The difference between the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development(IGAD)

Progress can’t be made without some sort of Organization, and mainly if it’s in a continent as complex as Africa, with the seriousness of the problems it faces. As a result and since 1963, Africa has fought for their own right for democracy, for their liberation from colonizers,for african unity, for an eradication of violence and tyrannical dictatorships and for many more causes. Without Organizations such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, these long-term objectives would have been simply unimaginable.

The most obvious differences between these two African Organizations is their size. Whilst the IGAD has only 8 East-African countries which border themselves, the African Union is representative of the whole continent except for Morocco, that means, 54 nations in total or 850 million people if you prefer it.
Their objectives are definitely related but the IGAD is perhaps more specific,more in the flesh of development;hindering on droughts and food shortages primarily, with a latter preoccupation of the state’s high violence rates . The objectives of the African Union are vast in concepts, they cover nearly all the political synonyms of “advance”. Thus, the AU is a sort of ‘father’ for the IGAD, something that covers not only much broader geographical region, but also much broader objectives.The IGAD is simply one of the 8 RECs(Regional Economic Communities)that conform the AU. Despite this, in the declaration of objectives made by the AU, the term ‘Development’ cannot be left out.

Both Organizations belong to the same classification of regions that the British authors: R.C Ostergreen and J.G Rice once decided to segment officially, they are both undoubtedly instituted regions.They have well-defined limits, a clear hierarchical system and autonomous communities, or in this case; countries.

It could be said that the objectives of the AU are mainly naïve and too complex to attain all at once. They seem more realistic for a much more economically developed organization like the EU. Thus, I perceived that the AU is not much more than a representative, as it has too many interests to take into consideration and the objectives of ALL the nations can never coincide. The IGAD,part of the Land Policy Initiative(LPI) of the African Union,although specific in objectives and tasks, has faced many problems.

One would think that the problem of diversity would be almost fully diminished when reducing 54 countries to just 8(and more if they border themselves and belong to the “naïvely perceived” region of East Africa,and if they have vast amounts of natural resources).However, this seems more naïve than believing in Santa Claus. The IGAD countries are all down in the list of development due to violent usual conflicts and the incessant natural disasters. These violent conflicts arise from a number of differences. Firstly, there’s the problem concerning religion(Christianity prevailing in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda and Muslim faith in Somalia,Sudan and Djibouti. Eritrea being the only region with divided beliefs). The same thing happens with languages and ethnicities, regarding the last one; most violence is born from here as no chief ethnic group prevails in any country.

In terms of importance, However, I would say that most conflict arises from the differences in religion. Whilst the IGAD promotes cooperation between all countries, Ethiopia receives $800 million in aid to combat armed Muslim militants. This seems contradictory: as said before, half or more of the countries in the Union are of Muslim belief.

In the AU, these relatively ‘small’ conflicts do not appear as catastrophic. Despite this, the reason why I decided to firmly call the AU naïve is due to its motto and main objective: “Towards a peaceful,prosperous and integrated Africa”. The word ‘integrated’ appears constantly in the website of the African Union. This seems rather complex when you have such incalculable diversity amongst the former countries of the Union. From the 8 RECs this has been tried to achieve individually and not even then have they found easy to construct a sense of community;obviously due to utterly divergent notions of their own identity. It could also be said that, as some countries belong to more than one Regional Economic Community, it is hard to classify them under one generalized community. Not far from their case, as a Spaniard I do not have a sense of European nationality :possibly due to the evident cultural and linguistic clash with my fellow Northern or Eastern Europeans. To get things clear, the clash in Africa is even greater, their differences more considerable and thus their relations inevitably more violent. Here’s a Euler diagram showing how vast and complex the division of the African Continent can be:

Visual Support
The African Union serves as a mediator, as said before: a representative force. A representative force that,under international eyes,tries to hide the significant lack of democracy which they simultaneously so seekingly try to achieve. Since colonialism, Africa has been punched harshly by instability,corruption,violence and authoritarianism. The original intention of the AU(by then OAU) was to free Africa from its exploiting European colonizers, so it shifted from seeking “freedom”(from ‘liberation’) to spear-heading Africa’s development and integration( to ‘progression’). This ‘progression’ has been found to be more-than-complex to attain for numerous reasons. In regards to foreign relations, the African countries are represented by themselves on a state-to-state basis. At large, the AU represents the African peoples at intergovernmental organizations(IGOs) such as the General Assembly of the UN. Its fundamental aim nowadays is to conjure Africa into unity. It also has as an aim to boost democracy in its member states.

In the media, the term AU is far more popular than the term IGAD. It is far more commonly used in International Relations although it is not as usual to see it in the media as the EU for example. In fact, when Barack Obama first addressed it, Cate Gower had to explain what the AU was in ‘the telegraph’. Most people link IGAD to either UNICEF, economic aid, guerrillas or the recent conflicts with the Somali Pirates. In the media, this last has caused great revolt as it has interfered noticeably with our Occidental world-with severe cases of abduction in the middle of the Ocean.

In my humble opinion, the only problem with the African Union, although possibly linked to the magnitude of its dimension, is the risk of placing African Unity in front of what the IGAD prioritizes most: respect for living and for human rights. I decided to chose this word instead of the word ‘democracy’ as I believe that the latter has been given too much value. The African Union should leave cultural aspects a bit aside when having into consideration that they have the highest region of the world in terms of prevalence of hunger: Sub-Saharan Africa.

Borja Laraudogoitia


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