News / Africa

AU Summit Attracts Democrats and Dictators



An African Union summit in Uganda's capital city Kampala is drawing to a close with a number of difficult issues still dividing participants.  These twice-yearly gatherings show Africa at its best and worst, bringing together a diverse collection of democrats and dictators.

Diplomats often describe the African Union as a "work in progress" - great accomplishment in the midst of poverty, conflict and a distressing record in fostering peace and good governance.

Critics, such as Ugandan lawyer and political commentator Gawaya Tegulle describe the continent's leadership as an "African tragedy."

"If you look at Sudan, Libya, you look at Zimbabwe, it goes without mentioning, Zimbabwe is an obvious case," said Tegulle.  "If you look at a series of West African states where you see very weak government, you look at Niger, at the Central African Republic, you look at Chad, these are really depressing stories.  So we are looking at a few democrats gathered in Kampala, and a lot of dictators."

Some considered the worst of the continent's leaders are staying away from this summit.  Sudan's Omar al-Bashir is among those absent.  Uganda, one of 30 African state parties to  the International Criminal Court, would have been obliged to arrest the Sudanese leader, who is under ICC indictment for war crimes and genocide.

But even among ICC member states, the Bashir indictment generates anger in an organization known for protecting its own.  Malawi's President Bingu Wa Mutharika, who holds the rotating AU chairmanship, received applause when he criticized the ICC indictment.

"There is a general concern in Africa that the issuance of a warrant of arrest for His Excellency al-Bashir, a duly elected president of the Sudan, is a violation of the principles of sovereignty guaranteed under the United Nations and under the African Union charter," said Mutharika.  "To subject a sovereign head of state to a warrant of arrest is undermining African solidarity and African peace and security that we fought for for so many years."

This summit is devoted to examining why so many African women die during childbirth.  Heads of state participating in a panel discussion on the subject said the biggest challenge is a lack of money.  But one panelist, legendary singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka spoke for many Africans when she shot back, "That has not stopped African deposits in Swiss bank accounts."

Activists working on the summit's margins call it 'kleptocracy', the tendency of government officials to divert development funds to their own uses.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a message from President Barack Obama, announced a new initiative aimed at prosecuting officials who misuse U.S. development aid.

"I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended and proper use: for the people of our nations," said Holder.

But for all the failings of its leaders and its institutions, there is no question that Africa is moving forward.  The triumph of the World Cup in South Africa is but one example.  Speaking at the launch of a new infrastructure initiative, South African President Jacob Zuma predicted Africa's time has come.

"Africa is a region in the world that has started on economic growth and it has potential that no other continent has," said Zuma.  "Other continents that have been big for centuries are shrinking in the economic sense.  Africa is going to be number one."

This Kampala summit, like every AU gathering, has been dominated by security issues.  Somalia tops the list this time.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra acknowledges the dominance of conflict is an accurate reflection of the state of Africa.  But he argues a longer look shows great progress in the past decade, in promoting integration, development and democracy.  And, one might add, good governance.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs