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09.02.2009 Africa

How will Gadaffi fare at the helm of the AU?

By AllAfrica

Fellow Africans, Another ritual for the African Union ended in Addis Ababa early this week. As expected, outgoing Chairman, Jakaya Kikwete handed over the baton to the incoming Chair, Muammar Gadaffi of Libya.

As usual, Gadaffi's flamboyance and showmanship almost overshadowed the main event; what with traditional rulers from a few countries in the continent hanging on his coattails chanting, "King of Kings! Hail the Chief! Hail Gadaffi"!

Like him or hate him; Gaddafi makes more sense in Africa than a myriad of despots who hardly manage to run the affairs of their countries in the interest of their nationals. At least in Gadaffi's empire; there are no rampant reports of corruption and oil is actually benefitting Libyan nationals even if Gaddafi may be the main beneficiary.

Compared to countries like Nigeria, Sudan and other oil-producing countries in Africa, Gadaffi can be considered a lesser devil when it comes to distribution of national resources. And yes, his generosity transcends Libyan territories. If you are in doubt, ask his disciples in 22 African countries together with his new-found friends in traditional rulers. They have benefitted financially from Gadaffi's humanitarian good neighbourliness.

However, now that Kikwete is out of the AU hot seat, how will Africa judge his performance? Has he moved the continent an inch from where John Kufuor left? Or was his, merely a play-safe-be-good-to-everybody then leave the office? It must be remembered that Kikwete took over the AU chairmanship at a very trying moment in Eastern Africa.

Kenya was immersed in unprecedented political crisis. Darfur in Sudan was still burning despite the AU and UN interventions. Somalia was volatile as usual with a besieged president unable even to use a handful of Ugandan and Ethiopian soldiers to sustain him in power.

Down South, the kleptocratic Bob Mugabe was still clinging to power despite losing the elections. Attempts to force him to share power failed for the better part of Kikwete's chairmanship despite prodding by the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations General Assembly not to mention the United States.

To tell you the truth, there is not much that Africa will remember Jakaya Kikwete for apart from being at the Peace Accord-signing ceremony in Nairobi in April last year following the election fiasco that Kenya went through. Even then, he came more or less as a messenger of super powers to coerce belligerent opponents into striking a deal because time was running out.

Kikwete has left Africa largely as he found it. He ruffled no feathers in Zimbabwe, Sudan or Mauritania. He turned a blind eye to the two coups that took place during his chairmanship. In other words, he was a perfect diplomat at the continental chair.

But perhaps the reason Kikwete behaved the way he did was because he had too many distractions back home in Tanzania. With spiraling corruption scandals popping up now and then; he became a besieged president at home trying to salvage his discredited regime. In so doing, he lost the entire cabinet, his prime minister and central bank governor to corruption.

For this reason, he spent the better part of 2008 not in Dar-es-Salaam running the government but in the regions mending fences with Tanzania's rural communities.

Now that Gadaffi has taken over, what should Africa expect in the next 12 months? I think Africa has reason to be optimistic and expect a lot. If for no other reason except that Gadaffi comes to the office with a clearly stated mission and vision for the continent.

He has the vision to obtain a union government for the continent. His dream is to see Africa competing on equal footing with the European Union, the United States , India and China; the four super economic powers when it comes to domestic market self-sustainability.

Gadaffi, like all of us, knows that of the 53 states in Africa the majority of them are not self-sustaining. These banana republics need to merge together to share resources and responsibilities to compete on the global arena.

Gadaffi knows that for 53 African states to sustain 53 missions in major world capitals is a waste of scarce resources they hardly have. Yes, one year is too short for Gadaffi to realise his goals but we know in that one year, he will push a defined agendum that he has unveiled to us.