[OPINION] Cynicism and gullibility at the AU Summit

The 30th African Union summit that wrapped up in Addis Ababa this week was a continental smorgasbord catering for the cynical, the gullible, the quizzical and the unpalatable.

Fighting corruption was the central theme of the 55-nation gathering. The irony cannot have escaped President Jacob Zuma who was in all probability attending his final AU summit.

A man who evidently leans towards the strong rather than the silent type, Rwandan President Paul Kagame made a meal of taking the reins as the new AU chairperson.

He helpfully pointed out that corruption is not an African phenomenon but more of an international scourge. More about him later.

The graft-fighting continent picked Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari as its anti-corruption champion.

Since it is generally considered politically incorrect to link Nigerians and corruption, it came as a gift from Abuja when the People’s Democratic Party called this Africa’s joke of the year.

The former ruling party, once led by Olusegun Obasanjo, said Africa’s leaders had to be ignorant of developments in Nigeria if they bestowed such an honour on a man who has been at the helm of a,\ particularly corrupt administration.

I leave it to you to decide whether this should be swallowed with gullibility or rejected with cynical contempt.

But if you are leaning to the former, then do so before the unpalatable US President Donald Trump comes to the table.

The Donald, as he liked to be called in his television days, has developed a means of offering an apology without actually giving one.
He certainly owed African leaders a contrite explanation for his potty-mouthed dismissal of their countries.

South Africa and Botswana have issued a demarche which amounts to angrily calling in the respective US ambassador to explain what the White House incumbent meant.

Kagame, who met Trump in Davos just before the AU summit, basked in the gushing praise of the deal-maker and gave him a free ride.

Instead of striking him to task, Kagame carried the US president’s warm regards to the African leaders.

He could have saved himself the trouble because Trump wrote them a letter assuring them of his great respect for them.

The new AU chair has his work cut out getting African peers to keep their 2015 promise to pay for at least 75% of the continental programmes.

Three years later they are paying only 14% - and only two countries have ratified the resolution committing them to reducing reliance of foreign aid.

No stranger to getting his compatriots to bend to his will, Kagame now has to play a different game in finding the diplomatic skill he is not renowned for to get other African governments to go along with his reform plans.

To complete the meal, the summit produced a spy scandal.

Chinese officials have expressed outrage at reports that Beijing has been spying on the AU.

Beijing built the AU headquarters for its friends on the continent.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, which years ago reported British attempts to steal AU secrets, Beijing technicians left a backdoor open allowing access to AU computers.

When overnight data usage became uncommonly heavy, an investigation was ordered.

Algeria, Africa’s go-to-guys on counter-intelligence, reportedly provided the experts who found that material was being send to Shanghai and plugged the leak.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish