THE African Union’s (AU’s) fifth annual retreat of special envoys and mediators will take place this week in Arusha, Tanzania, against the backdrop of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. "Trouble-shooters" and think-tanks will focus on the theme, "Silencing the Guns: Owning the Future". One of the topics under discussion is the triggers of violence in Africa.
Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui, the intellectual father of the concept of Pax Africana, who died last week at the age of 81, had called in 1967 for Africans to create and consolidate peace on their own continent. His idea of "continental jurisdiction" was a sort of "Monroe doctrine" urging outsiders to stay out of the continent. In the related idea of "racial sovereignty", Mazrui argued that inter-African interventions by brotherly outside states were more legitimate than those of outsiders. So, who killed Pax Africana?
Five villains are identified in this epic murder mystery. First, poor governance has been a scourge that has stalled socioeconomic development on the continent. Between 1960 and 1990 no single ruling party lost power in Africa and only three leaders voluntarily left power. The "men on horseback" — the military — rode onto the national stage 72 times, following coups d’état that distorted politics but were no more successful than civilian autocrats at socioeconomic transformation.
Though regular elections now take place in Africa and the ruling parties have changed in Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, and Malawi, and while governance has generally improved, polls are still sometimes unfree and unfair. Elections have sometimes become a way of waging war by other means, with ethnicity and religion mobilised to devastating effect. Military brass hats also continue to wield influence in Algeria, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Lesotho.
Many military strongmen have, in fact, never left the stage, swapping their military robes for civilian khakis in Chad, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Egypt.
The second villain in the demise of Pax Africana is the failure of the "responsibility to protect" Africa’s 1-billion citizens, making the continent the largest generator of conflict nomads in the world, with more than 10-million internally displaced people and 3-million refugees.
The third villain is the scourge of corruption, which has eaten into the continent’s body politic. The United Nations (UN) panel on illicit financial flows, led by former president Thabo Mbeki, noted that capital flight from the continent between 1970 and 2008 amounted to $854-billion-$1.8-trillion. This is money that should be used to meet the basic needs of Africa’s citizens, and build the infrastructure that the continent so desperately needs. There is a $35-billion-a-year gap in funding the continent’s infrastructure needs.
The fourth villain in the death of Pax Africana has been the violent extremism that has wracked Africa, from the Sahel to Somalia. In Mali, Tuareg group the Mouvement national pour la liberation de l’Azawad; Ansar Dine; as well as the Algerian-dominated Islamic extremists al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (Mujao) launched attacks against the government in Bamako in 2012. These groups have about 3 000 core fighters and involve criminal networks. Mujao and Ansar Dine were reported to be fighting alongside Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has killed about 5 000 civilians in Nigeria since 2009, and also has ties with al-Shabaab in Somalia.
For its part, al-Shabaab continues to wreak destruction on parts of Somalia, while also launching attacks on Kenya and Uganda, countries which have troops with the AU mission in Somalia.
The fifth villain in the demise of Pax Africana is the spread of arms and the often pernicious role of powerful external actors. The UN’s permanent five members (P-5), which are mandated to maintain international peace and security (the US, Russia, China, the UK and France), incredibly account for about 70% of arms sales that fuel conflicts around the globe.
As about 85% of UN peacekeepers are deployed in Africa, the P-5 has a large effect on security on the continent.
It will be important that in silencing the guns in Africa, national governments improve democratic governance. Africa’s rapid-reaction capability must also be urgently activated; its peacekeepers timeously provided with logistical and financial resources; and an effective division of labour established with the UN, which should lead these missions.
Finally, as in nearly half of the post-Cold War cases, war-torn countries have relapsed into conflict within five years as a result of inadequate peace building, the international community must urgently provide the resources needed to implement post-conflict activities. This is the only way that — as with the biblical Lazarus — Mazrui’s Pax Africana can be raised from the dead.
Elections have sometimes become a way of waging war by other means, with ethnicity and religion mobilised to devastating effect. Military brass hats also continue to wield influence in Algeria, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Lesotho.