the environment
of many African States became characterized by political and economic
stagnation. It was a period in which many post-colonial African States began to
lose the confidence of the populations that many of the leaders and nationalists
had fought so much for. This was the period in which the politics of poverty
was manipulated in the newly independent African States, by the leaders that later
and inadvertently laid the early foundations for the poverty of politics which
has become the bane in much of Africa today. Given the contradictions that were
produced in this process of nation-building and as a direct consequence,
internal and external forces began to pressurize the African political elites
for more accountability, economically as well as politically.

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At
about the same time as these events were unraveling in Africa, changes in the
political landscape of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Socialist
States, which were long time Cold War allies of many African States, began to
be evident. Unexpectedly, a stunned world followed the dramatic developments in
Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. As the Soviet Empire began to disintegrate,
the East/West rivalry of the past decades simultaneously began to dissolve in
Africa, making way for long anticipated, but frustrated transitions like the Independence
of Namibia, and other contradictions, including changes in the nature and manifestations
of intra-ethnic conflict and civil strife.

The
rapprochement between Washington and Moscow and the end of the Cold War, meant that
Africa had to expect dramatic changes in the international and even the
national environment of its politics – and changes did come. As is now well
known, the demise of the Cold War, brought in its wake, seemingly contradictory
trends that reflected the tension between the desire by many African countries
to jealously safeguard their independence together with the imperative need for
economic integration on the one hand, and the reality of a displaced drive
towards fragmentation on the other.

The
truth of the matter, is that the breakdown of the ideological mind set and
structures of the Cold War global alliances, had also unfortunately, unleashed
hitherto suppressed ethnic and political tensions, as well as a process of
disintegration of some African countries, into conflicting ethnic, cultural or
religious units. In effect therefore, the ebbing of the Cold War, contributed
to new or continuing instability. Simply put, the end of the Cold War brought
to the fore and exposed conflicts, which were formally overshadowed by strong
nationalist governments and superpower rivalries. This re-emergence of age-old
hatreds effectively challenged both African and the wider International
Community’s ability to devise principled and effective means of response.

The
OAU had tried to innovate and improvise mechanisms for resolving inter-State
conflicts, in the absence of an acceptable framework for such undertakings. But
these were attempts directed specifically at conflicts among States and not within
States. Traditionally, a strong view pervaded the OAU that conflicts within
States fell within the exclusive competence of the States concerned. Arising
from that basic assertion, was the equally strong view that it was not the
business of the OAU, to pronounce itself on those conflicts and that the
Organization certainly had no mandate to involve itself in the resolution of
problems of that nature.

It
was against this backdrop that the OAU Assembly of heads of State and
Government adopted in 1990 the Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic
Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World. In
that Declaration, the leaders of Africa, committed to work towards the peaceful
and speedy resolution of all conflicts in Africa for the creation of an
enabling environment for development, democratization, greater respect for
Human Rights, and resolving other critical challenges that confronted the Continent,
would remain constrained, as long as conflicts continued to ravage the
Continent. Additionally, the 1990 Declaration marked a decisive turning point
in Africa because for the first time in its history, the OAU recognized the changing
nature of conflicts from inter-State, for which serious even if ad-hoc efforts
had been deployed in the past to resolve, to intra-State (internal) which
called for a more dynamic approach, given the African pre-occupations with concepts
such as sovereignty and noninterference in the internal affairs of Member
States, as enshrined in the OAU Charter. The crisis in the Democratic Republic
of Congo then Zaire, provided sufficient justification, if any was needed, for
proactively establishing mechanisms for working around these concepts and principles.

That
Declaration of 1990, and the qualitative debate it provoked among African
leaders on the precarious socio-economic and political situation on the
Continent, brought about a recognition, that in order to achieve socio-economic
transformation and integration, a conscious effort must be made by our
Governments to promote popular participation in governance and development,
guarantee human rights and the observance of the rule of law, as well as
ensuring high standards of probity and accountability by public office holders.
It was the expectation that addressing these concerns would help to prevent the
outbreak of internal conflicts in Africa.

It
hardly needs to be recalled that the horrendous effects of the internal
conflicts, their implications for the economic and security of many African
States and their neighbors, as well as the graphic images and pictures of
brutality and mass starvation, hitherto alien to Africa, began to be flashed around
the world media, with negative reaction and consequences, which touched the
conscience of many African leaders and people. Increasingly, many African
countries and leaders became uncomfortable and started questioning the logic
that suggested that Africa and Africans should stand aside and watch, while a
part of the Continent, tore itself apart, simply on account of arguable
technicalities of sovereignty.

Increasingly
also, it became less fashionable and unacceptable, that Africa should continue
to be perceived and treated as a Continent prone to conflicts and a place where
suffering is endemic – one where peace, security and stability are only but
distant possibilities. A continent made up of “atomistic societies perpetually
at war with themselves”, to borrow the words of a Nigerian Professor.

Such
perspectives began to have profound effects on the thinking of policy makers in
Africa.

There
emerged a new realization that if Africa was to tackle the monumental task of
economic recovery and development, it would have to resolve the many internal
conflicts (potential or real) that confronted the Continent. Integral to such
forward looking thinking, was also a recognition, that where national and sub-regional
means of conflict resolution proved unsuitable or inadequate to cope with the
contending interests of parties to a conflict, there was need for such efforts
to be supplemented by African and wider International action, provided that
such efforts were anchored within the context and framework of the mandate of the
OAU.

Again,
in pointing the way forward, that landmark Declaration, set the stage for a
review of past OAU approaches to conflict resolution (notably, through the
moribund OAU Commission for Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration) with the
ultimate and overriding objective of bringing about a new political approach,
an enhanced Institutional capacity and dynamism into the ways Africa dealt with
the many conflicts that had caused so much human misery in several parts of the
Continent and in some instances, opened the doors for maneuvering and the
testing of new weapons, by non-African powers.

In
practical terms, the Declaration sought to put Africa at the center of attempts
to deal with conflicts, by emphasizing that the Continent bore primary responsibility
for resolving its problems, even if it was to expect international solidarity
and assistance. In a way therefore, that Declaration of 1990, by emphasizing
the centrality of the role of Africans in advancing conflict resolution
initiatives, squarely placed primary responsibility for action in this realm on
the Continent and its Organization, the OAU. All these, marked significant
shifts in the thinking of OAU Member States – from a position of total
opposition to the involvement of the OAU in internal disputes, to accepting
that the Organization had a view and indeed a role in assisting in their
resolution. In fact, they went as far as providing financial as well as the Institutional
means to deal with conflicts, including those within States.

That
was the improved environment, which no doubt facilitated the extensive
consultations that the Secretary General of the OAU, initiated between the
General Secretariat and Member States, in order to clearly define the essential
elements that would give the 1990 Declaration, an operational context. Those
consultations primarily focused on the need to establish within the OAU, a
permanent Mechanism for the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflicts
in Africa. At the end of the consultations, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim submitted to
the fifty-sixth Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Dakar, Senegal in
1992, a Report which contained various Institutional options and specific
recommendations regarding the Mechanism. That report, which was adopted in
Dakar in principle, was itself subject to another round of in-depth study and
comprehensive consultations with Member States for the purpose of fine – tuning
the proposals.

At
the end of that exhaustive but necessary process, the Assembly of OAU Heads of State
and Government, meeting in their twenty-ninth Ordinary Session in Cairo, Egypt,
adopted the Declaration on Establishing within the OAU, of a Mechanism for
Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution.

Essentially,
the Mechanism is built around the Bureau of the Assembly of OAU Heads of State
and Government, with a decision-making body known as the Central Organ, which
in itself, has three levels of authority – the Ambassadorial level, meeting
every month, the Ministerial level which meets twice a year and the level of
Heads of State and Government which is supposed to meet once a year.

At
the same time and conscious of the importance of resources mobilization in the operationalization
of the Mechanism, the Heads of State and Government also set up an OAU Peace
Fund to be financed from a 6 per cent OAU Regular Budgetary appropriation, as
well as voluntary contributions from African and non-African sources.

As
can be seen from the foregoing details, the processes and efforts that went
into the establishment of the Conflict Management Mechanism, was a very well
thought out process.

That
decision was informed by among other things, the mounting expectations of our
people and also those of the International Community, to see a greater
involvement by Africa in the search for durable solutions to the many problems
that beset the Continent.

 

The
reluctance on the part of Africa’s partners to shoulder new responsibilities,
particularly, in areas relating to Africa’s collective security, peace and
stability, had grave consequences for the Continent’s future economic
development and security. Whereas on the one hand, many African countries
remain constrained by the lack of resources, they became faced with the daunting
task of managing and trying to resolve the many conflicts that had been raging
in many parts of the Continent.

In
reconciling themselves to the reality of their situation in Africa, the
Continent’s leaders had determined that they would only be credible in the eyes
of the International Community when they are seen to be taking the lead in
finding solutions to the problems in the countries. They therefore underscored
the rationale for a new approach, which would essentially move beyond military
responses to conflict or potential conflict situations. It was thus, that the
Mechanism envisaged the utilization of a wide range of preventive action and
non-military means of resolving conflicts, including the promotion of
confidence building measures, such as the one put in place by the SADC and to
some extent ECOWAS countries. Other measures would include, establishing trust
through cooperation on shared development problems and identifying specific
mechanism for sustaining peace initiatives, as well as the fortification of the
bonds between peace, democracy and development. The emerging experience in
Southern Africa is one that holds great potentials not just for the Region, but
also for the rest of the Continent.

Within
the framework of the mandate for Preventive Diplomacy, the OAU, has in the
course of the last six years, attempted to operationalize the concept, while
dealing with potential or incipient and full-blown conflicts, which actions
include: the establishment of supportive structures and institutional capacity
building, outlining guidelines; networking with national, sub regional and
International Organizations for preventive diplomacy and creating a positive and
cooperative attitude among all the actors to the different conflicts on the
Continent.

 

Of
course, the point must also be made that many OAU Member States are
experiencing severe economic difficulties and even though they continue to
extend commendable moral and sometimes, political and financial support to the
Organization’s efforts to deal with conflicts, the fact remains that in the
face of competing demands, the allocation of scarce resources remains a most
complicated and daunting exercise.