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 !!!

L’Union Africaine Suspend le Soudan: Quelles en sont les Conséquences ?

English version here 

En réponse à la répression sanglante le Lundi 3 Juin 2019, du sit-in des manifestants civils soudanais,  qui exigent des  militaires au pouvoir depuis la chute d’Omar Bashir , un gouvernement civil et démocratique, le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité (CPS) de l’Union Africaine a sorti ses muscles.

La 854eme Session du Conseil  a décidé, «conformément aux instruments pertinents de l’Union Africaine, en particulier l’Acte Constitutif de l’Union, le Protocole relatif à la création du Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité et la Charte Africaine de la Démocratie, des Elections et de la Gouvernance, de suspendre, avec effet immédiat, la participation de la République du Soudan à toutes les activités de l’UA, jusqu’à la mise en place effective d’une Autorité de transition sous conduite civile, seule voie à même de permettre au Soudan de sortir de la crise actuelle». C’est une décision sans appel, claire et non équivoque qui suscite quand même quelques questions juridiques, politiques et de clarification. Je vais en aborder quelques-unes dans ce blog.


Je rappelle que les affirmations de ce blog sont purement personnelles et n’engagent pas mes employeurs actuel ou passés.

 Quelles sont les implications directes de la suspension d’un Etat membre des Activités de l’Union Africaine ?

Les textes évoqués par le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité dans ses différentes sessions  sur la situation au Soudan n’ont pas donnés tous les détails  sur les conséquences d’une suspension d’un état membre.

Sur le plan politique Il faut reconnaitre que la suspension du  Soudan affaiblit la légitimité internationale, déjà fragile du Conseil militaire de transition au pouvoir. L’Union Africaine a un poids politique incontestable dont la décision influencerait certainement des partenaires  internationaux du Soudan.  Aucun régime politique ne voudrait être dans une situation de suspension d’une organisation de 55 états membres, la plus importante institution pan Africaine sur le continent. En outre, les violations odieuses des droits de l’homme qui ont conduit à cette suspension, notamment le viol présumé de femmes et de filles, ont rendu la situation encore plus sombre. Les Nations Unies ont également condamné le recours excessif à la force par les forces de sécurité à l’encontre de civils et ont appelé à une enquête indépendante.

Dans la pratique la suspension d’un état aux activités de l’Union implique que les représentants dudit état  ne seront plus invités  aux activités des organes de l’Union jusqu’à la levée de la suspension. Ils perdent naturellement  leurs droits de vote. L’état en question ne pourra pas non plus abriter de réunions des organes de l’Union. Tous les organes et programmes sont concernés.  Ses représentants élus dans les comités et groupes de travail n’y auront plus accès comme membres.  Il n’est cependant pas clair si les représentants de l’état suspendu peuvent être  autorisés  à siéger dans les séances non-fermées  comme observateurs et sans droit de vote. A mon avis si la séance admet des observateurs (non-états membres de l’UA), un représentant d’un état suspendu devrait pouvoir y assister sans avoir droit à la parole et au vote. Il faut quand-même préciser que la suspension d’un état des activités de l’Union n’arrête pas  l’appartenance de cet état  à l’Union Africaine. En conséquence l’état suspendu doit continuer d’honorer ses obligations vis-à-vis de l’Union telles que les cotisations au budget de l’Union. D’ailleurs c’est dans cet esprit que l’Union Africaine continuera d’accompagner le processus de normalisation en collaboration avec la Communauté économique régionale géographiquement concernée. Dans le cas d’espèce, c’est l’IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) dont fait partie le Djibouti, l’Erythrée, l’Ethiopie, le Kenya, la Somalie, le Soudan, le Sud Soudan et  l’Ouganda.

