the au, without a regional hegemon, is toothless

On March 10th, 2011 the African Union (AU) declared Alassane Ouattara as the legitimately elected president of Ivory Coast. Outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo (who insists he won the poll) responded by ordering his soldiers to kill supporters of Mr. Ouattara.

Now the ball is back in the AU’s court. So far the regional body appears to be at sixes and sevens, unsure of how to react. Lacking a regional hegemonic benefactor, the AU has over the years been mostly bark and no bite. Its leadership reflects the confusion and ineptitude that characterize the Continental body. One of its recent leaders is Muamar Gaddafi. Presently it is led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea and this idiot’s guy’s dad.

Mr. Gbagbo has refused to step down or be part of a unity government led by Mr. Ouattara, as demanded by the AU. Increasingly isolated, he has nationalized the cocoa industry in a desperate attempt to get some cash to pay his loyalists. Cote d’Ivoire produces 40% of the world’s cocoa. He is also reported to be receiving help from Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Angola’s Jose Edwardo do Santos.

In an ideal world South Africa or Nigeria or even Ethiopia would have provided leadership and force whenever needed to ensure that AU resolutions are enforced. But Pretoria has a president in Zuma who shows no interest in foreign policy; his handling of the Zimbabwe crisis speaks volumes. Abuja is a mess, period and Ethiopia has first to eradicate famine before it can venture anywhere beyond Somalia.

Without an enforcement mechanism and a regional hegemonic benefactor, the AU’s resolutions will continue to be nothing but hot air.

Obiang is back in the news

The diminutive dictator Brig. Gen. (ret.) Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of  Equatorial Guinea since 1979, is back in the news. After the UNESCO fiasco which nearly earned him the title of clown of the month of June Obiang is back again in the news, this time with an American PR agent. The Times reports that Mr. Obiang is attempting to “recast his reputation as a corrupt, repressive leader in a more progressive mold.” His agent, Mr. Davis even told journalists that “If there are political prisoners and no substantive charges against them, they will be freed.”Yeah right.

I suggest that Mr. Davis and his client start by reining in on the playboy son of the president, Little Teodoro. The younger Obiang’s lavish extravagance explains why Equatorial Guinea, a country with a per capita income of US $ 36,600 and a population of just over 0.5 million, has a life expectancy of 43 years, with 77% of its citizens living below the poverty line as of 2006.

The ONE question Obiang should be asked the next time he meets the press is: how hard can it be to run a country of 500,000 people with ALL that money?