Réflexions sur la Journée de l’Afrique : Au-delà de la Célébration

Read the English version here

Le 25 mai de chaque année, la Journée de l’Afrique est commémorée diversement sur le continent et dans la diaspora. Je voudrais partager quelques réflexions sur l’importance de cette journée qui doit être un moment de réflexion et de réengagement pour l’Afrique.

Le 25 mai 1963, la première organisation intergouvernementale continentale africaine est créée, faisant suite à l’indépendance de la majorité des pays du continent. L’Organisation de l’unité africaine (OUA), mère de l’actuelle Union africaine (UA), est née avec l’adoption de sa Charte à Addis-Abeba, en Éthiopie, lors d’une conférence diplomatique organisée par l’empereur éthiopien de l’époque, Haile Selassie.

La Journée de l’Afrique ne doit pas être confondue avec la Journée de l’Union africaine (Journée de l’UA), commémorée le 9 septembre de chaque année, marquant le jour où l’Assemblée des chefs d’État a décidé de transformer l’OUA en UA à Syrte, en Libye, le 9/9/ 99.

L’OUA a été fondée par 32 pays. Plus tard, 23 autres nations ont progressivement rejoint le groupe au fil des ans. L’OUA était un engagement sans précédent avec pour aspiration la libération politique totale de l’Afrique du colonialisme, l’unité et la solidarité entre ses peuples. Alors que les principaux objectifs de l’OUA étaient de débarrasser le continent des derniers vestiges de la colonisation et de l’apartheid ainsi que de promouvoir l’unité et la solidarité entre les États africains, la nouvelle Union africaine visait « une Afrique intégrée, prospère et pacifique, conduite par ses citoyens et représentant une force dynamique sur la scène mondiale.

La transformation de l’OUA en UA a créé l’espoir pour une plus grande unité et solidarité des pays africains et entre les peuples africains. La volonté de construire une institution centrée sur les citoyens est la principale caractéristique distinctive entre l’Union africaine et l’ancienne Organisation de l’unité africaine, qui était exclusivement axée sur les États.

Au-delà de la Célébration

Premièrement, il est important que la Journée de l’Afrique soit commémorée dans tous les pays africains et dans toute la diaspora. Ce devrait être un jour où nous racontons l’histoire de l’Afrique à nos jeunes générations. L’histoires de nos gloires passées mais aussi les fondements d’un avenir plus radieux… La Journée de l’Afrique doit aussi être une journée de réengagement envers nos Valeurs Partagées et nos Agendas communs : l’Agenda 2063 et ‘Agenda 2030; les Objectifs de Développement Durable des Nations Unies dont nous faisons pleinement partie. L’UA a un ensemble de valeurs partagées centrées sur la démocratie et la bonne gouvernance, l’État de droit et les droits de l’homme, la paix et la sécurité, ainsi que le développement et l’intégration du continent. La Journée de l’Afrique doit être une journée d’une solidarité africaine renouvelée. Elle doit nous rappeler qu’une partie importante de notre continent est encore, malheureusement dévastée par les conflits injustifiables. Cette journée doit renforcer notre détermination à lutter contre l’extrême pauvreté et toutes les sortes d’inégalités et de discriminations en Afrique.

J’ai encore en mémoire le Sommet de Lomé en 2000, lors de l’adoption du nouvel Acte constitutif de l’UA. Responsable de la Formation Civique à Radio Nationale du Togo, Radio Lomé, j’ai diffusé une émission radio intitulée « de l’OUA des Chefs d’Etat à l’UA des Citoyens » à mes 2 millions d’auditeurs. Je me souviens de l’enthousiasme et du grand espoir des citoyens africains de faire partie d’une nouvelle organisation continentale qui visait à ouvrir la voie à une démocratie plus forte, à la sécurité humaine, à la prospérité et au développement.

Depuis sa création, l’Union africaine a élevé la barre normative des ambitions de développement socio-économique et démocratique du continent. Mais l’adoption de normes, de traités, de cadres politiques ne suffit pas pour nous mener vers « l’Afrique que nous voulons ». Nous devons tenir nos promesses en mettant effectivement en œuvre ces instruments et en nous tenant régulièrement mutuellement responsables. Il est temps de combler le fossé entre les promesses et la réalité quotidienne de la plupart des citoyens.

Comment va notre Union Aujourd’hui ?

Les citoyens ont-ils véritablement la possibilité de participer pleinement aux processus de prise de décision de l’Union ? Mettons-nous en œuvre les principes fondamentaux qui visent à garantir une Afrique démocratique, le respect des droits de l’homme et des peuples, et à libérer le potentiel du développement ? Gérons-nous nos ressources naturelles de manière responsable au profit du continent et de ses filles et fils ? Comment préparons-nous notre jeune population à prendre la relève ? Exploitons-nous notre dividende démographique comme promis dans la feuille de route adoptée ? Respectons-nous nos valeurs communes ? Dans quelle mesure les réponses des organes intergouvernementaux en Afrique à la question des changements anticonstitutionnels de gouvernement ou des coups d’État qui se produisent encore sur notre continent sont-elles cohérentes ?

Entre 2014 et 2021, plus de 20.000 Africains sont morts ou portés disparu en mer Méditerranée en tentant de fuir notre continent. Beaucoup d’autres sont morts dans le désert du Sahara avant même d’atteindre la mer. Pourquoi quittent-ils le continent ?

34 des 54 pays africains sont étiquetés comme « pays les moins avancés », alors que dans le même temps, des milliards de dollars sortent illégalement du continent par le biais de flux financiers illicites (FFI) Selon le rapport Thabo Mbeki.

L’Afrique possèderait plus de 90 % des ressources mondiales en chrome, 85 % de sa platine, 70 % de sa tantalite, 68 % de son cobalt, 54 % de son or, ainsi que d’importantes réserves de pétrole et de gaz. Le continent abrite également des gisements d’uranium, de manganèse, de diamants, de phosphate et de bauxite en très grandes quantités. Il a du bois et d’autres ressources forestières ajoutées à ses vastes terres arables pour l’agriculture.

Nous devons réfléchir aux nombreuses questions posées par nos peuples aujourd’hui : Sommes-nous vraiment et véritablement passés de l’OUA à l’UA ? Ou sommes-nous juste en train de tourner autour de vieilles pratiques ? Pourquoi 60 % ou plus du budget de l’Union africaine sont-ils encore payés par des donateurs externes ? Quelles sont les implications d’un tel fait sur l’intégrité et l’efficacité de notre Union?

Comment avancer vers l’Afrique que nous voulons ?

Nous devons créer un environnement propice au développement. L’état de droit, la démocratie et les idéaux de bonne gouvernance sont essentiels pour établir la paix et la sécurité sur le continent. Nous avons promis de faire taire les armes en Afrique à l’horizon 2020, mais nous ne l’avons pas fait et avons reporté l’échéance à 2030. Nous échouons parce que nous faisons les mêmes choses, en utilisant la même approche tout en expectant un résultat différent.

Tirer profit du dividende démographique: Prioriser l’emploi, l’éducation, le développement des compétences ainsi que la santé des jeunes : La structure par âge de notre population a des impacts importants sur notre développement économique. Le « dividende démographique » fait référence aux avantages économiques découlant d’une augmentation significative du nombre d’adultes en âge de travailler par rapport à ceux qui sont dépendants. Ces adultes en âge de travailler doivent être en bonne santé, éduqués, formés, qualifiés et avoir des emplois décents. Avoir une population jeune ne suffit pas pour catalyser le développement et la prospérité. Tous les pays africains devraient mettre en œuvre efficacement la feuille de route de l’UA sur le dividende démographique en Afrique. Voyons les différents groupes extrémistes/terroristes qui opèrent sur le continent, pourquoi est-il si facile pour eux de recruter des jeunes pour mener ces guerres folles ? Si ces jeunes travaillaient dans leurs banques, dans leurs ateliers ou dans leurs fermes, s’ils étudiaient ou enseignaient dans leurs universités ou encore travaillaient dans leurs hôpitaux, suivraient-ils des groupes terroristes ?

Conflits : Au-delà des solutions militaires : L’UA elle-même a identifié 21 conflits actuels dans les 55 pays qui composent l’Union. Les causes profondes de la plupart des conflits en Afrique se trouvent dans l’extrême pauvreté, les inégalités structurelles profondes, la discrimination, le sous-développement, le partage inéquitable des ressources naturelles, la répression politique, la mauvaise gestion de notre diversité et le changement climatique.

Les opérations militaires à elles seules n’apporteront pas la paix en Afrique. Nous devons accorder la priorité à la résolution de la crise de gouvernance, promouvoir un dialogue inclusif, fournir des services sociaux et stimuler le développement. Les interventions militaires ne doivent être qu’au service de cette approche. Les jeunes principalement utilisés par les chefs de guerre sont vulnérables car ils n’ont rien à perdre.

Lors de ses sessions extraordinaires au cours des dernières années, j’ai fait des propositions au Conseil de paix et de sécurité de l’Union africaine sur la manière dont nous pouvons faire taire les armes et garantir la paix sur le continent. Lisez les ici.

Sécurité alimentaire: le signal d’alarme pour l’Afrique : Le paradoxe embarrassant à ce sujet est que malgré la possession de 60 % des terres fertiles du monde, l’Afrique reste un importateur majeur de nourriture, dépensant 35 milliards de dollars par an en importations alimentaires. La guerre en Ukraine coupe certains approvisionnements du continent, donc si rien n’est fait, des millions d’Africains risquent de sombrer dans l’extrême pauvreté et la malnutrition. L’implication directe de la hausse des prix des denrées alimentaires sera que moins de ménages africains pourront s’offrir des repas quotidiens décents. Les ménages en situation d’insécurité alimentaire sur le continent seront beaucoup plus laissés pour compte. Les taux de consommation chuteront, l’épargne s’épuisera, la dette augmentera et les actifs seront liquidés, et tout cela risque d’accroître l’instabilité sur le continent. Nous avons beaucoup de terres en Afrique, mais la plupart des agriculteurs utilisent encore des instruments rudimentaires . L’industrie agro-alimentaire est peu développée en Afrique et se caractérise principalement par la transformation à petite échelle des produits agricoles, qui est assurée par de petites unités aux capacités très limitées.

Le thème annuel choisi en janvier de cette année par l’Union africaine pour ses discussions politiques est le « renforcement de la résilience en matière de nutrition et de sécurité alimentaire sur le continent africain ». La Banque africaine de développement (BAD) a une stratégie pour la transformation de l’agriculture en Afrique dans le cadre de son High5.

