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StandPoint

Making Statesmen of Villains


February 7, 2011

The StandPoint condemns the appointment of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as the new chairperson of the African Union (AU) and the appointment of President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso as the new lead negotiator in the Ivoirian political crisis. One of the objectives that the AU upholds is the promotion of democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance. The appalling appointment of these two sit-tight rulers at a time of world-wide clamor for democratic reform is a clear contravention of this objective.

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Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso since 1987, was appointed to replace President Goodluck Jonathan who resigned to focus on the successful execution of the April elections in Nigeria. Mr. Compaoré 's questionable role in the Ivorien crises since 2004, his 24-year misrule of Burkina Faso, his deep role in the Mano River civil wars (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea) and, worse, the manner of his ascension to his country's leadership, are enough grounds to disqualify him from the role of the AU's ambassador of peace. A stooge of France, a nation whose complicity in the present quagmire in Cote d'Ivoire is well known, Mr. Compaoré and his French paymasters have been accused of masterminding the assassination of Thomas Sankara, and 13 other progressive leaders in Ouagadougou in 1987.

Mr. Sankara incurred the wrath of the former French colonial powers for daring to criticize their continuing meddling in the affairs of his country, thus leaving Burkinabe citizens in miserable poverty. After becoming his nation's leader, Mr. Sankara embarked on mass literacy campaigns, comprehensive rural health care programs and debt reduction strategies for the country he renamed Burkina Faso, "the land of people of integrity". The very first African head of state to advocate for gender equality, Mr. Sankara appointed five women into ministerial posts. Despite Mr. Sankara's manifold and transforming achievements, his deputy, Mr. Compaoré, vilified him as a traitor and buried him in an unmarked grave. Once in the saddle, Mr. Compaoré reversed his admirable predecessor's progressive policies and turned the State House into his private estate.

Mr. Compaoré therefore has a case to answer for his massive mismanagement of his country's resources and his nefarious role in the death of one of the greatest leaders contemporary Africa has ever produced.

It is also surprising that the AU has appointed Obiang Nguema to be the next chairman amid escalating governance problems on the continent. Obiang Nguema has been in power since 1979 after deposing and executing his uncle Francisco Macias. Since then, Obiang's regime has retained clear authoritarian and brutal characteristics. His regime is now considered to be one of the most corrupt, ethnocentric, oppressive and undemocratic states in the world. Equatorial Guinea is now essentially a single-party state; the constitution grants Obiang wide powers, including the power to rule by decree. The opposition is severely hampered by the lack of a free press since the entire broadcast media are either owned outright or controlled by the government. Abuses under Obiang have included "unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention." Forbes magazine has said that Obiang is one of the wealthiest heads of state in the world, with a net worth of 600 million dollars. In view of these, what moral background does Obiang have when dealing with the increasing clamor for democratic reforms in places like Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and other African countries?

It is the view of the StandPoint that Mr. Compaoré and Mr Nguema and their ilk are not fit to hold any leadership position within the continental body of the AU. The AU should endeavor to appoint leaders with credibility and a good track record in matters of governance. Unless Africans begin to hold their leaders accountable, the tragic events Mr. Compaoré precipitated in Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso could become the norm in Africa

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The StandPoint is the consensual position of the NVS editorial board.