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The Soft Power Credentials of these Ex African Statesmen

Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria, 1999-2007) and Thabo Mbeki (South Africa, 1999-2008) have made important contributions to the continent this century through promoting peace, democracy, pan-Africanism and regional integration. Obasanjo was notable for his courage and decisiveness, particularly when it came to colonialism and, later, apartheid. His toughness on these issues, and his promotion of regional integration, had remarkable success. A foreign policy that embraces genuine promotion of democracy and peacemaking generates soft power. Obasanjo enhanced his, and by extension Nigeria’s soft power through his successful peacemaking and promotion of democracy. The former, in places such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. The latter, in São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. Mbeki has often been labelled an “African intellectual” and “African philosopher king”. There is no gainsaying that his administration had the most impact of any post-apartheid government in international affairs – even more so than Nelson Mandela. This was evident in his push for South-South solidarity and reform of old international institutions such as the UN Security Council. The African Union, despite its weaknesses, provided the platform for him to promote peace and security in Africa.