Au cours de sa réunion annuelle en cours à Accra, au Ghana, la BAD lance une facilité de 1,5 milliard de dollars pour financer l’achat de nourriture pour les gouvernements à court de liquidités alors que les prix augmentent rapidement. Il est urgent de donner la priorité aux investissements dans l’agriculture dès maintenant aux niveaux national et régional. Il est temps que l’Afrique se nourrisse. Il n’y a aucune raison pour que l’Afrique, disposant de 65 % des terres arables non cultivées demeure une région importatrice nette de produits alimentaires.

Arrêter les flux illicites des capitaux : Chaque année, 89 milliards de dollars quittent le continent africain sous forme de flux financiers illicites, selon un rapport de la CNUCED sur le développement économique en Afrique. Il s’agit de mouvements d’argent et d’actifs dont la source, le transfert ou l’utilisation sont illégaux. Cela comprend les capitaux illicites qui sortent du continent, les pratiques fiscales et commerciales telles que la mauvaise facturation des expéditions commerciales et les activités criminelles telles que les marchés illégaux, la corruption ou le détournement. Le fait choquant est que les milliards perdus chaque année à cause de ces flux illicites sont presque égaux à l’aide publique au développement (APD) et aux investissements directs étrangers (IDE) combinés. La lutte contre les flux illicites nécessite une coopération internationale et des actions à la fois sur le continent et à l’extérieur.

Mandaté par l’Union africaine et la Commission économique des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique, un groupe de haut niveau dirigé par le président Thabo Mbeki a formulé des recommandations pratiques pour lutter contre ces flux illicites. Nous devons revenir sur ces recommandations, les mettre pleinement en œuvre et dégager des ressources substantielles pour financer nos plans de développement, sinon, notre voyage vers 2030 et 2063 restera un rêve.

Je vous souhaite tous une bonne Journée de l’Afrique

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika !

Que Dieu bénisse l’Afrique !

Vos commentaires et suggestions sont les bienvenus sur ce site ou directement sur mon adresse mail : Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com ou Assogbavi@me.com

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Africa Day Reflection: Beyond the Celebration.

Lire la version en Français ici

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

On 25th May 1963, the first African continental intergovernmental organization was created, following the independence of most countries. The Organization of African Unity (OAU), the mother of the current African Union (AU), was born with the adoption of its Charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during a diplomatic conference hosted by the then Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Africa Day should not be confused with African Union Day (AU Day), commemorated on the 9th of September each year, marking the day the Assembly of Heads of State decided to transform the OAU to the AU in Sirte, Libya on 9/9/99.

The OAU was founded by 32 countries. Later, 23 other nations have gradually joined the body over the years. OAU was an unprecedented commitment to Africa’s aspiration for the total political liberation of the continent from colonialism as well as the unity and solidarity among its people. While the main objectives of the OAU were to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid and to promote unity and solidarity among African States, the new African Union aimed for “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The transformation of the OAU to the AU created the hope of greater unity and solidarity of African countries and among African people. The desire to build a people-oriented and people-centered institution is the main distinguishing feature between the African Union and the former Organization of African Unity, which was exclusively state-focused. People use to call it the “Club of male Heads of State.”

Beyond the Celebration

First, it’s important that Africa Day is commemorated in all African countries and the entire diaspora. It should be a day on which we tell African stories to our young generations. The stories of our past glories, the 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. The AU has a set of Shared Values that centre around democracy and good governance, the rule of law and human rights, peace and security, and continental development and integration. Africa Day should be a day of a renewed African solidarity. A day of remembrance that an important part of our continent is still devastated by the ongoing unjustifiable conflicts, a day of determination to fight extreme poverty and all kind of inequalities and discriminations in Africa.

I still have memories of the Lomé Summit in 2000, when the new Constitutive Act of the AU was adopted. Managing the Civic Education Division of the National Radio of Togo, Radio Lomé, I broadcasted a radio show titled “from the OAU of Heads of State to the AU of Citizens” to my 2 million listeners. I can remember the excitement and the big hope of African citizens to be part of a new continental organization that aimed to pave the way to a stronger democracy, human security, prosperity, and development.

Since its inception, the African Union has raised the normative bar for the socio-economic and democratic development ambitions of the continent. But the adoption of norms, treaties, policy frameworks is not enough to take us to the “Africa We Want” We must realize the promises by effectively implementing those instruments and regularly holding each other accountable to them. It is time to close the gap between continental promises and the daily reality of most citizens.

How is our Union Doing Today?

Are citizens genuinely given a chance to participate in the Union’s processes fully? Are we implementing fundamental principles that aim to secure a democratic Africa, the respect of human and people rights, and unlock potential for development?   Are we managing our natural resources responsibly for the benefit of the continent and its people? How are we preparing our youthful population to take over? Are we harnessing our demographic dividend as promised in the related Roadmap? Are we abiding by our shared values? How consistent are the responses of the intergovernmental bodies in Africa to the issue of unconstitutional change of government or Coup d’états that are still happening in our continent?

Between 2014 and 2021, over 20,000 Africans have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea trying to run away from our continent. Many others died in the Saharan desert before reaching the Sea. Why are they leaving the continents?

34 out of the 54 African Countries are labeled as “Least Developed Countries,” while at the same time billions of dollars are illegally taken out of the continent through illicit financial flows (IFF), according to the Thabo Mbeki Report.

