HARARE – Whatever its shortcomings, perceived or real — the African Union (AU) has proven most people wrong by being very decisive on the Egyptian crisis.
AU has been accused of trailing other foreign bodies on African issues that needed its quick reaction. It also stands accused of allowing the passing of the resolution that allowed Western powers to intervene in Libya while its seemingly traditional allies like China and Russia betrayed them when it mattered most.
The decision by the AU to suspend Egypt until it respects its Constitution heralded a new era in the management of African affairs and commitment to democracy and constitutionalism which may be a warning to all potentially errant States who may want to take power through unconstitutional means.
In its decision to suspend Egypt, the bloc’s Peace and Security Council sent a clear message that there must be restitution of constitutional order.
“The council reiterates the AU’s condemnation and rejection of any illegal seizure of power and that “the overthrow of the democratically elected president does not conform to the relevant provisions of Egypt’s Constitution, and therefore falls under the definition of an unconstitutional change of government.”
This bold declaration is what is needed to ensure that nation States respect their citizens and constitutions for a progressive and prosperous future.
It is now playing the role of an African police which all States have agreed on.
On the contrary the much famed and usually celebrated promoter of democracy and rule of law — the United States of America failed to condemn the illegal move by the military to seize power and arrest of a democratically-elected leader Mohammed Mursi.
The failure by Barack Obama to denounce the coup on a legitimately constituted government and suspend military aid from his country smacks of double standards and brings to the fore the question of whether the US is committed to democracy or it is just using that yardstick to punish regimes that it does not approve of.
This was a big test case for Obama, but he chose a middle of the road approach by only urging a swift return to civilian government and ordering US review of aid.
This was seen as a reflection of fear that if he took sides then it might fuel violence mainly from Islamic militants who strongly resent the US.
It may also point to the fact that the pitfalls of being seen as all powerful is actually catching all the blame and that America learnt one or two things from the Arab spring.
It leant that it is much better to tread carefully and avoid ?being sucked deeply into conflicts as the whole Middle East and Arab world is now a trail of destruction and unfinished business stretching from Iraq to Tunisia and Libya.
In all these countries the huge cost of foreign-backed interventions have led to prolonged periods of instability and violence which have huge costs on the American government.
Some analysts have began questioning the US stance in Egypt arguing that while it is maintaining a wait and see attitude by failing to condemn a military overthrow of a democratically elected government — this automatically undermines all its officials who are on a daily basis preaching the importance of human rights and democracy throughout the world.
Its support of democracy is conditional and its sincerity is extremely doubtful.
The White House could only urge a return to civilian authority and not condemn the coup.
“Members of the president’s national security team have been in touch with Egyptian officials and our regional partners to convey the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible”.
This is uncharacteristic of the vigour that is associated with its promotion of human rights and democracy.
After all a democratic State seems to be the one that protects US interests.