A "culture of conservatism" : How and why African Union member states obstruct the deepening of integration (21 pages)

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debate on political integration on the continent (Gans 2006; Kambudzi
2008). In the context of the Grand Debate, for instance, the member
states decided to establish a ministerial committee to explore new
avenues for the Union Government. The mandate of the committee
was inter alia the "identification of domains of competence and the
impact of the establishment of the Union Government on the sovereignty
of member states
" (African Union 2007, Accra Declaration, emphasis
added), indicating that the sovereignty question was part of the member
states' reasoning. In fact, several documents on the Union Govern-
ment and related issues stress that the sovereignty of the AU member
states must remain intact. The way the Union Government will function
if there is no sign that subordinated countries are willing to give up
parts of their sovereignty remains unclear.

Research on Algeria, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, for

example, reveals that the principles of non-interference and sovereignty
are still considered important if not sacrosanct (Welz 2012). In Algeria,
the elite that fought against French oppression in the 1950s and
achieved independence guards its sovereignty strictly (Akacem 2004:
153-168; APRM 2007b). In Ethiopia, a long-standing tradition and pride
that dates back to the Aksumite empire more than 2 000 years ago,
and the fact that Ethiopia is the only African state that has never been
colonised, make it almost unimaginable for Ethiopia's leadership to cede
sovereignty. Swaziland's king made it clear that "no one tells Mswati
what to do" (Matlosa 1998: 333), and Zimbabwe's President Robert
Mugabe said in the context of the presidential elections in 2008 that
"[n]o country in the world, including those in the African Union and
SADC can dictate how Zimbabwe should conduct its elections", and
even went further to threaten that the "irresponsible and reckless state-
ments by some SADC leaders could lead to the breaking up of the
regional grouping" (The Herald, 27 June 2008). Although one should not
generalise from four cases, there is little doubt that similar resistance
to cede sovereignty and to engage in the building of a strong continen-
tal organisation can be found in other AU members states.

However, whereas sovereignty was absolute in the OAU, the

principle was legally undermined with the establishment of the AU as
shown above. Thus a mixed picture emerges: Despite the right of the
AU to intervene in other states' internal affairs in specified circum-
stances, it is also true that the protection of sovereignty still remains a
guiding principle in the AU as found in Article 3(b) of its Constitutive Act

Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 36, No 1 Martin Welz

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