Africa is said to possess over 90% of the world’s chrome resources, 85% of its platinum, 70% of its tantalite, 68% of its cobalt, 54% of its gold, plus significant oil and gas reserves. The continent is also home to uranium, manganese, diamonds, phosphate, and bauxite deposits in very high quantities. It has timber and other forest resources added to its vast arable land for agriculture.

We need to reflect on the many questions being asked by our people today: Have we really and genuinely moved from the OAU to the AU? Or are we still turning around with old practices? Why is 60% or more of the African Union budget still paid by external donors? What are the implications of such a fact on the integrity and effectiveness of our Union?

Ways Forward to the Africa We Want

We need to create a conducive environment for development to flow. The rule of law, democracy, and good governance ideals are critical to establishing peace and security in the continent. We promised to silence the guns in Africa by 2020, but we failed to do so and postponed the deadline to 2030. We are failing because we are doing the same things, using the same approach over and over again and excepting a different result.

Harnessing the Demographic Dividend: Prioritize Job, education, skill development and health for the youth: The age structure of our population has important impacts on our economic development. The “demographic dividend” refers to economic benefits arising from a significant increase of working-aged adults vis-a-vis those who are dependents. These working-age adults must be healthy, educated, trained, skilled and have decent jobs and, other economic opportunities should be created to meet their demand. Having a youthful population is not enough to catalyze development and prosperity.  All African countries should effectively implement the AU Roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa. Looking at the various extremist/terrorist groups that are operating in the continent,  why is it that easy for them to recruit young people to fight those crazy wars? If these young people were working in their banks, in their workshops or in their farms, if they are studying or teaching in their universities or operating in their hospitals, would they still be following terrorist groups?

Conflicts: Beyond Military Solutions: The AU itself has identified 21 current conflicts in the 55 countries that make up the Union. 113 million people in Africa are currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Root causes of most conflicts in Africa are to be found in extreme poverty, deep structural inequalities, discrimination, underdevelopment, unfair sharing of natural resources, political repression, mismanagement of our diversity, and climate change.

Military operations alone will not bring peace to Africa. We need to prioritize addressing governance crisis, promote inclusive dialogue, provide social services and boost development. Military interventions should only be at the service of this approach. Young people mostly used by warlords are vulnerable because they have nothing to lose.

During its special sessions over the last fews years, I have made submissions to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on how we can silence the guns and make peace happen in the continent. Check it out here.

Food Security, the wakeup call for Africa: The embarrassing paradox on this matter is that despite having 60% of the world’s fertile land, Africa remains a major importer of food, spending $35 billion annually on food imports. The war in Ukraine is cutting off some supplies to the continent, so, if nothing is done, millions of Africans are in danger of falling into extreme poverty and malnutrition. The direct implication of higher food prices will be that fewer African households will be able to afford decent daily meals. Food-insecure households in the continent will be left much further behind. Consumption rates will fall, savings will be depleted, debt will increase, and assets will be liquidated, and all these have the risk of increasing instability in the continent. We have plenty of land in Africa, but most farmers still use rudimentary instruments for Agriculture. The agri-food industry is poorly developed in Africa and is mainly characterized by small-scale processing of agricultural products, which is provided by small units with very limited capacity.

The annual theme picked in January this year by the African Union for its policy discussions is strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the African Continent. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has a Strategy for Agriculture Transformation in Africa as part of its High5. During its ongoing annual meeting in Accra, Ghana, the AfDB is launching a 1.5 billion USD facility to finance food purchase for cash-strapped governments as prices rise quickly. It is urgent to prioritize investment in agriculture now at national and regional levels. It is time for Africa to feed itself. There is no reason for Africa having 65% of the uncultivated arable land left to remain a net food-importing region.

Stopping the Outflow of Capital: Every year, $89 billion leaves the African continent as Illicit Financial Flows, according to a UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report. These are movements of money and assets across borders that are illegal in source, transfer, or use. It includes illicit capital getting out of the continent, tax and commercial practices like wrong invoicing of trade shipments, and criminal activities such as illegal markets, corruption, or theft. The shocking fact is that the billions lost annually to IFF are almost equal to the Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) altogether. These are missed development opportunities. Tackling IFF requires international cooperation and actions both within the continent and outside.

Commissioned by the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, a High-Level Panel led by President Thabo Mbeki made practical recommendations to tackle the IFFs.  We need to go back to those recommendations, implement them fully and pull-out substantial resources to finance our development plans. If not, our journey to 2030 and 2063 will remain a dream.

Wishing you all a thoughtful Africa Day!

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!

God Bless Africa!

Your comments and suggestions are also welcome on this site or directly to my email address: Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com or Assogbavi@me.com

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What Should be Biden Administration Strategy towards Togo?

I was recently invited by the Washington DC-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to suggest what the Biden Administration could do in Togo.
I mostly focused on the importance of Job Creation for the youth in the Framework of the National Development Plan of #Togo . This can be done by promoting agriculture and agribusiness as well as tackling the Illicit Financial Flows (IFF)in order to generate more money for investment.

Listen to the podcast here: https://www.csis.org/node/62064

Cheers

Active Citizenship for an Effective Development Process in Africa

This is the summary of a paper I presented today 1st September 2021 at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, during the conference on “Good governance, participatory democracy, and social justice: Civil society as an agent of change and innovation in Africa”

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen

My main point for the 10 minutes I have, is to demonstrate how citizens’ participation in governance, which includes accountability from power holders, could make a big difference, and shorten our journey to development, reduces corruption, and obviously reduce inequality and poverty.

