director of governance at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
says the African Union (AU) should stick to its ultimatum for Mauritania's
military junta to restore democracy this week if the AU is to maintain its
credibility. Professor Okey Onyejekwe says the AU should put more pressure on
the military junta that toppled Mauritania's first democratically elected
president. He adds that the military regime flouted the African Union's
charter, which abhors military takeovers.
after the military regime warned it would turn to Arab partners for aid
and development funds if Western donors slash their assistance to Mauritania.
Both the United States and
the European Union have unanimously condemned the coup and have demanded the
country's return to constitutional rule.
From Ghana's capital, Accra Professor
Okey Onyejekwe tells reporter Peter Clottey that the biggest challenge for the
AU is to ensure that democracy is entrenched across Africa.
"This is not about the West;
it's more about the African Union, which has adopted a resolution and
convention, which basically says that African countries or African leaders that
accede to power through unconstitutional means would not be welcomed, they have
to be suspended. So, this is not really about the West, it is the AU
convention, Lome (Togo's capital) Convention of 2000, and also the recently
ratified charter on governance, which does not allow for unconstitutional
takeover of power," Onyejekwe noted.
He said the African Union
faces a significant test to ensure that democracy across Africa is deeply
"I believe that the biggest challenge
in Africa now is not just democratization, but also consolidation of democracy.
And one way in which African leaders in their infinite wisdom have decided to
consolidate governance and democratization is that power should not be taken by
the barrel of the gun. And they all ought to abide by the AU resolution for,
which they (Mauritania) also are signatories to that convention," he said.
Onyejekwe said the AU should
maintain pressure on the Mauritanian military regime.
"I think the AU should not relent
on this because there was a previous coup de'tat for which the AU made some
exceptions given the circumstances on the ground. So, this is the second time
that there is also a coup that overthrows an elected government. So, in my
judgment if the AU's credibility has to be maintained and in true also to the
convention, which AU has adopted, I think they should stick to their guns,"
Onyejekwe pointed out.
He said the African Union
must take the lead in the international community's quest to ensure that
democracy is installed in Mauritania.
"My advice would be for the
AU and the other external actors to follow the AU's lead. AU should take the
lead in this matter and so in that context I think that the EU and the
international community should take a back seat and let the AU take leadership.
If the AU believes that sanctions are necessary to force the hands of the
military junta I think they should do that. But once the EU and the US and
other European powers are seen in the forefront, then it begins to challenge
the legitimacy of the AU," he said.
August 6 coup de'tat, which toppled President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh
Abdallahi, the country's first freely elected head of state, reportedly
prompted a freeze in World Bank lending and threats of sanctions by some
Western powers and the African Union.
the United States, the European Union as well as the African Union have
maintained their threats of more sanctions against the leaders of the military
junta unless they release the detained former Mauritanian president and restore
him to office.