Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gaddafi's fall and the African Union

Should Muammar Gaddafi's government fall - and things are looking like it will - this will mean an end to mass murder, an end to political oppression in Libya - but also and end to much of the African Union.

The African Union, created in 2001 by Gaddafi himself, unites 53 African states. It is modeled on the European Union, has an African Union Commission in Addis Abeba, Ethopia, and a Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa. Gaddafi's objectives in launching the African Union are questionable - after failed Libyan expansion attempts to Chad and financial and military involvement in many other countries, his aims were certainly not only generous. In 2009, he served a year as African Union chairman himself; after missing reelection, he "criticized the AU for "tiring" him with long meetings and making declarations and reports without asking him." But Gaddafi provided 15% of the African Union membership fees, according to Geoffrey York from the Globe and Mail. Below, a chart of what else he financed.

Picture Source:

Besides giving funding, the Libyan revolution leader was a fervent supporter of the Pan-African movement in ideological terms (he had his reasons, having failed to win favor of the Arab League countries, to the point that he hissed in 1998 that the "Arab world is finished"). Laura Seay, a political scientist at Morehouse College in Atlanta who specializes in African politics, esteems that “without Gadhafi, the pan-African movement is dead.” She does not see anybody with the personal conviction and the financial resources to fill the gap. The African Union is already facing financial difficulties; without Gaddafi's money and support, it may be difficult to sustain much of its activity.

Maybe the EU could give a hand to the African Union?


  1. Very interesting thoughts! With yur last question, I do not think that the EU will give decisive hand. Firstly, there would be a need for a cooperated foreign policy, which the EU lacks. They cannot even agree that should they have a summit with the Eastern or with the Southern neighbours? Also, it would be interference into some post-colonial politics of some member states which I think would not be happy about it. Secondly, EU is not a charity organization, we would like to see it as one, but I do not think that it wants really to do more commitments to Central Africa. Thirdly, a united Africa is not necessarily a dream of the EU, as now it can deal with countries one by one. A united Africa would create a greater opposition in certain fields, like the CAP or other trade policies. In addition, strong European companies are happy about the chaos in Africa as it is, unfortunately. Lastly, Europe is now trying to actually build up itself, uniting another and more divided continent would be the last thing the EU would want on its back.

    China will definetely not care about it, US also does not necessarily need a strong Africa either. It might come strangely but if I would have to place a bet, I would put it on South American countries as for them a united Africa would be beneficial, they could strengthen their world position, especially Brazil, they could learn from each other while building up economic and political partnerships in both continents and also African countries could give a better and stronger support for South American claims against the EU and the US.

  2. hello Gabor, I refuse to be a realist and so I will be a little more optimistic than you are.

    Yes, the EU is not the fastest actor in crisis management, no doubt about that. The new institutions don't really change it either. But the fact that we have an extraordinary European Council on the question of Libya next week is a step in the right direction. Will Heads of State agree to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya? We will see.

    Where the EU is undoubtedly better is quiet diplomacy through the attribution of funding. The EU certainly has the means to give more help to the African Union if it can unblock 20 mln EUR for humanitarian aid with a single tweet.

    But you're right in questioning if it has the interest to do so. I would respond that the EU has an interest in a stable Africa without crisis - and it shows at least a tiny concern for fulfilling the Millenium Development Goals as well. To achieve these, African countries need a better transport infrastructure, increased possibilities for intra-African trade (as opposed to their current export-orientation towards the world markets) and advances in the establishment of political institutions. The African Union can provide some of these in a way that allows African development without too much European interference. At the same time, the African Union has been modeled on the European Union, so it would seem straightforward that the EU should give some kind of moral and financial support.

  3. I hope you will be right. It will be very interesting actually that what will be on the agenda of the emergency European Council...

    Quick question about this no-fly zone: is it actually decided by the SC in the UN? I don't really see China supporting it as they are very strongly against domestic interference. In addition, some polls show that the revolutionaries don't want any help from outside countries...

    With economic development, China would be more than happy to help. They don't ask questions, they are happy to give loans without any additional requirements. Hillary Clinton also emphasized in her last press conference the fact that China is taking over leadership in the world economy as now it is the biggest lender of the world. This is actually something, that noone can predict but I stick to my point, that I think Brazil could take an advantage of the situation to strengthen its world position, especially in UN and WTO matters by building closer partnerships with African countries. Maybe just once, we should let the developing world to sort out its own problems and don't create new ones for them. However, a close watch is essential to avoid humanitarian disaster.