Quels en sont les effets sur les citoyens de l’état suspendu ?  La Déclaration de Lomé de Juillet 2000 sur les changements inconstitutionnels de gouvernement suggère qu’il  faut veiller à ce que les citoyens ordinaires du pays concerné ne souffrent pas de manière disproportionnée du fait de l’application de sanctions aux tenants du pouvoir. Néanmoins dans la pratique l’impact de la suspension sur les citoyens est inévitable surtout si la suspension dure dans le temps.  Par exemple la Centrafrique avait été suspendue pendant trois ans, mais j’imagine que ce qui importe le plus ici pour les citoyens soudanais c’est le soutien politique et moral que représente la décision du Conseil par rapport à leur droit légitime à l’avènement d’un état démocratique.  Le Conseil a notamment réaffirmé « la solidarité continue de l’Union Africaine avec le peuple soudanais dans ses aspirations à un cadre constitutionnel et à des institutions pouvant permettre à leur pays de connaitre des avancées dans ses efforts sur la voie de la transformation démocratique »

Pourquoi la suspension du Soudan n’as pas été automatique aussitôt après le coup d’Etat comme dans d’autres cas dans le passé ?

Le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité semble utiliser ce mécanisme au cas par cas  pour plusieurs raisons. La plus importante est que  le mécanisme de la Déclaration de Lomé et les autres instruments cités par le Conseil  avaient été rédigés dans un contexte de coups d’état classiques ou on ne connaissait pas tellement de soulèvements  populaires et les révolutions de la rue qui ont lieu de nos jours. Il est aussi vrai que l’espace démocratique s’est largement étendu en Afrique…  Il y a donc un problème de caractérisation des faits face à la  situation du Soudan aujourd’hui, mais aussi à celle de l’Egypte par le passé, de l’Algérie, du Zimbabwe etc. Il importe que l’Union Africaine se penche sur la définition du cadre d’intervention en cas de soulèvement populaire. Dans le cas du Soudan par exemple, le Conseil a  visiblement tenté de donner une chance aux militaires pour parvenir rapidement à un accord avec les civils, mais les évènements sanglants de cette semaine et l’absence de progrès dans les discussions ont fait changer la donne.


Au-delà de la suspension du Soudan… le jeu des alliances avec ou sans l’Afrique.

D’aucuns se demandent si la suspension du Soudan des activités de l’Union Africaine est suffisante pour  faire courber les militaires au pouvoir.  Il faut déjà reconnaitre que le langage et la position du Conseil dans le cas soudanais est l’un des plus fermes de l’histoire. En plus, le Conseil menace qu’au cas où les militaires ne transféreront pas sans plus tarder, le pouvoir à une Autorité de transition sous conduite civile, le Conseil imposera automatiquement des mesures punitives aux personnes et entités faisant obstacle à la mise en place de l’Autorité de transition sous conduite civile. A l’ère où tout se mondialise y compris la justice et la redevabilité surtout en matière de droits de l’homme  personne ne veut prendre le risque  de faire face à ces éventualités.

Cependant, la tâche ne semble pas être si simple  dans une situation ou d’autres alliés du Soudan dans le continent et en dehors du continent  ne semblent pas aller dans la même direction que l’Union Africaine.  Il n’est donc pas étonnant de voir que dans son Communiqué, le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité dans un langage fort a souligné, « la primauté des initiatives entreprises par les pays africains dans la recherche d’une solution durable à la crise au Soudan et a réitéré  son appel à tous les partenaires pour qu’ils soutiennent les efforts de l’UA et de l’IGAD et s’abstiennent de toute action susceptible de compromettre les initiatives entreprises par l’Afrique ».

Même si le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies n’a pas pu s’entendre sur un texte commun et la conduite à tenir, une grande partie de la communauté internationale semble être alignée sur la position de l’Union Africaine. L’Union Africaine a en effet du potentiel et un poids politique assez important à ne pas négliger pour résolution du problème soudanais et bien d’autres sur le continent.

J’ai espoir que la raison prévaudra entre les parties prenantes soudanaises.  L’Afrique que nous voulons en dépens.

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African Union Suspended Sudan: What are the Consequences?

La version en Francais ici

In response to the bloody removal on Monday 3rd June, of the sit-in of Sudanese civilian protesters who are demanding a democratic government to the military in power since the fall of Omar Bashir, the African Union Peace and Security Council has pulled out its muscles yesterday 6 June 2019.

The 854th Session of the Council decided, “in line with the relevant AU instruments, in particular the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, to suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of the Republic of Sudan in all AU activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from its current crisis”. This decision is clear and unambiguous but it raises some legal,  political and practical questions. I will address some of them in this blog.


