The Failure of AU Commission Election : Lessons and Perspectives

The “failure” of the election of the African Union Commission Leadership is actually a positive development on my personal view for at least the two following reasons:

  1. Africa has much better to offer other than the 3 candidates on the list of the chairpersonship. I do not necessary mean they are not qualified at all but we do have better in stock.
  2. Two of the candidates were pushed ahead by two of the most brutal dictators in our continent who, by their governing styles are in a total denial of the African Union “shared values”. Electing their candidates to drive the AUC and its progressive programs and values including the Agenda 2063 will be really embarrassing for our Union. I know candidates do not represent their individual country and we must look at qualifications rather than political belonging/backing. However, in real life the influence of the country of origin of the Chair cannot be denied. I have seen it. Also, everybody knows that the presidents always allocated state money and resources to their candidates for campaign. It is not naive!!! On the other hand, it is about the image of our continent trying hard to embrace democracy and respect of human rights in order to move quickly towards sustainable development. We cannot let people sent by those who are in open denial of our values to manage the affairs of the Union. Dictators have been chosen as Chair of the yearly presidency of the African Union (and I hate it strongly!) but we all know that the role is not executive and has few practical impacts. It is however unacceptable to have an “agent” of a dictator to represent and lead the AU Commission, the engine of our Union for 4 years or more.

Solidarity in the Regional Blocs

The outcomes of the election have confirmed the strong solidarity within some of the regional blocs: ECOWAS and SADC.

ECOWAS made it clear and official that they want the elections to the postponed even though they have a candidate for the Deputy Chairperson seat.  I have no doubt that they have unanimously observed that position during the vote by abstaining.

SADC apparently has shown regional solidarity in supporting their candidates: the Botswana Minister of Foreign Affairs who came first in the vote. I am not sure what happened in the central and North Africa. Those 2 regions have been relatively weak in terms of solidarity. So, no big surprise even though some of them may have obviously joined the abstention group.

What is next?

The Assembly has decided to extend the mandate of Madame Dlamini-Zuma until the next elections and to reopen the candidacy for current and new applicants. Those are political decisions as the current rules of procedures are not clear about reopening the list but Rule 42 suggests that the Deputy Chairperson takes over in case of election failure . In 2012, new candidates were not allowed to apply after the deadlock Zuma/Ping.

There is now an opportunity to review the rules/procedures of the elections before January 2017. This is absolutely urgent, otherwise we may have another deadlock if falling regions want to revenge… I would be in favor of a simple majority instead of 2/3 if 2 candidates remain on the list without gathering the required 2/3 votes.

See my recent presentation on the AUC election including the list of candidates here:

I am also in favor of a non-renewable longer term for the AUC Leadership as well as other necessary structural reforms I hope to write about those later.

Now the road is paved for Jakaya Kikwete, Donald Kaberuka, Thao Mkeki or Carlos Lopes to come in…. Who knows?


Financing the African Union: Would the Kigali Decision make our AU an African Organization?

The African Union has just taken another decision on how to finance the continental body and its activities in order to make it a truly independent Pan African organization.

In fact, if the laws governing civil society organizations in many African countries are to be applied to the African Union, then our Union will be qualified as a “Foreign Organization” in Africa because more than 70% of its budget is paid by foreign partners while the 54 African countries only pay all together less than 30%. For example the 2017 budget adopted by the Kigali Heads of State Summit is $782 Million of which foreign donors  are expected to pay $576 Million while African countries will only pay $205 Million.

0.2 % levy on eligible imports to fund the AU

Yesterday 16 July 2016, the Heads of State of the African Union informally decided to allow a collection of 0.2% levy from “eligible” imports from all member states to fund the African Union and its programmes.

While I think this is a courageous move, it is important to precise that this is not the first attempt to resolve the shameful financial dependency of our Union.

What happened to previous proposals on alternative funding?

In 2014, President Obasanjo and the UNECA suggested the following proposals to the African Union:

  • $2 hospitality levy per hotel stay
  • $10 airfare levy on international flights originating in or out of Africa
  • $0.005 SMS Levy (UNECA)

If implemented, those proposals would have brought all together at least $ 2.3 Billion annually to the African Union. Pushed by African tourism-dependent countries, Heads of State rejected the proposal last year. The Assembly simply decided an increase of the contributions of members to meet the new funding targets, leaving it up to countries themselves to choose any of the proposed ideas. Everyone including member states themself knew at that time that the decision was just a way of putting the proposal off.

They have however decided to cover AU expenses as follow:

100 % of the operating budget

75 % of the programme budget

25 % of the peace support operations budget

All to be phased within five years starting from 2016 and a new scale of contribution has been adopted…. But how the same countries paying less than 30% of the AU budget can suddenly multiply their contributions?

Donald Kaberuka’s Formula

The adoption of the Agenda 2063 and its 10 years implementation plan, coupled by an apparent donors fatigue forced the AU to deepen the discussion on the alternative funding of the AU. Dr. Donald Kaberuka has then been called to help as the AU’s High Representative for the Peace Fund… Here we are with a new proposal of 0.2 %  levy on eligible imports.

According to estimates, if implemented this new proposal may bring up to $1.2 Billion yearly to the AU. The details of the new proposal are not yet available. The devil may be hiding within those details.  For example which imports will be “eligible”?, By which mechanisms the money will be collected and who will manage it?, Would the current AU structure and ways of working handle such mechanism and this amount of money? For it to be effective, the formula must provide for a direct collection at the source by/for the African Union.

In any case, let’s say this is a good move. ECOWAS successfully uses a similar mechanism through the Community Levy System (o.5% of imports) but not without difficulties. My only problem is that more than 80% of the African Union decisions are not implemented, so, the citizen that I am will not believe it just because it was adopted by the AU. I need to see concrete signs of implementation.

Follow my blog for further analysis on this issue in the coming days.

“Year of Human Rights”: Recommendations to the AU Summit in Kigali

To give a true meaning to the “Year of Human Rights” The Kigali AU Summit should adopt the following measures:


1- On Civic Space: The Summit should decide a moratorium on all existing national laws that restrict CSOs’ operations and call for the revision of those laws before the end of the year in accordance to universal rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Since 2012, at least 29 restrictive laws  on civic space have been introduced in African countries.

2- All AU Members should commit to ratify the  African Court of Human and People’s Rights Protocol before the end of 2016. on  As of December 2015 only 29 out of the 54 AU members were Parties to the Protocol seventeen years after its adoption.

3- All AU Members  should accept the competence of the African Court of Human and People’s  Rights to receive cases from individuals and NGOs before the end of the year.  As of December 2016 only 7 countries have done so.

4- Kigali Summit should demand the immediate release of all political prisoners, stop intimidations and cases against political leaders  in all AU Members states and call for investigations on the recent cases of torture to death in Gambia, force disappearance and other gross HR violations in the continent.

5- The Kigali Summit should decide on concrete sanctions applicable to countries that do not comply to the HR Courts  decisions and the list of those countries should be published  regularly.

6- The African Passport in preparation for the Summit must be issued to  a number of ordinary citizens of the continent… not just to heads of state as currently planned.

7- Because of the high risk that constitutional amendments present now on  peace and security in Africa, the Kigali Summit should decide a moratorium on those changes aiming  to prolong presidential terms until a serious discussion happens and decisions  made at continental level in this.  Not doing it will be like jeopardizing the realisation of our Agenda 2063, “the Africa we want” and a denial of our shared values.

8- On the rights of women: all member states  should show case of  the concrete national policy and practice changes (with figures)  that they have operated since the adoption of the AU Women Rights Protocol and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Mainstreaming.