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143 CHAPTER 9 African Solutions to African Problems TheFaultlineinConflictResolutioninAfrica Valery Ferim RATIONALE FOR ‘AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS’ For over a decade now, there has been an increase in calls, notably by African leaders, for ‘African solutions to African problems’. This has come in the wake of increasing concerns over foreign meddling in the internal affairs specifically of economically viable African countries. This slogan has gained popularity across the continent and is permeating deep into the strata of African communities. It is a noble idea, especially given the reluctance of Western powers to intervene specifically in poverty-stricken countries in Africa. The horrors of the genocide in Rwanda, for instance, could have been largely averted if African leaders had adopted a more proactive approach to conflict prevention. The international community stood by and watched with indifference as close to a million Tutsis were slaughtered in Rwanda within a hundred days.1 In addition to this, a plethora of woes still plague the African continent. Civil strife, drought, poverty, diseases, illiteracy , corruption and bad governance remain rife. All these fuel a precarious movement of non-state combatants across national borders and create havens for international terrorist and criminal syndicates within failed or failing states.2 African leaders thus have to face the stark reality that there is no free meal in international politics. Western intervention in African issues could thus largely be explained by realists, who place self-interest as a central component of inter-state relations. Realists argue that states cannot depend on others for their protection and survival.3 The principle of ‘African solutions to African problems’ thus implies a resurgence of African renaissance and a zeal to combat the tyrannical forces of neo-colonialism. In addition, it indicates a commitment by Africa leaders to retake control of the continent and be instrumental in influencing the socio-political and economic affairs of the region. 144 CHAPTER 9 Also, ‘African solutions to African problems’ is a recognition of the fact that African societies are different – their colonial history is unique, its societies heterogeneous, and its challenges daunting. Hence, there is (or at least there should be) an African model for development that is different from the Western path. Besides, regional and sub-regional actors often have a better understanding of their regions, the established cultures, the peoples, and their idiosyncrasies. This attribute becomes all the more important in conflict situations where an interlocutor’s comprehension of the people, as well as the underlying issues of the conflict often go a long way to determine the success of conflict resolution.4 It is against this backdrop that African leaders and scholars alike have repeatedly castigated Western intervention in African politics. The intervention by France in the conflict in Ivory Coast in 2011 that helped depose Laurent Gbagbo and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s intervention in Libya in 2011 that saw the overthrow of the long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi were largely condemned by African leaders. Similarly, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has incessantly opposed what he considers Western imperialism in Africa.5 He has persistently maintained that Western powers cannot dictate their policies on Zimbabwe. Similarly, according to former South African president Thabo Mbeki, ‘It’s critically important that the African continent should deal with these conflict situations …. We have not asked for anybody outside of the African continent to deploy troops in Darfur. It’s an African responsibility, and we can do it.’6 It is against this backdrop that African leaders have incessantly reiterated that the problems in Africa should be solved by Africans themselves. The growth of African renaissance over the past few decades thus ignited dreams that the continent shall overcome the perception and reality of Africa being a dark continent. However, the persistence of the continent’s darkness manifested in bad governance, corruption, underdevelopment, dependency, HIV/ AIDS and violent conflict, prompts the assumption that something seems to be wrong with African solutions. The question that arises is: what is the problem with African solutions to African problems? A CRITIQUE OF AFRICAN SOLUTIONS TO AFRICAN PROBLEMS The protracted nature of conflict in numerous states within the African continent questions the effectiveness of the peace and security architecture of the African Union (AU) and its numerous regional organisations and affiliates . Some of these include the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and even the New Economic Partnership for...


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