PRIME Minister Raila Odinga yesterday criticized the African Union over its handling of Libyan crisis leading to the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Raila who spoke at opening of the 4th ordinary session of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the AU at Hilton hotel in Nairobi said prevarication by the AU on both the Libyan situation as well as Ivory Coast before it, had occasioned more deaths and embarrassment of African people.
He said through its inaction, the AU - which he compared to its failed predecessor OAU - created a vacuum which necessitated NATO's involvement and reinforced the impression that Africans cannot solve own problems. He said this was the case in Ivory Coast where France had to sent troops to rout out Laurent Gbagbo from power.
“Only two weeks ago, the reign and life of one of Africa's most flamboyant leaders and one of AU's biggest financiers ended in a hail of bullets, after the loss of thousands of other lives. Once again, the AU stood by as the world accused Gaddafi of butchering his own people. It took NATO troops to intervene in Libya to put an end to the Gaddafi regime. Developments such as intervention by foreign governments add nothing to our desire as African people to shape our own destiny and raise our standing among nations,” Raila said.
He told the conference of his experience at the swearing in of Ivory Coast's president Alassane Outtara where French president Nicholas Sarkozy received the biggest accolades in form of wild cheers by the people more than African leaders. Raila said there was no reason why AU could not sent troops to Libya in the face of popular people's revolt. This would have put off NATO. He said he “talked, talked and talked” of a similar need to sent troops to Ivory Coast to route Gbagbo but he was not listened to.
“I hope we have learned that the AU must be proactive. It must stand up for Africa's people, and it must prove that it is not the same old OAU that was so well known for its inaction and its solidarity with African leaders in the face of excesses committed against own people,” he said.
Before him, trade unionist Francis Atwoli had criticized NATO's involvement in Libya saying it left no room for compromise between the two sides. He said if it were left to Africans, a compromise of sorts would have been reached which would have avoided deaths. ECOSOCC presiding chair Akere Muna had also accused the West of “sometimes not looking into the mirror.” He criticized the West for not going after its banks which “handle stolen goods” in form of swindled African taxpayers money.
But Raila insisted Africans should stop blaming the West for their own inaction and prevarication in solving continental problems. He said doublespeak and intransigence on the part of AU is what has been escalating problems and attracting outside help. He congratulated Tunisia for holding successful elections and appealed to Egypt to follow suit. During yesterday's session, speakers paid glowing tribute to the late Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai who was the first presiding chair of the interim ECOSOCC.
ECOSOCC is basically a parliament of diverse African non-state actors drawn from the civil society who advise the AU on its policies and programs. Maathai acted as interim presiding chair from 2005, a year after it was formed. Maathai's interim mandate was to organize a continent-wide election to establish a permanent general assembly which the representative of AU Commission yesterday described she did with unmistakable integrity, candor and courage. The assembly was inaugurated in 2008 and is in Nairobi to hold mid-term elections.