Please note that affirmations of this blog are purely personal and do not engage my current or past employers.

What are the direct implications of the suspension of a Member State from the activities of the African Union?

The instruments referred to by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) in its various sessions on the situation in Sudan have not given full details of the consequences of a suspension of a member state.

Political significance: It should be recognized that the suspension of Sudan weakens the already fragile international legitimacy of the ruling Transition Military Council. The African Union has an undeniable political weight and its decision will certainly influence international partners of Sudan. No political regime would enjoy to be in a situation of suspension from an organization of 55 member states, the most important Pan African institution on the continent. In addition, the heinous violation of human rights that led to this suspension, including alleged widespread rape of women and girls, made the picture even darker. The United Nations has also strongly condemned the violence and the use of excessive force by the security forces on civilians, and called for an independent investigation.

In practice the suspension of a state from the affairs of the Union implies that representatives of that State will no longer be invited to the activities of the organs of the Union until the lifting of the suspension. They naturally lose their voting rights. Nor can the State in question host meetings of the organs of the Union. All AU bodies and programs are concerned. Elected representatives of the suspended state in the various AU committees and working groups will no longer have access to them as members. It is unclear, however, whether suspended state officials may be allowed to sit in an open session as observers and without the right to vote. In my opinion, if the meeting admits observers (non-member states of the AU), a representative of the suspended state should be able to attend the meeting without the right to speak and to vote. However, it is necessary to specify that the suspension of a state of the activities of the Union does not stop the membership of the said state to the African Union. As a result, the suspended state must continue to honor its obligations to the Union, such as contributions to the Union budget. Moreover, it is in that spirit that the African Union will continue to support the normalization process in collaboration with the Regional Economic Community geographically concerned. In this case, it is IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.

What are the effects on citizens ?

The Lomé Declaration of July 2000 suggests that care must be taken to ensure that ordinary citizens of the affected country do not suffer disproportionately from the imposition of sanctions on those in power. Nevertheless in practice the impact of the suspension on the citizens is inevitable especially if the suspension lasts long. For example, the Central African Republic had been suspended for three years, but I can imagine that what is most important here for Sudanese citizens today is the political and moral support that the PSC decision represents for their legitimate right for a democratic state. In particular, the Council reaffirmed “the solidarity of the African Union with the Sudanese in their aspirations to constitutional order that will enable them to make progress in its efforts towards the democratic transformation of the country”.


Why was Sudan’s suspension not automatic immediately after the coup as in other cases in the past?

The Peace and Security Council seems to use this mechanism on a case-by-case basis for several reasons. The most important is that, the mechanism of the Lomé Declaration and the other instruments cited by the Council had been drafted in the context of classic coups. Popular uprisings and street revolutions where not envisaged at that time. It is also true that nowadays the democratic space has spread widely in Africa so strong and persistent popular movements could not be ignored anymore … There is therefore a problem of characterization of the situation in Sudan today, but also that of Egypt a few years back, in Algeria, Zimbabwe etc. It is important for the African Union to look at defining the framework for action in the event of popular uprisings. In the case of Sudan, for example, the Council apparently tried to give the military a chance to reach an agreement with the civilians quickly, but the bloody events of this week and the lack of progress in the discussions had changed the situation.

Beyond the suspension of Sudan from AU activities and the game of alliances

Some question whether the suspension of Sudan from the activities of the African Union is sufficient to bend the ruling Transition Military Council. We should recognize that, already the language and position of the PSC is one of the firmest in history. In addition, the PSC threatens that, should the Transition Military Council fail to hand-over power to a civilian-led Transitional Authority, the PSC shall, without any further delay, automatically impose punitive measures on individuals and entities obstructing the establishment of the civilian-led Transitional Authority. There is also a move towards investigating the massive human rights violations. In a world where everything is globalizing, including justice and accountability, especially in the area of ​​human rights, no one wants to take the risk of facing these eventualities.

However, this does not seem to be so simple in a situation where other Sudanese allies within and outside the continent do not seem to be moving in the same direction as the African Union. It is therefore not surprising that in its Communiqué, the Peace and Security Council stressed “the primacy of African-led initiatives in the search for a lasting solution to the crisis in Sudan; and reiterated its call to all partners to support AU and IGAD efforts and refrain from any action that could undermine African-led initiatives”.

