The Reform of the African Union in 7 Questions

African Heads of State and Government are gathering this weekend 17 & 18 November 2018 in Addis Ababa for an Extraordinary Summit to discuss the institutional reform of the African Union being championed by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

I would like to share the following 7 key aspects of the reform (my personal views)

  1. What are the Key Reform Areas?

In his submission titled “The Imperative to strengthen our Union” adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State of the Union, President Kagame identified four main areas that need urgent actions:

  • The AU to focus only on key priorities with continental scope: This will help the Union to make a real difference on these areas in improving the life of African citizens. Anything else could be covered at regional and national levels
  • Realign Africa Union institutions to deliver against those priorities
  • Ensure efficient and effective management of the African Union both politically and at the operational level
  • Finance the Union with African resources
  1. What are the Proposed Continental Priorities to be handled by the African Union
  • Political Affairs
  • Peace & Security
  • Economic Integration
  • Africa’s Global Voice
  1. What are the key decisions taken so far in relation to the reform? a/ The institution of a 0.2 %t Levy on all eligible imported goods into the Continent to finance the African Union Operational, Program and Peace Support Operations Budgets. The amounts collected from the Levy shall be automatically paid by the national administration, into an account opened for the African Union with the Central Banks of each Member State for transmission to the African Union in accordance with each Member State’s assessed contribution. If this decisions is fully implemented, the Union will be able to cover 100% of its operational cost, 75% of its programme budget and 25% of the Union’s peace support operations. Currently, around 60% of the total budget of the African Union is financed by external donors. b/ There will be only one AU Summit per year starting from 2019, instead of two Summits currently held. The Mid-year Summit will now become a Coordination Meeting with the Regional Economic Communities (RECS). The first of its kind will be held in June/July 2019 in Niamey, Niger. The Permanent Representatives Committee and the Executive Council will normally convene as before, prior to the Coordination Meeting. c/ The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency is transformed into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) with an enhanced mandate likely to be adopted by the extraordinary session of the AU Assembly.

 4. What are the Reform issues on which there is no full consensus among member states?

  • A number of AU Member States, for different reasons are not fully onboard with the 0.2% levy on imports to finance the Union.
  • The new structure of the AU Commission, the mode of designation and the authority/power of its leadership are viewed differently by AU Member States. The power dynamic between the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the Commissioners is another issue on which member States have divergent opinions.
  • The role of the Permanent Representative Committee and its relation with the AU Commission have been pointed out by President Kagame as an area to review. Here also, Member states positions are unlikely to match each other.
  • The planned reform of the Peace and Security Council of the Union would probably show serious diverging opinions within Member State.
  1. What are the proposals on the table for the new Structure of the African Union Commission?

The proposed new structure of the AU Commission to be considered by the Summit is as follows:

  • Chairperson of the AUC
  • Deputy Chairperson of the AUC
  • 6 Commissioners as follow (instead of 8 previously)

1) Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment;

2) Economic Development, Trade and Industry;

3) Education, Science, Technology and Innovation;

4) Infrastructure and Energy;

4) Political Affairs, Peace & Security;

6) Health, Social Development, Women and Youth Empowerment;

The proposed change include mainly the following:

–     Merging of Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Departments

–     Merging of Economic Affairs and the Trade & Industry Departments

–     Women/Gender Directorate previously under the Chairperson’s cabinet moves to Health and Social Development (previously Social Affairs Department)

–  Youth Division previously under Human Resource, Science and Technology Department moves to Health and Social Development

–  Human Resource, Science and Technology Department is renamed as Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

It is also being proposed to create a non-elected post of Director-General to lead the operational coordination of the Commission’s departments and non-elected staff. The current post of Secretary-General may be renamed Secretary to the Commission.

The Summit will consider a new mode and procedure of designation of the leadership of the AU Commission but it is not expected that the Chairperson will be granted the right to select his/her deputy and the commissioners or even to be part of the process as some actors have proposed. Gender parity will be maintained within the leadership team and even reinforced at the top level. This means for example that if the Chairperson is a male the deputy should be a female or vice versa.

There is  a strong push to enhance performance management at the senior leadership of the Commission. The Summit may order a goal and target setting mechanism and an annual submission of performance report by the Chairperson of the Commission.

The new selection policy will come into effect at the end of the current tenure of the Commission in January 2021.

  1. On the effective division of labor between the African Union, Regional Economic Communities Member States and other Continental Organizations

Deliberations may also include the establishment of a clear division of labor and effective collaboration among the AU, the RECs, the Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the harmonization of policies across the board. The AU Commission together with the RECs and relevant organs would have to develop a proposal on an effective division of labor to be submitted to the first Mid-Year Coordination Meeting in June/July 2019. There needs to be added emphasis on the division of labor in matters of peace in security, currently governed by the principles of subsidiarity and comparative advantage which remain wanting regarding clarity. Redundancy and overlap in mandates and work should be abandoned in favor of efficiency and cooperation.

  1. What are the Missing Elements in the reform:

a/ Accountability for the implementation of AU decisions, treaties policy standards and shared values by member states at the national level

There is an ongoing interesting discussion on improving the African peer review mechanism (a voluntary mechanism), which is a positive development, but for our Union to be able to make a real difference in the life of African people, it is imperative to think about a robust accountability mechanism for the implementation of agreed policies, standards and values at national level.  The African Union Commission, other organs of the Union and ordinary citizens & their formations should be deliberately empowered and enabled to hold accountable our leaders for the realizations of their promises.

We need a courageous debate on sanction, not only sanctions for non-payment of Member States accessed contribution but also sanctions for non-implementation of agreed policies and the values on which the Constitutive Act of the Union is built as well as the seven aspirations of our Agenda 2063, the Africa we want.

b/ Civic Space/Citizens’ participation: A critical enabler of Agenda 2063’s vision is citizens’ rights to organise and their ability to stand against human rights abuses, poverty, inequality, injustice, corruption etc. The reform of the African Union should make a concrete way for independent African Civil Society formations to be able to contribute meaningfully in the affairs of the Union including an efficient mechanism for access to information. It is a common knowledge that the current settings are not meeting the expected results.

Please share your comments on this blog or by email: assogbavi@me.com  

10 Takeaways from the African Union Summit – July 2018

The 31st Summit of Heads of State of the African Union held in Nouakchott Mauritania is now over. The Summit was held under the AU annual theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

Decisions of the Summit are not yet publicly available but, as usual, I would like to share with you, the following unofficial summary of the key outcomes of the Summit.

Over the next following weeks, I will be sharing deeper personal analysis on some of the issues discussed in Nouakchott and on the AU agenda.

The Summit meetings were held as follows:

  • Permanent Representative Committee (Ambassadors): 25th – 26th June
  • Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 28th – 29th June
  • Assembly (Heads of State and Government): 1st – 2nd July

The Summit was overshadowed by peace and security issues including the security incidents in the Sahel; the multiple deadly attacks that happened in Mali and Niger while the Summit taking place. The state of peace and security in the continent was largely discussed by the Assembly including the situation in DRC, CAR, Burundi, Libya, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa etc. The Peace and Security Council of the AU met at the level of Heads of State in Nouakchott to discuss the situation in South Sudan. See Communique here.

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10 Key Takeaways from the Summit:

  • African Union Reform: There were no substantial progress in Nouakchott on the institutional reform of the African Union. Some disagreements among member States on President Kagame’s proposal remain. For example, there is still no consensus among all Member States on the application of 0,2% levy on eligible importations in order to fund the Union, the mode of designation/appointment of commissioners, power dynamics within the institution, the scope of intervention of the AU and the division of labor between the continental body and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). After all, it seems like not all member states have the same view on how to get a strong, autonomous and effective African Union to drive our development and integration ambitions. An extraordinary Summit will be held on 17 & 18 November this year to focus on the reform agenda.
  • The Continental Free Trade Area: Significant progress recorded including the adoption of the five services priority sectors (Transport, communication, financial, tourism and business services). 5 additional countries joined the AfCFTA including one of the biggests economies of the continent: South Africa. The other new signatories are Burundi, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, and Namibia. Now 49 countries in total have signed the AfCFTA  and 6 have ratified it. 16 more ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force. If all 55 AU members join the treaty, it will create a bloc with a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion and cover a market of 1.2 billion people. In terms of numbers of participating countries, AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. You can get insightful information on the AfCFTA here.
  • Western Sahara Conflict: AUC Chairperson presented a comprehensive report and proposed a mechanism to move ahead on the issue. While calling for the Polisario Front and Morocco to resume negotiations, without preconditions and in good faith, the Summit adopted the mechanism including the setting up of a Troika of 3 Heads of State: the current Chair of the Union (President Paul Kagame), the immediate past Chair (President Alpha Conde) and the incoming Chair (President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) to be supported by the Chairperson of the AU Commission. The mission of the Troika will be to provide efficient support to the United Nations-led process (not to replace it) to resolve the conflict. The objective is the resumption of negotiations between the stakeholders to reach a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution, which allows the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. In addition, the Chairperson of the AUC is to reactivate the AU Office to the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara in Laayoune. The  Summit decided that the issue of Western Sahara can now only be raised within this framework and at this level.
  • Future of ACP/EU Cotonou Agreement post-2020: Professor Carlos Lopes, Former Executive Secretary of the UNECA is appointed as the African Union High Representative to support Member States in the negotiation of the new agreement with the EU Post-2020. Ministers of Foreign Affairs and those in charge of the  negotiation will meet by September to consolidate the African Common Position.
  • 2019 Budget of the Union: There are important progress toward ownership and budgetary process but the Union’s programs will still be largely funded by external donors in 2019. Total budget: $ 681 485 337 (about 12% less than the 2018 budget)
  • Operating budget: $ 416,329,505 including AMISOM operational budget ($ 243,430,467)
  • Program budget: US $ 265,155,832

The 2019 budget will be financed as follow: $ 280,045,761 by AU Member States and $ 401,439,575 by external partners.

  • Francophonie: Both Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Assembly of Heads of State endorsed the candidacy of Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo to the post of Secretary General of “La Francophonie”; the Organization of French Speaking countries (OIF).
  • Migration: Proposed by the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, AU Leader on Migration, the Summit decided to create an African Observatory for Migration and Development (OAMD) to be based in the Rabat, Morocco. Several delegations and personalities including the Chairperson of the African Union Commission publicly spoke against the recent proposal of the European Union to create a Regional disembarkation platforms to be located outside of Europe for migrants recused in international waters. In addition, the Peace and Security Council met to discuss the migration situation in the continent. See the Communique here.Migration pic
  • Sahel: the United Nations launched a revitalized strategic plan at the sidelines of the Summit entitled “Sahel, Land of Opportunities”. The plan targets 10 countries and six key areas including growth inclusive of empowerment of women and youth, cross border security and sustaining peace. The targeted countries, namely Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Cameroon will have continued support for ongoing efforts by governmental, non-governmental, national and regional bodies. 65 per cent of the region’s population is below 25 years of age, the plan then urges specific investments in education and vocational training to achieve higher demographic dividend.
  • Fighting Corruption: Recognizing that Africa’s development plans including the Agenda 2063 would be seriously impeded without rigorous measures against corruption, AU Heads of State have reached a consensus on establishing a monitoring mechanism to fight against domestic and cross-border corruption through cooperation.
  • In a solemn declaration, Heads of State decided to combat Illicit Financial Flows through various practical measures including the establishment of  effective ownership registers, country-by-country reporting of financial information, exchange of tax information agreements, mutual support in reinforcing tax authorities etc.   Several leaders spoke strongly against corruption and proposed courageous reform  to combat it in the public, and private sectors. For example, President Buhari of Nigeria, the AU Leader on the fight against corruption said: “We must all collectively work to place high on the agenda the need for open and participatory government, as well as the repatriation of stolen assets without procedural technicalities and legal obstacles.” The Gambian President Adama Barrow said: ‘’our successes in the fight against corruption will ensure that resources are retained and used to support structural transformations and expansion of our economies…we cannot afford resource wastages through corruption thereby depriving our citizens the opportunities to improve their living standards”
  • Attendance: The Summit has been poorly attended at high level. Only about half of the 55 African Heads of state made it to Nouakchott. Absentee Presidents include Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Abdel Fattah Sissi of Egypt, Patrice Talon of Benin, João Lourenço of Angola, José Mario Vaz of Guinea Bissau, Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, King Mohammed VI of Morocco etc.
  • First participation in the Summit: Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone. French President Emmanuel Macron made an exceptional appearance in the margins of the Summit to have side discussions with African leaders on  the G5 Sahel initiative and other peace and security issues.

Prospects for the year 2019: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be the Chairperson of the African Union for 2019 and the theme of the year will be Refugees, Returnees and IDPs in Africa: towards durable solutions to forced displacement.  2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Convention) as well as the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). The Assembly decision at its 29th Assembly in July 2017 mandates the AU Commission to work with UNHCR and other partners to organize a series of commemorative events aimed at raising the visibility and provide thoughts for solutions of forced displacement in Africa. A series of events aimed at increasing ratification and domestication of the two key documents are being planned under the Project 2019, a joint AU-UNHCR initiative. 

In line with the ongoing reform of the African Union, the just-finished Summit was expected to be the last mid-year Summit. From 2019 onward, there will only be one (1) ordinary Summit per year. The Union will rather host a mid-year coordination Session with the Regional Economic Communities. The first will be held in Niamey, Niger end June 2019.

The 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly will be held on the 10th & 11th February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Please do not hesitate to drop me an email on assogbavi@me.com should you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

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African Union Summit in Mauritania: What is at Stake?

Friends;

As usual, I would like to share with you the following personal notes on the upcoming 31st Ordinary Summit of the AU policy organs to be held in Nouakchott, Mauritania in a few weeks.

The Summit will be held under the theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

Beside the main theme of the year, major issues on the Summit agenda include a progress review on the institutional reform and self-financing of the African Union, peace, security and humanitarian situation on the continent, the Continental Free Trade Area and the African Common Position on the future of ACP/EU. I have also anticipated on the theme and the leadership of the Union for next year 2019.

In line with the ongoing reform of the African Union, this Summit is expected to be the last mid-year Summit. From 2019 onward, there will only be one (1) ordinary Summit per year.

According to the draft agenda, the Summit’s sessions are scheduled as follow in Nouakchott:

  • Permanent Representative Committee (Ambassadors): 25th – 26th June 2018
  • Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 28th – 29th  June 2018
  • Assembly (Heads of State and Government): 1st – 2nd July 2018

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A Closed Summit

The upcoming AU Summit will likely be a closed Summit as per AU Assembly decision AU/Dec.582 (XXV) according to which “Only one summit per year should be open for observers (non-African countries, international and inter-governmental organizations, CSOs etc)”. This decision was previously applied during the mid-year Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2017. The only exception to this policy is when the AU decides to invite a strategic partner whose activities are in line with the theme of the year. Organizations that have an authorized side event in relation with the theme may only have access to the specific event and not necessarily to the entire Summit space.

Key Issues to dominate the AU Summit

 Winning the fight against corruption: Corruption is one of the most pressing governance and development challenges that Africa is confronted with today. It’s devastating and harsh effects adversely affect the development progress and stability of the Continent. In 2003, the AU adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption which entered into force in 2006.  The convention, now ratified by 38 Member States provides for the establishment of an Advisory Board on Corruption.  Created in 2009, the Arusha, Tanzania based Board has the mandate to promote and encourage the adoption of measures and actions to fight corruption and related offences on the continent. Member States are required to submit a report to the Executive Council on a regular basis on the progress made in complying with the provisions of the Convention.

Corruption trough Illicit Financial Flows (IFF): According the Thabo Mbeki report in 2015, $50 Billion is lost through illicit flows out of the continent every year. This figure has now mounted to $80 Billion according to the UNECA.

At the July 2017 Summit, it was decided that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would champion the annual theme. This decision was apparently based on the fact that Nigeria has recently taken a number of initiatives at national level to fight corruption practices.

In Nouakchott a presentation and a presidential debate led by President Buhari will be held on the theme and the Assembly will likely adopt a solemn declaration on fighting corruption in Africa. It is not clear whether the discussions on fighting corruption will be extended to corruption in political governance.

Progress on the institutional reform and self-financing of the African Union: The summit will review progress on the implementation of the institutional reform being led by President Paul Kagame aiming for a more efficient and effective African Union to achieve the objectives of the Agenda 2063. So far it’s hard to believe that there is a genuine consensus among member states on what the new structure of the AU will look like, the power dynamics in the leadership, the scope of thematic interventions and the division of labour between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities among other issues. A group of Member States has even tabled formal concerns in relation with the review process and the initial proposal made by President Kagame.

A progress report on financing the African Union by African countries through a 0.2% levy on eligible imported goods into the continent, is also expected to be presented by Donald Kaberuka. So far the AU is still funded up to 70% by external donors.

Peace, Security and Humanitarian Situation: the number of violent conflicts in Africa and their impact on civilians has hardly changed from the previous year. Re-occurring or relapsing conflicts, riots and mass protests, and shifting threats posed by violent extremist groups are key sources and manifestations of violence and insecurity in Africa and the continent continue to face heavy peace and security and humanitarian challenges. Progress towards a sustainable peace is rather slow due to many reasons mostly linked to governance deficits and the continent continues to face cases of stalled or collapsed peace processes; some of the notable cases include Burundi, CAR, DRC, Mali, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia etc. The Campaign for “silencing the guns by 2020” decided some years back is struggling to show results as we are approaching the deadline in a year and a half. The Assembly of the Union will consider a report on it. The situation between Morocco and Western Sahara is still unresolved. Besides the general debate on the state of peace and security in the continent, the Assembly of Heads of State will consider a special report of the AUC Chairperson on Western Sahara.  The Peace and Security Council will meet at Heads of State level on the 30th June. French President Emmanuel Macron will participate in a luncheon on financing AU-led peace support operations authorized by the UN Security Council. It is likely that discussions between President Macron and African Leaders will be extended to the situation in Libya in which France is deeply involved.

The Continental Free Trade Area: the unfinished business: The recently adopted African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement will cover an African market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member States of the Union. In terms of numbers of participating countries, AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. The potential for intra-African trade to drive value creation and development is both palpable and real. The agreement is designed to benefit Africa’s industrial exports, so, in order to trade, Africa first has to produce and not only selling primary commodities. The Free Trade Agreement could not then produce the expected result without an acceptable degree of industrialization of the continent. 11 countries including the biggest economies of the continent – Nigeria and South Africa – have not signed the agreement. The next summit creates an opportunity to have those countries onboard but also to push for more ratifications of the treaty beyond the first 4 countries: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Niger. In addition, the summit will discuss important annexes and appendices to make the AfCFTA effectively functional.

African Common Position on the future of ACP/EU: The Economic Partnership Agreement (Cotonou Agreement) signed in the year 2000 between 79 African, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) States and the European Union (EU) and its Member States for a period of 20 years is coming to an end in February 2020. Reflections between Africa and the EU are under way to determine the nature, outline and configuration of a more appropriate framework for future post-2020 relations. Renewing these agreements creates, a unique opportunity for both continents to reaffirm their individual and collective priorities, opportunities and challenges, so, African Heads of State will consider and eventually adopt a common position ahead of their negotiation with the EU.

Prospects for the year 2019: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be the Chairperson of the African Union for 2019 and the theme of the year will be Refugees, Returnees and IDPs in Africa.  2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Convention) as well as the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). The Assembly decision at its 29th Assembly in July 2017 mandates the AU Commission to work with UNHCR and other partners to organize a series of commemorative events aimed at raising the visibility and provide thoughts for solutions of forced displacement in Africa. A series of events aimed at increasing ratification and domestication of the two key documents are being planned under the Project 2019, a joint AU-UNHCR initiative.

Given the important humanitarian component of our 2018-2021 strategic plan, we, at UNFPA, are ready  to engage on the African Union’s 2019 theme alongside other partners.

Do not hesitate to drop me an email on assogbavi@me.com should you have any questions or comments.

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Africa Day – 25th May: Beyond the Celebration…

On this day, 25th May, Africa Day is commemorated diversely in parts of the continent and the diaspora. I would like to share some personal thoughts about what, I believe must be an important day of reflection and re-commitment in our continent.

It was on the 25th May 1963 that the first continental intergovernmental organization after independence, was created. The Organization of African Unity (OAU); mother of the current African Union (AU) was born by the adoption of its Charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during a meeting hosted by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. The OAU was founded by 32 countries. Later, 23 other states have gradually joined the body over the years. OAU was an unprecedented commitment to the aspiration for the total political liberation of the continent from colonialism as well as the unity and solidarity among its people.

Who Commemorates Africa Day? Only a handful of African countries officially observe Africa Day. These include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Mauritania and Namibia. The day is also observed at the African Union headquarter in Addis Ababa. It is also encouraging to see that thousands of citizens are consistently reacting on social media  using the hashtag #AfricaDay. Today, the African Union Commission is hosting an event aiming to create, awareness for the public at large on the theme of the year 2018 which is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the current Chairperson of the Union, Dr. Abiy Ahmed the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, host nation the Union and the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat will participate in the event. See the programme here.

Africa Day should not be confused with African Union Day (AU Day) which is commemorated on the 9th September each year, marking the day on which the decision to transform the OAU to the AU was taken by the Assembly of Heads of State in Syrte Libya in 1999. So, AU Day was the 9/9/99 !

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The transformation of the OAU to the AU created the hope of a greater unity and solidarity of African countries and among African people. In fact the desire to build a people-oriented and people-centered institution is the main distinguishing feature between the African Union and the Organization of African Unity which was largely state focused.

Beyond the Celebration…: First, it’s important that Africa Day is fully commemorated in all African countries and in the entire diaspora. It should be a day on which we tell African stories to our young generations. Stories of our past glories, stories of a future hope… Africa Day should also be a day of re-commitment to our shared values and our common Agendas, both the Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals of which we are fully part. Africa Day should be a day of a renewed African solidarity. A day of remembrance of the important part of our continent that is still devastated by all sort of unjustifiable conflicts, a day of determination to fight severe poverty and all kind of inequalities in Africa.

In fact,  since its inception, the AU has raised the normative bar for the realization of socio-economic and democratic development ambitions of the continent. But the adoption of norms, treaties, policy frameworks only is not enough to take us to the “Africa We Want” We must realize the promises by effectively implementing them and regularly holding ourselves accountable to them… It time to close the gap between continental promises and the daily reality of most citizens.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! God Bless Africa!

Our World is Splitting on Human Rights Issues

The 51st Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development failed to reach a consensus yesterday in New York . No outcome came from 5 intensive days of negotiations on the theme: “Sustainable cities human mobility and migration”. Key divergences were around sexual and reproductive health/rights mention, some migration related issues and a quest by some delegations, for a “sovereignty clause” to be included in the text proposed by the chair. This is now the 3rd time in 4 years that discussions at this gathering end with no outcome. Our world is dangerously splitting on human rights issues.

Our disappointment today will not however affect our commitment to the Action Plan of the International Conference on Population and Development #ICPD beyond 2014.

La lutte continue !!! … #CPD51.

Reforming AU’s ECOSOCC: We Should Get it Right…

Friends;

The Executive Council of the African Union (Ministers of Foreign Affairs) has ordered an in-depth audit exercise on the functioning  of ECOSOCC (Economic Social and Cultural Council of the African Union) since its inception. This exercise is expected to provide appropriate recommendations on ways and means to revamp the operations of the organ that is supposed to ensure Civil Society contribution within the African Union policy making process.