I will quickly look at it from a national angle to regional and continental perspectives and I will conclude with a few recommendations on how we can remove obstacles to active citizens’ participation.  

The realization of an integrated, peaceful, and economically developed Africa needs the full involvement of all segments of our society. It cannot be left in the hands of the only politicians holding office.

The conduct of national, regional, and pan African affairs should make room, both institutionally and informally for the participation of citizens as individual and their formations, in groups.

Our continental Agenda 2063 itself, recognizes that people’s ownership and mobilization are crucial,… as critical enablers to concretize Africa’s aspirations. So, for a prosperous and democratic society, the state, and a well-organized civil society should be seen as the two sides of the same coin. They complement each other. Civil society must be seen as a reservoir of social capital, capable of contributing into all aspects of national, regional and continental development.

The evidence is clear. We have seen it ! Citizens’ engagement with their leaders improves the delivery of inclusive, accessible, and responsive public service. These include the provision of healthcare, safe water, quality education and decent jobs etc…. Today, looking at the challenges that our continent is facing, supporting democratic accountability and participation towards, a people-driven development has never been more urgent.

If we exclude or limit citizens from policy development, we will experience poor political and policy accountability mechanisms. Poor accountability leads to service failure, abandoned projects, waste, institutional inefficiencies and, will further exacerbate poverty…. That is why, my organization, the ONE campaign focuses its entire actions on citizens participation, active citizenship!!!

We identify recruit, train, mobilize and provide platforms for grassroots campaigners and their formations, to engage with political leaders and policymakers in order to catalyse change.

The influence of civil society in national and continental policy making does not diminish the relevance of governmental or inter-governmental processes, rather, citizens’ actions enhance and inform it.

If we look at the area of human security, for example, because of their immersion within the society, civil society organizations have vocation, and the ability to contribute to peace building initiatives and social cohesion.

In conflict affected area, Civil Society has shown its capacity to organise the collection, analysis, and evaluation of first-hand information, allowing the identification of the sources of potential tensions as well as emerging conflicts.

While traditional conflicts were well understood by diplomats and specialists in political science, addressing adequately new conflicts, requires much more on-the-ground understanding, new skills of social and cultural analysis, the active involvement of communities and their leaders, links to vulnerable groups, and new ways of working. Most of the time, civil society organisations have unique capacities in all those areas.

At national level

Unfortunately, we have been facing a reality in which, too many countries on the continent, have adopted and continue to adopt national legislations reducing civic space. There are increased control and undue restrictions on the formation and the activities of CSOs.

Some governments perceive CSOs as economic saboteurs, inciters of violence, or, an extension of political opposition parties or even, agents of foreign interest.

The reality is that since 2012, new restrictive CSOs laws have been adopted in more than 30 countries in Africa. Limited civic space, restricts the ability of citizens to participate in public life, and speak truth to power. This constrains one of society’s primary tools to prevent political capture of the state and its resources.

Of course, promoting civic space does not tacitly imply that civil society should be unregulated and free from government oversight. We are not saying that. On the contrary, reasonable regulation is legitimate, necessary and can enhance effectiveness and accountability in the sector. Yet regulations must not be overly burdensome, driven by political motives, and design to shot down independent voices.

Africa has a proud history of civic activism.  social movements and activists were a vital component of most independence struggles, and, civil society was a driving force behind state formation and state building.

This should continue as we face new challenge. Unfortunately, CSOs are under threat!!! Especially at national level.

At Regional Level

Civil society and coalitions that are targeting regional and pan African institutions have an important role to play as a complement and a backup to national groups. They are less exposed to risks compared to national CSOs and in many cases they can really contribute, influence and pressurize member states through regional and continental bodies on regional policy issues.

While this is important, we know that, the actual implementation of decisions happens at country level, Fundamental changes in people’s life happens at national level so we should mobilize, and regroup to stand strongly against any shrinking or even shifting of civic space in our countries.   

It is then important that the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities step in, this unfortunate trend.

So, what can we do?

At continental and regional levels, we do have a strong normative framework!

The entire transformation of the OAU to the AU is justified by the importance of citizens’ participation. Other Regional bodies such as ECOWAS, SADC, EAC etc, give ways legally to CSOs participation and constitutions of many member states recognize that organized civil society is a legitimate and authentic expression of fundamental human rights…. But then, laws being made on political consideration come to mess things up…

A few suggestions:

  1. We need to first, push for a moratorium of restrictive CSO law in Africa, and bring the debate to a regional and pan Africa levels….
  2. A few progressive member states should table the issue in the regional debate then take it to continental discussion: South Africa, Botswana, Senegal, Zambia, Nigeria etc… could play a leading role. There are reasons to do so…. We cannot reach the Africa we want, the Africa that is described in the Agenda 2063…. We can’t get there without a genuine citizens participation…  
  3. I know there have been a number of analysis of existing restrictive laws but I believe we need an independent continental taskforce to be commissioned by the AU to look at the situation, review laws and regulations that affect civil society organizations and make a report to the Assembly of Union for a progressive decision.
  4. CSOs on their side need to regroup on this matter and organize…. Not agonize.
  5. I really want to believe that this gathering, the CSO Conference constitute the beginning of a continental revolution to save Civic Space…

I thank you !!!

Africa & the International Criminal Court: A new Era is Possible

To Mark the Day of International Criminal Justice, today 17 July, here is another article I published some years back after speaking to African Ministers of Justice gathered in Dakar, Senegal by the then Minister of Justice of Senegal and President of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC Treaty, Mr. Sidiki Kaba.

Assodesire

Subsequent to my article on Africa and the ICCpublished on this blog, I was invited by H.E. Sidiki Kaba, Minister of Justice of Senegal and President of the Assembly of States parties to the International Criminal Court to resource a ministerial discussion  on the challenges and opportunities of the International Criminal Court going forward. Present at this meeting was also the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda as well as other officials of the court.

In my presentation at a session chaired by H.E. Cheik Sako, Minister of Justice of Guinea, I proposed to African Ministers of Justice ideas that would re-establish trust between Africa and the ICC in order to work together to address impunity and ensure justice for victims. I argued that grievances of the African Union against the ICC’s  “exclusive” targeting of Africa is understandable because crimes under ICC jurisdictions are also committed by none Africans, outside of Africa and the ICC does not seem to be in…

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The International Criminal Court or the African Union: Who can Ensure Justice for African Victims?

Today, 17 July is the Day of International Criminal Justice, marking the anniversary of the adoption of the International Criminal Court Treaty in 1998. I am sharing an article I published some years back, but still relevant today on Africa and the #ICC: https://assodesire.com/2017/02/14/the-international-criminal-court-or-the-african-union-who-can-ensure-justice-for-african-victims/

Assodesire

La version en Français ici

I spent several years of my professional career working on human rights and justice first as the Founder and Chairperson of Juris-Club, then as Commissioner at the National Commission of Human Rights following my election by the Parliament of Togo, then as Outreach Liaison for Africa at the Global Coalition for the International Criminal Court in New York among others … The conflict between the African Union and the ICC therefore interests me in several respects but especially as African and a human rights lawyer; therefore I would like to share here some personal reflections on the different episodes of the serial “ICC versus the African Union”.

The International Criminal Court: The Basics

The creation of the International Criminal Court is an important step in mankind’s efforts to make our world more just. The court was established by an international law treaty “The Rome…

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Is the Reformed African Union ready to meet the challenges of the continent?

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) has published my article titled “Will the Restructured African Union meet the Continent’s Urgent Challenges?”, written from the notes bellow. You can read it here.

I have used the same notes below as talking points to speak at the Seminar hosted jointly by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) on the 16th February 2021 following the 34th Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

Talking Points:

To answer the question above, I propose we analyze 3 key elements against the reform agenda proposed by President Kagame and adopted by the Assembly of the Union.

  • The New setting of the AU
  • The Leadership and Management
  • The Resources needed to do the job  

Let’s look back into the reform agenda:

1st : The new setting, including the scope of intervention of the AU

The African Union should focus on a fewer number of priority areas, which are by nature, continental in scope, such as political affairs, peace and security, economic integration, and Africa’s global representation and voice: this has not happened enough in the new structure of the commission. Basically, we find every issues/thematic that were in the previous structure with 8 departments, squeezed within new 6-department Commission, sometimes under different names. There are even new items added. I believe we failed here…

On the positive side we have the merging of Political Affairs with the Peace and Security Department. This will catalyze a stronger synergy and, the Commissioner will have a unique opportunity to effectively work on the root causes of the conflicts (the political Affairs side), and not just to embrace the conflicts when they happen with their, already devastating consequences and implications. That was a missing link in the previous setting of the AU Commission.

There is an unfinished business: The Peace and Security Council (PSC) needs to be reformed with a focus on results.  We can’t continue evaluating the PSC just by counting the number of meetings they have had. They should be judged by how many conflicts they have helped to stop, or to prevent.

Also, the situation where countries in conflict continue to be member of the PSC or even chairing the PSC need to be resolved in the new setting because it has had negative influence on the work of the PSC and on its credibility.

2nd: The Leadership/Management

The Kagame Report called for managing the African Union efficiently at both political and operational levels. This is not only directed to the AU Commission. It is for the entire African Union System, including Member States:

  • We now have the Operational leadership of the Union just elected, with 2 more commissioners to be found.
  • Member States need to get into the game. Looking at the most serious challenges of the continents it is imperative to ensure a better governance based on our agreed shared values (which include democracy, human rights, credible elections, accountability), a fair sharing of our natural resources and a better management of our diversity in the continent. If we succeed in doing these, the “silencing the guns target” will rather be an easy one, and of course peace and security will pave the way for our development projects.
  • The newly elected leadership seems up to job. The business plan proposed by the Chairperson Moussa Faki put a strong emphasis on these issues. He promised to facilitate a conflict-free continent, he promised to interrogate some of the ongoing situations, to ask some of the hard and sensitive questions.  I believe he can build on his lifelong experience on conflicts and fragility as well as his last 4 years learning, to take us there if political will follows from member states.
  • The new Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, has a strong profile matching the portfolio.  Also, the unprecedented political support that he enjoyed by having been voted for by all the 55 member states, is definitely a big asset.
  • The Deputy Chairperson in charge of the Administration and Finance is coming from a related background. She is from a rigorous and disciplined political environment, Rwanda. We are also good here.  In fact, there are a lot of internal matters on her plate right now at the Commission to look at urgently fix:

  Following are a few facts from a recent forensic and performance Audit of the AU Commission covering the period 2012- 2018:

  • For the period reviewed, more than 70% of AU Commission Staff are with short time contract. 
  • In terms of quota related to how many nationals of each member state work in the AU organs, some member states have passed their quota by up to 500% while some countries have 0-5%
  • 200+ staff have passed retirement age and were still employed by the AU during the period considered  
  • More than 100 staff at the AUC are relatives to other staff
  • More than 100 staff’ qualifications could not be verified by the audit team…

  Political Efficiency at member States level: the need to embrace our shared values

  • When we talk about Managing the African Union, we should not forget the political level! The African Union is, and will be, as good as Member States are. It is not the job of the AU Commission to implement decisions at national level. It is the responsibility of member states.
  • On peace and security for example, we all know what the root causes of most of the conflicts in Africa are. They are actually well articulated in the AU Roadmap on silencing the guns by 2020, now moved to 2030 just a few weeks ago… We currently have deadly conflicts still going on in C.A.R., in the Lake Chad Basin, in Cameroon… It is not over in DRC, Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan. There are risks in Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Uganda… and we can go on… How can we trade for economic development within the continent in such a situation?

3rd: Financial Resources

It is one of the pillars of the reform agenda. The African Union should be financed by resources from within the continent. Progress have been very weak on this:

Current average contribution of the 55 AU member states all together is still less than 40%!!!

Development partners continue paying more than 60% of the African Union budget. This is happening despite all the talks, the scenarios, the decisions many years back, from President Obassanjo’s proposals in 2013 to President Kagame’s recommendations in 2017.

Lack of an Accountability Mechanism for the Implementation of AU Decisions at National Level

There is no practical accountability mechanism to track progress in the implementation at national level, of AU decisions, policies standards, treaties etc, adopted. There is no sanction for the lack of the implementation of these decisions by member states. AU Policy organs have been even trying to weaken the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, as the Banjul based body questions member states’ behaviors that go against AU human rights policies.   

The only sanction mechanism in the reform agenda is the sanction imposed to members for not paying their contributions to the AU. We need to do more on this. I believe a comprehensive sanction project need to find it way to the table at some point, but in the meantime the Commission’s leadership could come up with a few innovative ideas to have at least, a certain system of political pressure on members who violate AU principles in their countries. This could be championed by a group of Heads of State.

Maybe, it is time to start talking about an eventual safety guaranty for Heads of State who stayed too long on power and may be concern for their life if they are out. There should not be a taboo in terms of proposals that can bring peace in the continent.

So…. back to the main question: Is the African Union and its Commission ready to meet the challenges of the continent? Not yet!

I believe we are getting somehow on the track…. we have a potential to make it if we are courageous enough. It is looking a bit better than before, but we are not there yet!

Highlights from the ongoing African Union Summit, 6-7 Feb 2021

The very first leadership team of the restructured African Union Commission has been elected this 6th February 2021 for a 4-year term as follow:

Chairperson: Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat (re-elected) from Chad, Central Africa

Deputy Chairperson: Ms. Monique Nsanzabaganwa from Rwanda, East Africa

Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment: Ms. Josefa Sacko (re-elected) from Angola, Southern Africa

Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade and Industry, and Mining: Mr. Albert Muchanga (re-elected) from Zambia, Southern Africa

Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy: Ms. Amani Abou-Zeid (re-elected) from Egypt, North Africa

Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security: Mr. Bankole Adeoye from Nigeria, West Africa

Postponement:

The elections for the following posts have been postponed likely for six months when the Executive Council meet next (June/July 2021)

– Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs, and Social Development

– Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation

The outgoing 2 Commissioners Ms. Amira Elfadil and Ms. Sarah Agbor, respectively, will continue to serve in their positions until the next elections.

Why the postponement of the last two elections?

According to the rules and regulations of the African Union, the Commission’s leadership should respect a fair balance between the 5 geographical regions (North, Central, West, East, South) as well as a gender balance (male/female) in the overall team.

There are 8 positions, so, every region would have at least 1 post, and no region could have more than 2 posts. The Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson should be from different regions. If the Chairperson is a male, the Deputy Chairperson should be a female and vise versa. In addition, the regions of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson could not have a second post. This will allow the other 3 regions to share the remaining 6 posts: 2 for each region. When a region has 2 posts, it should be 1 male and 1 female, so the whole leadership team should have an equal number of males and females meaning 4 men 4 women.

By the time the voting reached these two posts, the regions from which the candidates had come had already met their regional and gender quotas, so those candidates became automatically disqualified to be voted for due to regional and gender balance rules.

Technically the two upcoming Commissioners should come from West Africa (female) and Nord Africa (Male). ECOWAS has already decided internally that the second West Africa post would go to Burkina Faso. Central Africa and East Africa have already been granted the two highest posts (Chair and Deputy Chair), so, they could not have a second post.

A similar scenario already happened during the 2017 AUC elections, and voting for the remaining posts has been postponed for the following Summit.

So far the African Union is the only regional body with a strict written gender balance policy at the leadership level, a situation to be celebrated.

Other highlights from the Summit:

  • President Felix Tshisekedi from DRC is the new Chair of the Union for 2021
  • President Macky Sall from Senegal will be the following Chair of the Union for 2022
  • Chairperson Moussa Faki becomes the first AUC Chair to have a second term since the transformation of the OAU to the AU almost 20 years ago
  • The New Commissioner for Peace, Security, and Political Affairs breaks the record of having 55/55 member states’ votes.

