It is famously noted that the African Union (AU) summit is an opportunity for demagogues and dictators of the continent to come together and congratulate each other for surviving yet another year at the helm of pyramids of oppression that subject their people to all forms of political, social, and economic subjugation. As the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa is underway this week, the Pan-African Group has little achievement to speak of. Its main objective of promoting greater unity and solidarity amongst African countries is more prominent in its founding document than it is on the ground. The goal of defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states is existentially threatened by the hundreds of foreign military bases and installations across the coast and hinterland of the continent. Unlike the past, it is not just two superpowers that seeks to influence member states. It is secondary and tertiary power house like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that are maneuvering socio-political dynamics in the continent.

The maxim ‘African solutions for African problems’ demonstrably  fail when one notices the biggest success and failure stories in the continent in the last decade were all driven from outside. The Pan-African group was not able to avert disaster from befalling on Libya. The severity of civil wars in South Sudan and Congo moves up and down in direct proportion to the involvement of the West at any given point. Despite being one of the guarantor of the Algiers Peace Agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the latest rapprochement and peace between the two countries was largely driven by Saudi Arabia and the West.

Somalia is still in tatters three decades after dictator Siad Barre was removed from power. The AU has done very little in a way of finding solution to this African problem. Perhaps, its only recognizable feat vis-à-vis the sad state of Somalia is its facilitation of the transfer of compensation from the West to the various African peacekeepers (where there is no peace to keep) put there to contain Al-Shabaab.

The continuously glaring failure of the Union, however, is be found in locating who is missing from these summits that occurs once or twice every year. The unrecognized republic of Somaliland. That is the de facto state that has been prohibited from legitimately participating in the AU Summits over and over again while member states of Union wait for Mogadishu to fix itself or for the West to come impose a solution as had been done in arranging the separation South Sudan from Sudan.

For observers of the continental body, there once appeared a flicker of light when the AU decided to send a Fact Finding Mission to Somaliland upon a longstanding invitation from authorities in Hargheisa to undertake a visit to the country and view the situation on the ground. The fact finding mission, led by Deputy Chairperson of the AU, Patrick Mazimhaka, visited the country from April 30 to May 4, 2005 and came up with recommendations many thought to be one big leap forward for the bringing lasting peace and prosperity to the Eastern part of the continent.

The mission had expressed the opinion that Somaliland had been made a “pariah region” due to the negligence of the continental body and its member states. It sturdily recommended the country’s recognition and, by extension, admission to the Union, noting that since its declaration of independence in 1991, Somaliland has been increasingly laying the foundations of a democratic modern state that matches, often exceeds, what we see with other member states.

The fact finding mission recommended that the Union should take note and engage the people and government of Somaliland as early as possible. But that recommendation fell on deaf ear. No surprises given the track record of the Union as it relates to providing African solutions to African problems. The Union, rather, chose to focus on propping up, enabling, and protecting whoever resides in Villa Somalia. Meanwhile the people in Somalia continue to suffer.

Somaliland remained a reality the Union keeps ignoring even after its own fact finding mission recommends that the “AU should be disposed to judge the case of Somaliland from an objective historical viewpoint and a moral angle vis-à-vis the aspiration of the people [of Somaliland].” The Union has not taken any new solid initiative since it deployed the fact finding in 2005. It has been 15 years. In the rare occasion some member countries tried to put the issue in the agenda, a minority of its Northern African members extorted its sub-Saharan members with walk out. That extorting parties never forwarded solutions to a problem that perpetuates the suffering of Somalians and Somalilanders alike.

The Pan-African group must reclaim its guts as it did when supporting the struggle against colonialism and apartheid in the last century. It is high time that it stop waiting for the west prescribe a solution for an essentially African problem. The people and government of Somaliland hope for their peer Africans to recognize the history, legality and reality of Somaliland’s independence as it was also acknowledged in the 2005 Fact Finding Mission. The continental body should not also sit idly and let petro dollar rich Gulf Nations play more role in deciding which states should be treated like legitimate member of the family of nations and which ones like a pariah state.

The Union can start with brushing up the 2005 report from its own fact finding mission, inviting the democratically elected government of Somaliland for reengagement and provision of a temporary observer status it throws generously even at non-state, non-African entities. Such a starter is long overdue and it will likely help restore African solutions to African problems. In the words of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somaliland, Abdillahi Duale, “Somaliland is not begging for anything from its African brothers and the African Union. It is rather asking to be part and parcel of African solutions to African predicaments.”

By Kassahun Addis