“We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.” This simple sentence came from a speech given by U.S. President Barack Obama in Ghana in 2009. Never has this premise rung more true than right now.
As Africa faces imminent threats in several regional situations, the trend seems to be moving in the direction of Africans settling disputes internally, without delegating decisions to Western or former colonial powers. Nations are coming to the aid of other nations and the African Union (AU) is posturing to maintain a larger influence on the continent than the United Nations (UN).
Two distinct situations currently ongoing are showing the growing power of regional agreements and the desire for consistent peace throughout Africa.
The first and possibly best example of a directional shift towards local abdication for support is the ongoing battle to regain Somalia from the grip of al-Shabbab. The combination of Kenyan troops and an AU coalition name AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) crossed into Somalia in late 2011. Since that time key cities such Mogadishu and the al-Shabbab stronghold in the port city of Kismayo have been liberated from militant control. This has led to the drafting of a new constitution, as well as the election of a president, prime minister and parliament in a land that has been virtually lawless since 1991.
All of this was accomplished by a unified African force, which succeeded where Western powers had failed in the past. The infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident or the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, coupled with other significant UN losses, forced the withdrawal of all foreign troops in 1995.
Now with al-Shabbab on the run, a highly successful coalition of African forces have begun to triumph and seize control, providing some semblance of development and a potentially bright future for a region that has known over two decades of war and anarchy. Even notorious Somali piracy is on the decline and a Puntland negotiation led to the release of 22 sailors who had been held in captivity for almost three years.
Another African nation has come to the forefront in recent weeks for its struggle against rebel forces. The Central African Republic (CAR) group, calling themselves Seleka, have taken several key cities and towns, including the diamond-rich city of Bria, over the last month. They claim that President Bozize failed to honor a peace deal from 2007 in which rebels who laid down their arms were to be paid; a situation eerily similar to that of neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebel group.
On January 2nd the rebels halted their advance on the capital city of Bangui due to an influx of neighboring troops blocking their path. A regional African force, FOMAC, is an alliance of troops from Gabon, Chad and Congo-Brazzaville, with soldiers from Cameroon expected by the end of the week. FOMAC’s leader, Jean-Felix Akaga, has adamantly stated that they would not allow the insurgents to enter the strategic town of Damara, which is the last defense between the rebels and the capital.
Although the rebels have fervently dismissed any attempts by President Bozize to negotiate a unified government to share power with Seleka, the fact that neighboring nations are intervening to prevent violence follows a pattern of African nations handling their own problems regionally. Despite calls by President Bozize to the U.S. and France for troops to help deter the rebellion, both nations denied the request, which then relinquished to the regional force.
These are just two examples of how African nations are becoming more unified in a mission of peace, both in regional and continental challenges. Lackluster international missions, such as MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the unwillingness of both Western and former colonial powers to intervene in African affairs has led to a rise in local resolutions towards peace and development. This provides a positive long-term outlook for the continent, as it becomes an initial step at unification and progressive development continent-wide, even in the most war-torn or poverty stricken regions such as CAR and Somalia.
If the African Union can maintain a united front for peace and security and regional coalitions can remain unified in maintain stability, then the whole of African, which is already showing signs of positive rapid development, has an extremely bright future.