Even though the United Nations Security Council has not been able to agree on a common text and what to do, a large part of the international community seems to be aligned with the position of the African Union. The African Union has the potential and a significant political weight, to help solve the Sudanese problem and many others in the continent.

I hope that reason will prevail between the Sudanese stakeholders. We need that for the Africa we want.

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


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

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Perspectives pour l’Afrique en 2017:

English version here :

Nous venons d’entrer dans l’Année 2017. Elle se présente à l’Afrique  avec un cortège d’incertitudes mais elle porte aussi en elle des semences d’espoir…

Comme je le fais au début de chaque année  j’aimerais partager ici avec vous des réflexions personnelles sur les défis et opportunités majeurs auxquels notre continent, ses institutions, ses filles et fils pourront faire face en 2017 et bien sûr au-delà.

En 2017 et au cours des années à suivre l’inégalité, les conflits et l’insécurité, la jeunesse et l’emploi, la migration, la démocratie électorale, l’espace civique, la libre circulation des personnes,  la chine, la nouvelle politique américaine etc. seront des sujets qui occuperont le débat politique et la vie quotidienne des Africains. L’Afrique attendra beaucoup des promesses faites par l’Union Africaine avec son nouveau leadership et une structure améliorée mais les communautés économiques régionales auront de plus en plus de responsabilités dans la gestion des crises liées à la gouvernance démocratique et aux conflits. La Banque Africaine de Développent avec sa nouvelle équipe dirigeante pleine de dynamisme a un rôle de taille à jouer   dans  notre espace économique et principalement en ce qui concerne la jeunesse et l’emploi. Dans les lignes qui suivent je toucherai quelques-uns de ses sujets.

Croissance Economique,  Inégalité et Pauvreté

Le taux de croissance moyen du continent continuera de dégringoler jusqu’en dessous de 2%, son niveau le plus bas depuis 20 ans  principalement à cause de la chute du prix du pétrole des matières premières et des difficultés des principales économies du continent (Nigeria, Afrique du Sud) mais certain pays maintiendront un bon record, un taux toujours élevé  pour diverses raisons (Rwanda, Ethiopie, Tanzanie, Cote d’Ivoire, Sénégal) selon de récentes estimations. La croissance économique n’ayant pas d’impact automatique et immédiat sur la réduction de la pauvreté, le problème le plus important pour nous est d’assurer que les produits de la croissance sont repartis de façon juste et qu’ils ne servent surtout plus à creuser davantage  l’écart entre riches et pauvres, sachant que ceci est une  source importante de conflits.

L’Afrique a maintenant de bonnes raisons pour investir dans l’agriculture, encourager et soutenir la productivité, introduire la modernisation dans le secteur et bien sûr, augmenter l’espace cultivable. Ceci aura le triple avantage de subvenir aux besoins alimentaires de nos populations, de créer de l’emploi et de diversifier notre économie pour ainsi réduire la pauvreté. Ceci aura aussi l’avantage de  promouvoir les échanges entre pays Africains.

L’Année Africaine de la Jeunesse

L’Union Africaine a décrété l’année 2017 comme celle de la jeunesse. Les deux Sommets des Chefs d’état en Janvier et en Juillet ainsi que d’autres grand rendez-vous continentaux y seront donc consacrés. Il est évident que les préoccupations majeures seront l’emploi, la migration et la formation. Il importe que les différents acteurs du continent et leurs partenaires d’ailleurs s’accordent à donner  à la jeunesse le coup de pouce dont elle a besoin ici et maintenant pour son insertion et son émancipation.  Le Forum Africain pour le Développement qu’organisera cette année la Commission Economique des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique  se penchera essentiellement sur la question de migration avec une perspective Africaine. La Chancelière Allemande Angela Merkel  a aussi promis d’en faire une priorité au cours du prochain sommet du G20. Elle évoque même un « Plan Marshal » pour l’Afrique en vue de booster l’investissement et créer de l’emploi. Je n’aime pas personnellement l’idée d’un «plan Marshal» pour l’Afrique. Si nos partenaires occidentaux peuvent nous aider à mettre un terme aux 60 milliards  de dollars de flux financiers illicites qui sortent de l’Afrique chaque année – un montant systématiquement volé par des multinationales en complicité avec nos propres dirigeants – cela nous suffirait.  A Addis Abéba fin Janvier, l’Union Africaine se penchera certainement sur un plan d’action à court et moyen termes pour mieux « exploiter le dividende démographique de l’Afrique en investissant dans la jeunesse ».

Reste à savoir si la volonté politique et les moyens financiers seront au rendez-vous pour mettre en œuvre un éventuel plan. En tout cas, il faut vite faire pour éviter que cette tranche importante de nos populations, vulnérable, ne tombent d’avantage dans la tentation de la radicalisation et de l’extrémisme comme c’est déjà le cas à  certains endroits du continent.

Notre jeunesse est l’espoir du continent. Elle doit être entretenue avec minutie pour contribuer à relever le défi du développement  durable.

La Libre Circulation des Personnes en Afrique : Un Préalable  Incontournable

Tout plan en faveur de la jeunesse Africaine doit inclure la libre circulation des personnes sur le continent comme un préalable. Le processus en cours à l’Union Africaine doit être accéléré au maximum afin de permettre l’échange d’expérience entre les jeunes du continent.  En attendant l’élaboration et l’adoption du traité de libre circulation pourquoi ne pas  prendre une décision panafricaine et immédiate d’annulation de visas pour court séjour, ou du moins d’obtention de visas à l’arrivée? Quelques pays Africains l’on fait récemment.

Droits de l’Homme, Gouvernance et  Démocratie Electorale : Chantier Inachevé

Décrétée comme Année des droits de l’homme par l’Union Africaine, 2016  a plutôt été l’année ou les droits et libertés publiques, l’espace civique et démocratique, la justice, la protection des civiles etc. ont malheureusement et systématiquement reculé sur notre continent sous le silence presque total des institutions régionales et continentales. En Gambie par exemple un jeune activiste a été torturé à mort par la police en 2016 et de nombreux opposant politiques arrêtés et incarcérés sans procès…

L’Afrique doit trouver un moyen pour sortir du cercle vicieux des conflits liés à la crédibilité des consultations électorales et  à l’alternance politique au pouvoir. Sans cela, notre continent continuera sa décente progressive aux enfers sapant ainsi toute perspective de développement économique.  Les pays à observer en 2017 sont entre autres la Gambie, la RDC, le Cameroun, le Liberia, le Kenya, le Rwanda, l’Angola, la Libye,  la Sierra Leone, le Zimbabwe… Les pays ou le hold-up électoral a été déjà consommé ne sont pas à l’abri de soucis (Gabon, Congo, Uganda, Guinée Equatoriale etc).  L’alternance au pouvoir fait partie du jeu démocratique surtout quand les institutions sont encore faibles et que le système électoral est  vulnérable.  Nous devons avoir le courage de parler de la limitation des mandats tôt ou tard. C’est le seul moyen de se débarrasser des assoiffés de pouvoir qui s’accrochent. Pour l’instant les bons élèves sont encore peu dans ce domaine : Ghana, Sénégal, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Afrique du Sud…

Par ailleurs, l’année 2016 nous a montré en Ethiopie que l’idéologie de l’Etat développementaliste ne suffit pas   à elle seule pour garantir la paix et la stabilité, gages du développent durable. Il faut une  dose plus importante de démocratie multipartiste et plus de libertés publiques.