Watch this space for more updates and analysis. Your comments and suggestions will be highly appreciated at Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com

African Union Summit Decisions in 5 Points

Dear Friends

Here are the key outcomes (unofficial) of the just-ended summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union held in Addis Ababa 8 – 10 February 2020. While the theme of the year 2020 is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”, no concrete decision has been taken on the matter besides the acknowledgment of the Orientation Concept Note on the theme and a request by the Assembly of the Union for a comprehensive report on the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap at the end of the year. South Africa offered to host an extraordinary Summit end of May 2020 on Silencing the Guns. In my last blog, I have suggested 7 prerequisites for the guns to be silenced in Africa.

1/ LEADERSHIP

Chairperson of the African Union for 2020: President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

Chairperson of the African Union for 2021: President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC

Chairperson of NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee HSGOC: President Paul Kagame, of Rwanda elected to replace President Macky Sall of Senegal

AU Champion for Financial Institutions: President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana, to provide political leadership and awareness to accelerate their establishment as scheduled in the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

See other Champions here.

2/ INSTITUTIONAL REFORM OF THE AFRICAN UNION

  • AU Commission to submit to the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly (Feb 2021), after due consideration by the Executive Council, practical proposals for rationalizing the Agenda and the Program of Work of the Assembly, as well as streamlining the program of meetings and side events. of the Assembly and the Executive Council.
  • The Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs) has a delegated authority to consider and adopt provisionally the Rules of Procedures of the Assembly and the Statute of the Commission during its 37th Ordinary Session in June/July 2020;
  • The Protocol on the Relations between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) is adopted and the Chairperson of the Commission authorized to sign the Protocol on behalf of the African Union;
  • The following eminent Persons have been appointed to assist for the AU Senior Leadership job profiles, competency requirements and assessment process: a) Central Africa: H.E Yang Philemon (Cameroon) b) East Africa: Amb. Konjit Sinegiorgis (Ethiopia) c) Southern Africa: Amb. Tuliameni Kalomoh (Namibia) d) West Africa:   Hon. Hassan Bubacar Jallow (The Gambia). North Africa to nominate 1 representative to join the group.

Read my previous articles on the AU Reform here.

New Structures of the following organs have been adopted:

  • African Union Commission Departmental Structure;
  • Continental Operational Centre – (Khartoum);
  • African Centre for the Study and Research on Migration – (Mali);
  • African Migration Observatory (the Observatory) – (Morocco);
  • African Union Mechanism For Police Cooperation (Afripol) – (Algeria);
  • AU Centre for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AUCPCRD) – (Egypt);
  • Secretariat of African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) – (Lesotho);
  • African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI) – (Equatorial Guinea).

The Executive Council got delegated authority to appoint (not only to elect) members of the following AU Organs and Institutions:  

  1. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  2. African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child;
  3. African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  4. African Union Advisory Board on Corruption;
  5. African Union Commission on International Law;
  6. President and Vice President of the Pan African University; and
  7. African Space Agency.

  3/ AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA (AfCFTA)

  • Mr. Wamkele Mene (South Africa) is appointed as Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area for a four-year term. The Permanent Secretariat of the AfCFTA to start operating by 31 March 2020
  • AfCFTA Council of Ministers to have an Extraordinary Summit on 30 May 2020 to approve all instruments required for the start of trading under the AfCFTA on 1 July 2020. South Africa to host the Summit
  • 6 Countries that made reservations (Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) decided to “compromise their national interests in the interest and solidarity of the African continent to join the rest of the States Parties in implementing the modalities on tariff liberalization”.
  • AfCFTA shall not accept requests for observer status from States that are not Member States of the African Union

4/ LEGAL INSTRUMENTS & ELECTION

The following Legal Instruments have been adopted:

  1. Statute of the African Peer Review Mechanism;
  2. Rules of Procedure of the Heads of State and Government of Participating States of the African Peer Review Mechanism;
  3. Protocol on Relations between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities;
  4. Rules of Procedures of the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting;
  5. Statute for the Establishment of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Migration;
  6. Statute for the Establishment of African Migration Observatory;
  7. Statute for the Establishment of Continental Operational Centre in Sudan for Combating Irregular Migration.

Election:

The following 10 Members have been elected for the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union for a 2-year term starting from April 2020:

  1. Cameroon: Central
  2. Chad: Central
  3. Djibouti: Eastern
  4. Ethiopia: Eastern
  5. Egypt: Northern
  6. Malawi: Southern
  7. Mozambique: Southern
  8. Benin: Western
  9. Ghana: Western
  10. Senegal: Western

The New PSC (from 1st April 2020) will be composed of:  Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal.

5/ CALENDAR

  • 34th AU Summit: 6 & 7 February 2021 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • 38th Session of the Executive Council: 3 & 4 February 2021 in Addis Ababa
  • Extraordinary Summit of Silencing the Guns: May 2020 in South Africa
  • Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA: 30 May 2020, in South Africa
  • 37th Session of the Executive Council: July 2020, N’Djamena, Chad
  • Next Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the AU and the RECs: 4 July 2020 in N’Djamena, Chad. AU Commission to consult with the RECs, Regional Mechanisms and Member States with a view to finalize the detailed proposal for an effective division of labor between the AU and RECs and present it to the 2020 Mid-Year Coordination meeting, after due consideration by the 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council.

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