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The Sirte Declaration set the primary goal of the African Union (AU) as “accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalization.” Thus, one of the objectives of the African Union is to “achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and the peoples of Africa” (African Union, no date). However, the goal is not simply to have a united Africa, but an Africa that has a shared vision.
The Akans of West Africa have a saying that “Crisis is the occasion of proverbs” (Sekyi-Otu, no date). Crisis challenges us to think of alternative ways of dealing with our conditions. Crisis calls for holistic discourses and practices. The contributors to this volume invite the readers to participate in a holistic way in the discourses and practices about African unity and its challenges. This editorial note will therefore begin with the crises. This is not to reinforce the stereotype of Africa and black bodies as nothing but crises, but to understand the context of the recommendations or wisdom that are offered by authors in this issue. The crises then are the challenges that the African Union and its members states meet in their attempt to realize the collective and shared vision of a united Africa. One of the objectives that the AU set itself is “To achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and the people of Africa” ( African Union, no date). The achievement of this noble goal partly depends on leadership. In “Joint-leadership and regional peacebuilding in Africa”,Kiven James Kewir and Ngah Gabriel point out that there is no African country that can single-handedly lead Africa.
Emmanuel Matambo’s “Bystander in my own house”decries the marginalisation of Africa from conflict transformation and peacebuilding processes in the continent. From the author’s perspective, this is primarily a result of external dependency and the failure to build appropriate institutional framework. Ndubuisi Christian Ani’s essay, “Clarifying the roles of the African Union and subregional organizations in peace and security: The case of South Sudan”, is concerned with the overlapping mandates and unclear division of labour between the AU and sub-regional bodies in addressing security threats. While Keith Gottschalk acknowledges the achievements of AU and Africa’s sub-regional organizations in both political and economic spheres, the author points out that there are persistent problems hindering the AU from achieving its goals. While the AU and its member states are signatories to a plethora of treaties, the AU and its member states are delinquents when it comes to implementation. The continental body also lacks popular grass-root support and legitimacy. AU’s member states also fail to honour their financial commitments, the result being AU’s reliance on foreign powers. Sikanyiso Masuku and Sizo Nkala’s “Patterns of refugee cycle in Africa: A hazardous cycle with no end in sight?” examines the conditions responsible for an unending refugee cycle in Africa. Among the factors that are responsible for this unending cycle are protracted conflicts that characterize Africa. Hlungwani and Mohamed Sayeed’s paper examines the challenges that are faced by African states in domesticating African Youth Charter. In the case of Zimbabwe, the challenges that are faced by National Youth Policy are, among others, poor policy knowledge, low levels of motivations among the youth, political interference and skills mismatch.
The African Union also set itself an objective of creating institutions that are guided by democratic principles, popular participation and good governance. However, the continental body also faces challenges in achieving this objective. Edwin Yingi’s paper “When bullets replace ballots” and Mlungisi Phakathi’s paper “An analysis of the responses of the African Union to the coups in Burkina Faso (2015) and Zimbabwe (2017)” address internal challenges to democratic rule and the response of the African Union and regional organisations to these challenges. Through the Lome Convention, AU committed itself to supporting political change that is anchored on democratic processes. The AU Constitutive Act binds the continental body to condemn and reject unconstitutional changes of government. However, Phakathi points out that the AU appears to be inconsistent in applying these instruments. In the case of the military coup in Burkina Faso, the AU sanctioned the military leaders. In contrast, in the case of Zimbabwe, the AU was hesitant even to call that event a military coup. Yingi examines the role of SADC in promoting democratic governance, in particular in Zimbabwe. Yingi argues that the failure of SADC in Zimbabwe is intrinsically linked to the failure of this regional body to develop as a security community. A key component of a security community is a belief that “common social problems must and can be resolved by processes of peaceful change.”
The plurality of crises facing the AU and its member states suggest a plurality of idioms or recommendations. While cognizant of the challenges that have to be overcome in order for joint-leadership to be actualized, Kewir and Gabriel examine the potential for joint-leadership of South Africa and Nigeria. Matambo recommends that Africa’s continental, regional, national and local institutions be constructed and run from the ground up. Ani’s recommendations are that the ongoing AU reform process has to “strengthen the capacity of the AU to influence peace processes led by sub-regional organisations.” To deal with the implementation problems that beset Zimbabwe’s National Youth Policy, Hlungwani and Mohamed Sayeed recommend reforming policy implementation strategies, entrenching entrepreneurship education, and monitoring and evaluating policy implementation. Phakathi calls for an alignment of AU’s protocols and declarations with AU’s practice. For Phakathi the inconsistent application of AU instruments will make it difficult for different countries to domesticate these instruments. Implicit in Yingi’s paper is a claim that regional bodies are always going to ineffective in conflict transformation and peacebuilding as long they are not security communities.DOI: https://doi.org/10.31920/2050-4306/2018/v7n3a0