AU needs better leaders – Obasanjo

2011-05-07 17:13

Former Nigerian president ­Olusegun Obasanjo says the African Union (AU) needs better quality leaders in order to deal with the “disconcerting deterioration” of governance on the ­continent.

Obasanjo spoke to City Press exclusively after the launch of the Africa Progress Panel’s (APP) 2011 report in Cape Town. ­

Obasanjo is a member of the ­panel. He said the AU had forgotten the lessons learned from the Organisation for ­African Unity – the body it replaced.

“We need to change the personality and personnel of the AU by getting a former head of state with the necessary respect of ­African leaders who can?.?.?.?effectively engage with them.”

He said the present situation, where (without referring to him by name) Jean Ping, a former ­Gabonese diplomat, was head of the AU Commission, was rendering Africa’s supreme collective body ineffectual in dealing with the continent’s growing problems of governance and conflict.

“We have allowed the standards set by the AU constitutive act to deteriorate. We must go back to the original intent of having a former head of state in charge. A mistake has been made and we need to correct it,” said Obasanjo.

“Look at what has happened in the Ivory Coast and North Africa. The AU was powerless. What sort of an organisation is that?”

In its report the APP says “Africa continues to rank as the world region least at peace”.

The report also points out that six of the nine presidential elections held in Africa last year were won by incumbents, some of whom have been in power for well over two decades.

In fact, 22 of Africa’s 53 current heads of state have served more than two terms in office.

“The time is up for these leaders,” said Obasanjo.

The progress panel concludes that “nearly two-thirds (of African states) have seen disconcerting deterioration in political participation, human rights, physical security and the rule of law over that past year.

“Parliaments, opposition parties and civil society organisations are still too weak in many African countries to provide effective checks and balances to entrenched political elites.”

It says the gap between political leaders and their people is growing, as is the gap between new middle-class elites and the poor.

“Most security challenges in Africa continue to be a direct result of weak and poor governance, including the absence of effective state institutions,” says the report.

“The ongoing spread of terrorism and organised crime includes drug trafficking and illicit trade, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the pervasiveness of piracy around the Horn of ­Africa.”

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