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  • Endris Mekonnen Faris

Lack of good governance: African Union’s sustained challenge

AU the descendent of OAU

Two important factors are believed to take firm hold in the successful foundation of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), namely the notion of decolonization and Pan-Africanism. European nations colonized Africa from the late 19th century until the late 20th century. The European imperialist push into Africa could be explained by three categories: economic, political, and social. At the end of the 19th century, European powers colonized all of Africa with the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia.

The inhabitants of the continent resisted and fought for their independence from the very time that the colonization started. Alongside the continent-wide collaborated freedom movements and success in gaining independence the concept of Pan-Africanism was spreading all over the continent. Finally, the colony-free countries with strong Pan-Africanism inspiration sparked the materialization of the Organization for African Unity (OAU). The organization of African Unity joined the stream of international organizations on May 25, 1963.

International Governmental organizations are defined as “association of States established by and based upon a treaty, which pursues common aims and which has its own special organs to fulfill particular functions within the organization.” The OAU represented in theory, both functionally and organizationally, a combined blueprint of the Charter and structure of the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The OAU was then officially transformed into AU in Durban, South Africa July 2002 with African leaders aiming to harmonize the economic and political policies of all African nations in order to improve Pan-African welfare, and provide Africans with a solid voice in international affairs inspired and is modeled on the blueprint of EU.


OAU/AU is now a 60 years old intergovernmental regional organization. This age is more than enough for an organization to bring valuable change to the nation it believes is serving. But this long-time existence of the organization is full of controversies. Except few, many of its established objectives are still far from bringing any change that affects the continent positively. Some question its existence saying what is after all the purpose of establishing an organization in the name of the people of the continent if it is not working hard in realizing these objectives.


Lack of Good Governance and Leading by Example

International multilateral development institutions define good governance as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.” The African Development Bank also describes it as a process referring to the way in which power is exercised in the management affairs of a nation. Good governance has also been described as the striving for rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, participation, equity, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, and strategic vision in the exercise of political, economic, and administrative authority.

An international organization’s prosperity and success are a reflection of good governance and charismatic leadership. Transparency, accountability, and active participation are supposed to be the basic and pillar principles of good governance. Both individual and collective techniques of leadership intertwined with scientific good-governance lead to the assurance of the beneficiary of the people.

The globe witnesses this hard fact to happen. There are several international organizations with varieties of established objectives and activities that can be taken as a role model in which one of the key secrets of their achievements could be explained in terms of good governance and charismatic leadership. Most Western intergovernmental and international organizations are practical examples of this.


The failure of the OAU and previous development programs to improve the standard of governance in Africa has placed high expectations on the AU. Learning from the past, AU made a move and come up with substantial improvements toward good governance. It articulated and has given the due emphasis that good governance has an irreplaceable role in realizing the established objectives of the organization which in turn will mark the prosperity of the continent and the nation at large addressing African unity, containing, terminating, and preventing conflicts; creating a larger African market; and finding innovative ways of addressing the continent’s galaxy of intractable challenges, including debt, corruption, the scourge of HIV/AIDS, environmental decay, and good governance.

Although the continental organization has a new name, the AU may simply is the same old wine in new bottles far from manifesting the practicality of good governance and leading by example. The AU is composed of the very countries that constituted the OAU and the very leaders that perpetuated bad governance and brutally suppressed human rights. This makes it difficult to see just how different the AU is from the OAU.


Bad governance results from corrupted leadership. Bad governance includes governments that are ineffective and inefficient, not transparent, not responsive to the people, not held accountable for their actions, inequitable and exclusive to the elites, non-participatory; do not respect rule of law, and lacking consensus-driven policies. Accordingly, leaders in Africa were/are most corrupted and prioritize their self-esteem over the shared esteem of the people they rule. Virtually all the leaders of member states neither peacefully came to power nor were democratically elected. They also are authoritarian, dictators and have been in power indefinitely in their respective statehoods.

Some analysts argue that, even though institutionalization of democratic governance is a big challenge, AU has displayed a remarkable record over the last decades mentioning the role of AU’s participation in election observation in some member states and its role in peacekeeping activities in the continent. However, this cannot be taken as a generalization that the organization has been performing best as far as good governance and leading by example are taken into account.


Closing remarks

The objectives in establishing IGOs are closely linked to the aims of bringing about the improved functioning of the interstate system, as well as facilitating cooperation between states without affecting their sovereignty. This was the main factor that gave birth to the organization of African Unity and/or African Union. Even though its establishment met the very logic of international organizations AU fell short of addressing the massive and deep-rooted nationwide accumulated problems. It can easily be understood that after 60 years of existence as a huge organization, the former OAU and the now AU is not in a state that can be said it is efficient and effective organization.

Despite all these complicated problems, AU is still one of the ideal means via which African people can see their prosperous future. These are the crucial potentials that the nation of the continent using AU as a central tool can achieve their goals. The AU could not, however, be an effective and efficient organization unless it introduces a vibrant reform in good governance and is committed to its practicality to bring about an enduring change.

References

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