Since the disbandment of the Organisation of African Union(OAU) in 2002 to the new African Union (AU), there are still serious question in how effective the continental bloc operates. The former body was regarded as a ‘Dictators Club’, an expensive talk shop where former colonial heroes would preach on independence, yet stand by and watch the violation of human rights and corruption by their neighbours. Long standing wars such as in Angola, or the gross failure to intervene during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, admitted by the OAU as being ‘a shocking moral failure’, the creation of the AU was a way to prevent this happening again.
However since the inauguration of the AU, there hasn’t been enough done in Darfur despite the leaps taken forward in troop deployments from a paltry 150 to over 7 000 between 2004-2009 (however still poorly equipped to deter the Janjaweed), the downfall of Zimbabwe by President Mugabe has been allowed to continue until 2009, which points to the body not yet being capable of performing what it aims to be.
There are currently two big issues facing the AU, firstly the Madagascar Crisis of 2009, where former president Marc Ravalomanana was ordered to leave by the military, who in turn installed his rival Andry Rajoelina. This was effectively a coup d’état, a move announced as unconstitutional by the Southern African Development Community, however the African Union has only suspended their membership and they called it ‘an internal issue’, something made more complicating by the fact that the current head of the AU, Colonel Gaddafi informed Rajoelina that Libya would recognise his government. 6 months have passed since the events unfolded, and the threat of sanctions by the AU if democratic rule had not been returned within this time frame has elapsed, and no sanctions are being applied, whilst the Maputo talks on a transitional government are ongoing. Lack of ending this impasse swiftly shows that not much has changed in the attitude and effectiveness of the AU.
The Guinean Crisis of 2008 is still rumbling on, upon the death of former president of 24 years, Lansana Conte, the military headed by Captain Moussa Camara assumed power, and despite promises of wanting to return the country back to civilian rule, he has shown signs of digging his heels and staying in power. Apart from the abolishment of the constitution, and of political and union activity, he has shown his dark side, on September 28, during a protest against the prolonged stay of the military junta, at least 159 protesters were killed when live fire was sprayed into crowds, and there were reports of rape in the streets by Captain Camara’s troops. With no end in sight to the junta relinquishing power, and the idleness of the AU that watches this happen clearly illustrates the capacity of the AU is not enough to contain such incidents.
At the worst, the AU may find itself a proxy for ‘foreign’ influences taking the lead and heralding back neo-colonialism, where more prominent powers outside the continent will take it upon themselves to solve problems that the AU cannot.