The African Union (AU) has existed for fifty years now, it started out as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 then disbanded to African Union in 2002. Throughout the years the Organisation has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The organisation has put in place different mechanisms to protect and preserve human rights.
One of the main objectives of AU is to protect human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. It’s February of 2019 and AU has so far failed to deal with human rights violations in countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan.
On 14th of January that is last month, Zimbabwean people started protesting after the government announced a 130% increase in fuel price. People took to the streets not only to protest against fuel prices but basic commodities like bread and cooking oil. It will be bias not to mention that there were pockets of violence during protests, a police station was set ablaze and police officers injured. In response the government sent armed soldiers who unleashed a deadly attack killing 17 people. There were also reports of women being raped by the soldiers and numerous activists, protestors and opposition political party members were detained. The government even shutdown internet services in effort to prevent people sharing videos of soldiers and police beating civilians.
Unsurprisingly the AU has not issued out any statement condemning the conspicuous human rights violations committed by the government of Zimbabwe. To make it worse the crisis was not a top agenda at the 32nd Africa summit held from 9 to 11 February.
In Sudan protests have been going on since December of 2018, Sudanese have been protesting the abrupt rise in living costs. Just like in many African countries the government of Omar al-Bashir unleashed the brutal force of the army and police. It is reported that 45 people have been killed and numerous activists arrested. On 30 December 2018 Moussa Faki who is the chairperson of the African Union Commission issued out a statement on Sudan. Instead of rightly condemning the government of Sudan Moussa Faki called for all political leaders in Sudan to act with collective responsibility towards achieving peace. Moussa Faki could at least have condemned the actions of al-Bashir government, this leaves the big question of if the AU can act in any way to protect human rights.
The year is not even halfway and already the AU has proved to be weak and incompetent in protecting people’s rights. If the AU cannot merely condemn blatant abuse of citizens’ rights can it possibly lead Africa out of poverty? It is very difficult to be optimistic about AU’s success in the near future because so far it has proved to be corrupt and incompetent. Looking at how it has handled human rights violations this year there is no wondering why some dub it “the dictators club”.
Fungai Aviton Ndongwe