Invited by the African Union Commission, I have had the opportunity to address the group of experts launching this process on 30th October 2017 in Seychelles. In my presentation, after making some preliminary remarks on the importance of citizens’ participation in the AU decision making process, I have looked at practices in similar bodies in other institutions around the world, before making key recommendations on what needs to be changed to make ECOSOCC effective and efficient.

Here is my presentation

Please feel free to drop your comments on this blog or to assogbavi@me.com

Africa Amnesty Month for Silencing the Guns – Important Prerequisites…

Dear friends;

The Peace and Security Council of  the African Union has just launched the “African Amnesty Month” for the Surrender and the Collection of Illicit Weapons in the framework of the African Union Master Roadmap for silencing the guns in Africa by 2020.

I have had the honor to address the Council at that occasion as an invited Guest Speaker. I am sharing  here my presentation made on the 4th September 2017 at the African Union Headquarter. 

Your comments are welcome on this blog or by email to assogbavi@me.com

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Your Excellency, Madam Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union; Honorable Members of the Peace and Security Council; Ladies and Gentlemen,All protocols observed.

Only 1/3 of all small arms in circulation today are in the hands of legally constituted security forces… the remaining 2/3 are held illegally by non-state actors or individuals and this is cause for concern because, the use of these weapons, directly and indirectly affects hundreds of thousands of people and severely undermines our commitments for sustainable development. So, the declaration of an Africa Amnesty Month for the surrender and collection of illegally owned weapons is an important step in the search for peace and security in Africa….

But, having looked at the decision of the Assembly on the Roadmap for silencing the Gun, the provision on Amnesty month seems to be the only provision with identified real actions with some accountability mechanisms.

Provisions relating to the root causes, or the origins of African conflicts are included, but unfortunately, they are vaguely treated… with no accountability mechanism or tracking system for implementation.

Madam Chair; a few years ago, the African Union had decided to launch a campaign named “Make Peace Happen”… in which we all participated but peace did not happen.

Every 6 months, the AUC presents a report on the state of peace and security in the continent, to the Assembly, and decisions are made accordingly …peace is still not happening… So, for the “Silencing the Guns” campaign to happen we must do something differently, we must do something courageous…. Maybe a bit painful…, in order to have a different result.

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The Assembly’s decision suggested that people who surrender their illegally owned weapons shall not be subjected to disclosure, humiliation, arrest or prosecution… that is a great incentive !!! but there is not the problem…

People are not holding on their gun today because they are afraid of prosecution… they keep holding and trusting the guns, mostly because their problems remain unsolved by the states, by power holders…

In fact, many weapon bearers do not consider their actions illegal but rather legitimate against:

  • The inequitable sharing of national resources
  • The confiscation of state power and state resources by an individual or group of individuals
  • The modern form of unconstitutional change of government manifested today by “fraudulent or cosmetic elections” to sustain unlimited terms on power …. often with the blessing by our regional and continental bodies through election observation that mostly look at just the voting operations, always “declared free and fair”

Madame Chair; if we stick to the current decision only, and to the the way we use to do business, I am afraid we will come back here in September 2020 or 2021, only to realize that guns are not silenced in our continent….

This means that the journey to 2063 will become longer than planned … the promises contained in the Agendas 2063 and 2030 will remain beautiful dreams. As a result, the mistrust of our populations, especially the youth, in our institutions, regional and continental bodies, will increase…. Affected and marginalized populations will continue trusting nothing else but the guns.

In DRC for example we do not need further research to know that, without a credible election and an alternation of power, there is no hope for peace… and it is unlikely for those who hold the guns, there, to surrender them… This also holds true for South Sudan Sudan, Burundi and so on. Of course, there are different scenarios and different realities in other part of the continent, that would not necessarily be resolved through election alone…

In many other countries in our continent, unlimited presidential terms reinforced by unfair elections constitute a real risk for fragility that will not contribute in silencing the gun by 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen; availability of arms does not necessarily create conflicts. But their proliferation and their uncontrolled circulation can lead to a more rapid spread of violence and, magnify their devastating effects, and, of course, countries are less safe if weapons are easily available. However, conflicts that are going on in Africa have not started just because arms were available… in fact, arms come in later in most of the cases. So, without courageous actions to deal with the origins of the conflicts, efforts to collect arms in the framework of our Amnesty month will not bring us any tangible result. Strategically, collecting arms cannot come first in the implementation of our Roadmap.

