Since it was announced through international media outlets in late July that the African Union Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, had granted observer status to the State of Israel, the response has been swift in condemnations from several AU member states.
This action which was carried out absent of any consultations with the 55 member-states and other observer status entities such as the Palestinian Authority, has been described as a violation of the AU’s own legal protocols related to international relations.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described the move by Mahamat as “appalling” particularly in light of the recent Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombardments of the besieged Gaza Strip and the continuing attacks by the police and IDF on Palestinian civilians in the other occupied territories.
South Africa under the leadership of the ANC has maintained strong ties with the Palestinian Authority. Within South Africa itself there has been a vigorous Palestine solidarity movement for many years. President Nelson Mandela, the founding leader of democratic South Africa after 1994, defended the ANC’s position on Palestinian liberation as early as 1990 when he visited the United States after being released from 27 years of imprisonment under the apartheid regime.
Israel has been referred to as an apartheid state necessitating international sanctions and isolation from the world body of nations. However, it is the U.S. under successive administrations which has funded the State of Israel to the tune of billions annually while providing military assistance along with diplomatic cover.
A South African government statement issued on July 29 said of the AU Commission Chair’s action which granted observer status to Israel: “The decision by the AU Commission in this context is inexplicable. The unjust actions committed by Israel offend the letter and spirit of the Charter of the African Union.
“The AU embodies the aspirations of all Africans and reflects their confidence that it can lead the continent through the practical expression of the goals of the Charter, especially on issues relating to self-determination and decolonisation. Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant UN resolutions.
“It is therefore incomprehensible that the AU Commission chooses to reward Israel at a time when its oppression of Palestinians has been demonstrably more brutal. The South African government will ask the Chairperson of the Commission to provide a briefing to all member states on this decision which we hope will be discussed by the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of States and Government.”
Other states such as Botswana, Namibia and Algeria are also speaking out against the failure of the AU Commission to live up to its responsibilities as outlined in the charter.
The AU Commission is tasked with defending the interests of the organisation under the direction of the Assembly and Executive Council.
An article from China Global Television Network says that: “Botswana has dissociated itself from the African Union’s decision to grant observer status to the State of Israel. In a statement, Botswana’s Ministry of international affairs and cooperation stated that the issue is a sensitive matter that should have been brought to the attention of all AU member states, before such a decision was reached, ‘particularly given the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine.’
“Moreover, the Government of Botswana maintains that the continued occupation of Palestine by the State of Israel goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, as well as its obligation to respect and implement the respective Resolutions of the United Nations.
“Botswana wishes to reiterate its unwavering support and solidarity with the Palestinian Authority against Israeli occupation. Botswana wishes to reiterate its unwavering support and solidarity with the Palestinian Authority against Israeli occupation.”
The Republic of Namibia, which is also a member of SADC along with South Africa and Botswana, voiced its strong objection to the arbitrary manoeuvers by the Commission Chair. In a statement from the Foreign Ministry, it expresses similar sentiments as South Africa and Botswana.
Namibia emphasised: “Granting observer status to an occupying power is contrary to the principles and objectives of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, particularly at a time when the State of Israel is increasing its acts of oppression in total violation of international law and disregard for the human rights of the Palestinian people…. In this regard, Namibia will officially submit its objection/reservation to the chairperson of the AU Commission, in due course.”
The Israel decision is reminiscent of the readmission of Morocco to the AU in 2017 even though Rabat has refused to implement United Nations and AU resolutions mandating the holding of elections on the future of Western Sahara.
The AU has accepted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a member of the continental organisation. There are numerous resolutions in support of independence of the SADR from Morocco.
Morocco openly lobbied for its readmission after it had voluntarily withdrawn from the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of Africa Unity in 1984 when the majority of the regional body voted to recognise SADR. When the AU allowed Morocco to again join the organisation, there were strong objections from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Algeria and at least twelve other states.
In addition to the contradictory policies related to the Western Sahara and Palestine, the increased imperialist militarisation of Africa by western states has undermined the capacity of the organs within the AU to establish effective peacekeeping operations independent of the funding and logistical support from the Pentagon and allied NATO countries.
The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has thousands of troops stationed across the continent while a base in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier houses both French and Pentagon troops. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria requested that AFRICOM relocate its headquarters from Germany to Nigeria. Such attitudes and defeatist utterances only provide the enemies of progress on the continent with a rationale for further penetration.
Any “normalisation” of relations with imperialist states and their allies such as Israel is in essence the road to even deeper levels of neo-colonial domination of the African continent.
These contradictory policies on Africa-Israeli relations cancel out the progressive and Pan-Africanist history of the continent. Those states, political parties and mass organisations in solidarity with Palestine, the Western Sahara and all oppressed and struggling peoples should take corrective measures aimed at reversing these unilateral decisions which can in no way benefit the masses of African workers, farmers and youth.
Such a programme of rectification cannot be implemented without firmly addressing the continuing economic, political and military dependency of the African continent on the imperialist states and their financial institutions.
The current public health crisis engendered by COVID-19 illustrates the pressing need for innovative approaches to solving regional problems. While Western states are hurriedly vaccinating their populations, the number of inoculations administered in Africa represent less than two percent of those needed.
The way out lies in the adoption of an anti-imperialist and Pan-Africanist approach to the situation. Africa in order to develop and ensure its genuine independence and sovereignty must unite and move towards socialist construction.
This article is excerpted from Pan-African News Wire