Last week, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon declared famine in 2 regions of Somalia. The ‘f-word’ is hardly used, and comes as the ‘Horn of Africa’ is experiencing its worst drought in six decades. 5 other regions are on the brink of famine. Tens of thousands of people have already died of malnutrition.
At the end of 2010, a crisis was predicted in that region but nothing was done. Relief agencies have an estimated money gap of about $800m on one hand, and the menacing Al-Shabab militia group on the other hand to contend with as they race to prevent more deaths.
When British Prime Minister David Cameron came to Nigeria on a working visit, President Jonathan was asked about the crisis in Somalia at a news conference. His response was: ‘what crisis?’. This sums up the response of other leading nations on the continent, the African Union in general.
This is not the first time the AU will fail Africans. It is not the second, or third time. It will not be the last. They failed to put pressure on election-stealing, opposition-brutalising incumbents in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Kenya. The Arab Spring has largely passed them by. When Gaddafi began to kill his own countrymen, the AU was silent, preferring appeasement, only to cry ‘interference!’ when the West took charge.
This is not a surprise. About half of the 53 (soon to be 54) member states have sit-tight and corrupt rulers, making it difficult to act decisively against injustice.
Once again, they sit on their hands while Somalians die daily. Once again, they are content to mouth platitudes while western aid agencies and governments take centre stage, then scream ‘imperialism!’ when it is convenient for them to do so.
This kind of hypocrisy will take this continent nowhere. Until African leaders take responsibility for the well-being of africans, problems like Somalia will never be solved. To be very honest, Western governments only get involved to their extent of their own interests. Only africans will ultimately build their continent.
Somalians need help now, and the AU has another opportunity to show that it can be useful. It shouldn’t be wasted.