AU must now act beyond being an elite club

Deputy President William Ruto held a meeting with the AU-COMESA Election Observer Mission who congratulated Kenya and voters for a peaceful election.

My late grandmother Beldinah Okoth wallowed in wisdom. One evening during a bunter by the fire place, she told me point blank that a man’s true character never changes.

Nilotic speakers have an adage that says a wild cat will retain its identity even if slaughtered and pan-fried in adorable spices. When served, it will still be the wild cat, not beef or mutton.  

My granny believed the world is what it is and nothing changes it, not even flowery language, a feigned character metamorphosis and the innocuous faces we may wear. Her art of plain-speak about life charms me to date, seen against many life situations.    

We are almost done with the polls. Cheers to country men and women for the peace. However, what elected leaders will do with their offices is up to them.

Granted, life will continue in Kenya, just like in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil or Rodrigo Duterte’s heartland of the Philippines.

This week, attention has once again shifted to Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation. This is after the World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave world leaders a dress-down for ignoring the bloody conflict in Tigray.

Terming the Tigray conflict the worst disaster, the WHO chief said he had not heard in the last few months any head of state talk about the Tigray situation in the developed world.

Ghebreyesus, himself a Tigrayan, suggests that inaction by world leaders could be due to the skin colour of the victims.

He questions the mismatch in global attention to the Ethiopia and Ukraine-Russia situations. But in the traditional flippant style, Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed disapproves of the WHO boss’ concerns.

Truth is truth, just like the aforementioned wild cat that retains its distinctiveness to the end. I am a proponent of an open-minded world who appreciates the power and otherwise of skin colour.

Racial hate, however, isn’t an excuse for nations or continents to abdicate their responsibility.

Lack of bold actions to unshackle Ethiopia from chains of a senseless civil war that began in November 2020 is disquieting.

More than nine million people need food aid, three million are displaced as women and children make risky journeys to safety.

WFP says half of pregnant women in Tigray are malnourished, as well as a third of children under five.

Africa Union (AU), the elite club headquartered in Ethiopia has turned the other way as the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces tear each other, leading to widespread human rights violations, including mass murders and sexual violence.

It is an open secret that African nations are fraying at the edges due to impunity. Abuse of power by the political class is unmatched. Recent events confirm worrying trends. AU must now assert itself by overseeing a peaceful resolution. It isn’t too late to do the right thing and get it right.

Abiy’s regime says it’s open to talks and the regional forces have demanded nothing short of a credible, impartial and principled peace process.

What is seemingly lacking is a nonstop push by the UN, AU and the larger international community to tilt the balance in favour of lasting peace.

Failure to rise to the occasion by the international community can fuel atrocities in a big way. Rwanda, Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan were abandoned at their hour of need, leaving a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.

Africa must rise to the occasion and make peace a priority. If not, it will be stranded at the lower end of the social, political and economic pecking order.

Only this will beat the lopsided handling of the race issue by the world.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo