On September 23, Burkina Faso’s interim President, Michel Kafando, was formally reinstated following a military coup carried out by presidential guards, the loyalists of the former President Blaise Compaore. Immediately after the coup, African Union (AU) took the leading role in condemning the coup and demanding the restoration of civilian rule. As a result, it suspended Burkina Faso from the AU and threatened to impose sanctions on the coup leaders if they didn’t release the political prisoners and return the transitional government to power.
Following suit, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional body, led by Senegalese President Macky Sall did likewise, increasing the pressure on the coup leader. The relentless pressure worked because interim President Michel Kafando is now back in power.
The credit for the restoration of democratic rule belongs to both AU and ECOWAS. So what does this mean in terms of Pan-Africanism philosophy?
The philosophy of Pan-Africanism primarily refers to the unity of Africans. This unity fosters the aggregation of the historical, cultural, spiritual, artistic, scientific and philosophical legacies of Africans from the past times to the present. Although Pan-Africanism today intends to fight off racism and neo-colonialism while promoting African solidarity, it demands that Africans themselves solve their own problems caused by fellow Africans.
There are various African regional bodies, such as AU, which ought to take the primary role. Pan-Africanism is not limited to fighting off hegemony of neocolonialists but also to resist problems created by some Africans who want to serve their selfish motives. However, it goes without saying that some Africans act as stooges of neocolonialists to cause some of the continental problems, especially when it comes to power struggles. Pan-Africanism is premised on finding solutions to a myriad of problems, no matter the source of influence or catalysis. Reinstatement of Burkina Faso’s interim leader is one of the most recent achievements out of African efforts. This achievement indeed reflects one of the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
The philosophy of Pan-Africanism is equally depicted in establishing Extraordinary African Chambers, jointly, by Senegal and African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Hissène Habré ruled Chad.
After Idriss Deby deposed him in 1990 he sought asylum in Senegal. On September 7, Habré appeared before the Extraordinary African Chambers on charges of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Initially, Senegal was unwilling to bring him to justice citing some legal hurdles. But because of pressure from the international community and AU, in particular, ultimately an agreement was reached between Senegal and African Union to establish a court to try him. The court is operating under the auspices of Senegal and African Union.
Despite the pressure on Senegal to hand him over to Belgium, one must laud Senegal and African Union for ensuring that this court was put in place. Whether the court was established under pressure, or not, it is much better than not having it and having heinous crimes going unpunished. This particular case is a fair portrayal of the Pan-African philosophy.
The reality is that the African Union is trying to end impunity. Impunity is defined as exemption or freedom from punishment, harm or loss. The African Union is sending a clear message that immunity is not impunity.
However, more needs to be done for a number of African countries being plagued by crises, such as Libya, South Sudan, Burundi, Central African Republic and Somalia to name but a few. In particular, the African Union needs to put pressure on the antagonistic parties in South Sudan to live up to the recently signed power-sharing agreement.
In order to realise the philosophy of Pan-Africanism, African leaders ought to constantly watch out for threats against their people’s sovereignty and unity. More than ever, cultivating Pan-Africanism is in African hands. Yet, at this time, more than ever, it is imperative for Africa to be vigilant against the persistent influence of outsiders, as well as our fellow Africans, who desire to put their selfish interests above the common good. When Africans overcome their differences and unite, then true Pan-Africanism will be realised.
The writer is a lecturer and international law expert