A two-day conference on April 2-3 in Belgium was not attended by several key African leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Eritrea and Sudan. The European Union (EU) by-passed guidelines set down by one of the leading organs of the African Union (AU), the Peace and Security Council, in convening and carrying out the summit.
Held under the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace,” advanced no real initiatives for the continent. At present the EU is deepening its military interventions on the continent and examining send soldiers into the volatile situation inside the Central African Republic (CAR).
It was reported by the conveners of the Summit that 36 African heads-of-state were in attendance. The AU has 54 members all of whom are independent with the exception of the people of the Western Sahara who are still under Moroccan occupation.
Morocco, which withdrew from the AU over the recognition of the Sahawari Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the Western Sahara, along with Egypt, that was suspended in the aftermath of the military coup on July 3, 2013, were invited to the gathering. The EU announced earlier on that they would not in invite the AU as a regional body, but only individual African states.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was contemplating not to attend due to the visa denial of his security director. Eventually Brussels relented and granted the visa.
Kenyan Foreign Affairs principal secretary Karinja Kibicho told the Zimbabwe Herald that “The trip had earlier been cancelled by State House due to the unexplained refusal by Belgium to issue an EU travel visa to the head of presidential security. The refusal of a visa for a vital member of the Kenyan delegation sent the wrong signal that the EU is in a position even to dictate even the security arrangements of African heads of state.” (April 3)
This same article went on to say that “These actions in their totality make for an unfortunate precedent in the proper running of international relations. The government notes that if indeed the EU-Africa Summit is intended to advance mutual interests, such a worthwhile goal must be rooted in the recognition that Africa and EU countries are meeting in Brussels as partners and equals.”
President Joyce Banda of Malawi did not attend the summit either. Banda is the chairperson of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Summit Could Lead to Greater European Military Intervention
Prior to the convening of the EU-Africa Summit, a crisis gathering was held on April 1 involving the current political and security crisis inside the Central African Republic (CAR). 13 European states and 12 African nations attended pre-Summit talks along with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
In the aftermath of this meeting, the EU announced that it was establishing a long-discussed military mission in the CAR. The plan is to deploy 1,000 EU troops which would join another 12,000 soldiers coordinated by the United Nations.
At present there are an estimated 8,000 foreign forces occupying the CAR including 2,000 troops from France, the former colonial power in the mineral-rich state. Despite the presence of French soldiers and 6,000 allied African troops, violence against the minority Muslim population is continuing.
Approximately one-quarter of the overall population of less than five million has been displaced. Thousands more people within the Muslim community remained trapped even in the capital of Bangui.
The new interim government of President Catherine Samba-Panza and Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke was installed in January after the forced resignation of Michel Djotodia who headed the Muslim-dominated Seleka Coalition. Seleka took control of the capital of Bangui in March 2013 after France refused to provide any security assistance to the ousted government of Francois Bozize.
EU Foreign Policy Minister Catherine Ashton indicated that the deployment of troops would take place in a relatively short time, although no firm date was set. According to Ashton, the EU has a firm “determination to take full part in international efforts to restore stability and security in [CAR’s capital city] Bangui and…across the Central African Republic.” (DW, April 1)
“It is vital that there is a return to public order as soon possible, so that the political transition process can be put back on track,” Ashton said. Nonetheless, the enhanced intervention of France with the logistical support of the United States has worsened the security and humanitarian situation inside the CAR.
Food assistance pledged by the UN has not been forthcoming as Muslim shopkeepers and traders have fallen victim to the Christian-dominated Anti-Balaka militias who have facilitated the looting of businesses and the disruption of transport routes. The UN estimates that some 19,000 Muslims still remain in mortal danger while tens of thousands of others have fled to nearby Chad and Cameroun.
The presence of both Chadian and French troops has drawn widespread opposition throughout the CAR within both the Christian and Muslim communities. During the EU-Africa Summit, Chad announced that it was withdrawing its military forces from the CAR.
France has been accused of siding with the Christian community and not actively pursuing the armed Anti-Balaka militias. Chad, on the other hand, has been charged with favoring the Muslims in their efforts to transport people out of the capital and other areas where there have been violent campaigns against Islamic neighborhoods, mosques and businesses.
Chadian troops were accused in the shooting deaths of 30 CAR civilians. Chad denied that the events were unprovoked and that their forces were fired upon first.
The U.N. said that the response by the Chadian forces were disproportionate to the danger involved. Ban Ki-moon visited the CAR for the first time since the large-scale intervention of France and regional African peacekeeping forces on April 5 and warned that the country must not become another Rwanda where hundreds of thousands were killed twenty years ago.
Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.