Compare the speed and vehemence of the AU’s response to the indictments of al-Bashir and Kenyatta to the speed of its mobilisation against Ebola.
Most importantly, the AU’s lackadaisical response is embarrassing because it comes in the wake of years of protestations regarding its “sovereignty”, “solidarity” and “self-determination” in light of the International Criminal Court’s issuance of warrants for Presidents Omar al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyatta. Compare the speed and vehemence of the AU’s response to the indictments of al-Bashir and Kenyatta (left) to the speed of its mobilisation against Ebola. A few months after the court issued a warrant of arrest against al-Bashir, the AU had issued a statement condemning the warrant. Meanwhile, in response to the Kenyatta indictment, the AU has not just issued statements but organised various sessions and summits and called for punitive action against the ICC, including inviting African members of the court to withdraw.
In contrast, almost no resources or demonstrations of solidarity have been mobilised in reaction to Ebola. An extraordinary session of the AU was organised in Addis Ababa in September, but the resolution that came from that meeting only further embarrassed the Union. For instance, it revealed how depleted the Special Emergency Assistance Fund for Drought and Famine is. It also pointed out that an unimplemented resolution on the establishment of an African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP) exists. And 9 months into the outbreak, it highlighted that the AU had still not developed a comprehensive strategy for member states beyond reiterating what other organisations were saying.
So, who cares about the most vulnerable in Africa – the poor who have been failed by hollowed-out institutions, who are being devastated by the disease? Is solidarity a luxury item? Does the African Union care about Africans? It’s hard to argue that the answer is yes when by all appearances the agency has capacity that it chose not to deploy to protect ordinary Africans. It seems, at best, that the AU is an agency with a leadership vacuum that does not have the funds or institutional capacity to respond to the most pressing issues facing ordinary Africans. At worst, it is a hobbled caricature of international cooperation that exists to protect power from the consequences of its excesses.