African solutions limping along in South Sudan

What does the phrase “African solutions for African problems” really mean? In respect of African peace and security, it reflects a deep frustration with international engagement in Africa.

That international engagement either being lacking or lacklustre. Or serving the purposes of international interests other than our own.

Thus, finally, the provision in the African Union’s Constitutive Act for the right of AU intervention in a member state in which international crimes — crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes — are being committed.

Which is not to imply that such intervention was unprecedented in practice. In 1978, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere intervened militarily in Uganda to overthrow the regime of Idi Amin Dada.

The then Organisation of African Union hardly fell over itself in protest. Collectively, the OAU as a whole proceeded to intervene militarily, with the French, in Chad in 1984. And in Western Sahara in 1984 — leading to Morocco’s formal withdrawal from the OAU.

The foreign policy interests of all these military interventions are as debatable and diverse as the foreign policy interests of any external intervention in Africa. Whether there is any fundamental difference in approach and strategy is equally debatable.

The whole world now sings from the liberal peace songbook: Stabilisation and state-building — the latter inevitably becoming formulaic. The eventual fallout from such political settlements has become entirely predictable.

Which brings us to the ongoing and unnecessary tragedy of South Sudan. The first Cessation of Hostilities agreement did not hold, was indeed ignored to the point of worse violations of human rights being committed following its signing than before. The ink has barely dried on the second ceasefire agreement and still hostilities continue.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development has suspended the negotiations yet again. Belligerence and intransigence continue — as the rest of the international community ratchets up its use of sticks to both get the parties to the conflict to politically settle — and ensure their forces stop running amok on the bodies and lives of ordinary South Sudanese. To no avail. Individual sanctions are not yet working.

Meanwhile, the AU’s Commission of Inquiry has finally been to South Sudan — but only in Juba. It finally has a technical team — but only three investigators. It is finally meeting with South Sudanese civil society and stakeholders beyond the parties to the conflict — but in Nairobi.

What explains the slow pace of Africa’s mediation and investigations processes? Are Igad and AU member states unable to exercise enough leverage on the parties to the conflict to get them to reach a political settlement themselves?

If so, are they not able to co-ordinate, guide and lead the racheting up of external leverage in a purposeful direction? Is the Commission of Inquiry not getting the resourcing it needs from the AU?

African solutions are not yet delivering for the people of South Sudan. A more productive alignment of interests and collaboration is needed to ensure that they do. Quickly.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa. This column is written in her personal capacity.

SOURCE: The East African