Madam Chair, I may disappoint you today because I have not prepared any specific suggestions on how the Amnesty month can be organized, because I do not believe we are there yet. Rather, I would like to use the following illustration to demonstrate that, there are unavoidable prerequisites, that we should meet first, before voluntary arms collection can be effective, and these fit well within the objective # 4 of this Open Session.

Let’s consider that our Master Roadmap for silencing the guns can be implemented within a symbolic calendar year from January to December, including September as the month of Amnesty for the collection of illegally owned small arms…You would see at the end, that in fact, September is an excellent choice….

Illustration for a strategic sequencing of prerequisites for guns to be silenced in Africa within a symbolic calendar year

See powerpoint here: https://www.slideshare.net/DesireAssogbavi/prerequisites-for-silencing-the-gun-in-africa

January and February:  Constitutions and laws of all member states of the African Union guaranty all civil and political rights for all citizens with no discrimination. This also means that peaceful demonstrations can be held whenever citizens are not happy about the conduct of public affairs on a particular area, without intimidation or violence against citizens…

March and April: Justice systems of all member states are made fully independent and free of undue pressure from the executive in their functioning. Human rights violators and criminals are effectively prosecuted regardless of their social and political status and reparation for victims is ensured at national level… As this happens constantly, the ICC will go bankrupt and will probably close!

May – June: State institutions set up socioeconomic and legal mechanisms to tackle inequality and extreme poverty, and to combat corruption at all levels. Illicit Financial Flows are significantly reduced… Heavy investments are made from national resources, supported by international south-south and north-south cooperation, to ensure essential services, mainly, education, infrastructures and health are accessible for all citizens including our leaders.

July: Credible elections are normally held and managed by independent electoral boards with no interference… and results of the pools reflect the true choice of the people… but, minorities are respected and deliberately protected and given opportunity to participate in public affairs through different other institutions, by the law and affirmative actions… This naturally lead to a situation where, elections are influenced more by political agendas and not by ethnic origins.  Losers of elections including former heads of state or opposition leaders are treated with dignity, respected and enjoy state protection, but they are held accountable if they are responsible for crimes.

August: Innovative programs create diverse and quality education and training opportunities. Private sector is regulated, accompanied and encouraged to create increasing job opportunities for the youth.  State institutions ensure equal opportunity to citizens with no discrimination, to be employed and engaged in public affairs

Then comes September: The Amnesty Month! Following the AU Assembly decisions on the Roadmap for silencing the Gun… People who have small arms and light weapons illegally — voluntarily surrender them … This is consolidated by the setting up of justice and accountability mechanisms adapted to each national context and traditions, including transitional justice…. Reparation for victims is guaranteed.

October: The African Union Treaty on Free Movements of people and goods is adopted and fully implemented all over the continent… The Pan African Passport is delivered promptly upon request… Interaction between peoples of different nationalities and regions of the continent catalyzes strong opportunities of learning, creates synergy, and boosts our economic integration… Young people feel no need to immigrate… No death recorded in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Sahara Desert and, a good part of the diaspora comes back to take part in the reconstruction of the continent.

November: The African Union gains trust from its citizens and becomes a truly people driven body, and effective to ensure the implementation of its decisions by member states… A genuine and effective space is provided for citizens and their formations to be part of the decision-making process… But this means that the AU has declared illegal, all draconian laws  against CSOs in member states, and pushed countries to abolish them, then replace them by provisions that respect universally agreed freedom of association… while ensuring accountably of NGOs…

Madam Chair, in December: Guns will be surely silenced in Africa…

I thank you!

Opinions in this presentation are absolutely personal.