L’espace citoyen en danger: L’Union Africaine place les citoyens du continent au centre de son programme de développement : l’Agenda 2063. Un catalyseur essentiel de ce programme est le droit des citoyens de s’organiser, et leur capacité à agir contre la pauvreté, les inégalités et l’injustice. En fait, l’UA a proclamé 2016 comme « Année des droits de l’homme ». Pourtant, à travers le continent, il se dégage une tendance alarmante et croissante de restriction des droits fondamentaux de réunion, d’association et de liberté d’expression des citoyens. L’UA elle-même met en cause son engagement à la contribution des citoyens en limitant formellement la participation des organisations de la société civile à un de ses deux sommets biannuelles. En plus un certain nombre de gouvernements sont en train de (mal) utiliser les lois pour limiter la création d’organisations légitimes, restreindre leurs activités et contrôler leurs sources de financement. Depuis 2012, au moins 29 lois restrictives ont été adoptées en Afrique. Ce qui est sûr est que dans les années à venir le mouvement citoyen va plutôt se consolider et se renforcer  en Afrique peu importe les restrictions, ce qui comporte et sérieux risque de bras de fer et de conflit entre pouvoir et citoyens. Nos institutions régionales et l’Union Africaines doivent tabler ce problème pour discussion le plus tôt possible. Elles doivent par exemple envisager une étude sur les lois restrictives en Afrique et un moratoire  pour les arrêter.  (Voir le blog que j’ai récemment publié conjointement avec un collègue sur la question ici :

L’Union Africaine un Nouveau Départ ?

Si tout va bien comme prévu, le leadership actuel de la Commission de l’Union Africaine sera renouvelé. La Présidente, la Sud-Africaine Dlami-Zuma, le Vice-président le Kényan Erastus Mwencha  et la plus part des commissaires devraient  remettre leur tablier à de nouveaux élus fin Janvier pour 4 ou 8 ans. Des 5 candidats en lis, le poste de Président de la Commission se jouera essentiellement entre le Sénégalais Abdoulaye Bathily, ancien Représentant des Nations Unies en Afrique centrale, le Tchadien Moussa Faki Mahamat, ancien Premier Ministre et Ministre des Affaires étrangères et la Kenyane Amina Mohamed, Ministre des Affaires Étrangères.

En plus Le Président Guinéen Alpha Condé  est en passe d’être désigné  Président en exercice de l’UA pour 2017 en remplacement du Tchadien Idriss Deby.

Le projet le plus important et le plus attendu est la réforme en profondeur de l’Union Africaine  confiée au Président Rwandais Paul Kagame par ses pairs. Il devra présenter les grandes lignes de cette réforme lors du Sommet de Janvier à Addis Abéba.  La réforme devra tenir compte de la question épineuse de la dépendance financière de l’Union déjà amorcée par son compatriote, l’ancien patron de la BAD Donald Kaberuka.

Valeurs Partagées : S’il est clair   que l’Union Africaine dans sa structure actuelle n’est pas adaptée pour mettre en œuvre l’ambitieux Agenda 2063, il nous est aussi certain que le changement structurel de l’Union et de ses organes ne suffira pas à lui seul pour  faire avancer les choses. L’Union Africaine a besoin d’un changement profond et courageux dans sa façon de fonctionner en termes de respect de ses propres principes fondamentaux et de ses « valeurs partagées ». Il faut à l’Union  un mécanisme sérieux de « redevabilité » par rapport à ses principes et valeurs.  Il lui faut une Commission forte et dotée de pouvoirs réels pour « contraindre » les états membres à respecter et mettre en œuvre leurs propres décisions.

En matière d’élections par exemple, l’Union Africaine doit avoir la prérogative et la capacité  de relever, dénoncer et faire cesser les manquements graves aux standards et  fraudes électoraux.  Si non,  ce n’est pas la peine que l’Union continue d’observer les élections. Ce ne sera rien que du gaspillage. C’est un peu gênant de voir que les élections en Ouganda, au Congo, au Gabon en Guinée équatoriale etc. aient été qualifiées de justes, équitables, transparent et démocratiques sans autres formes de procès…

Paix et Sécurité :

La Paix et la Sécurité demeurent les conditions sine qua non pour le développement et le progrès de notre continent et le bien-être de nos populations. L’Afrique n’a pas progressé assez dans ce domaine au cours des dernières années. Dans beaucoup de cas comme au Burundi et au Soudan du Sud nos institutions n’ont  pas tenus comptes des signes avant-coureurs et  alertes précoces qui  pourtant étaient assez visibles. En réalité ce dont nos institutions régionales ont besoin est le courage et la volonté politique de couper avec les anciennes méthodes. Par exemple la Commission de l’Union Africaine et plus précisément son leadership doit devoir et pouvoir crier haut et fort toutes les fois que nos valeurs partagées sont en train d’être violées  par les leaders nationaux. C’est pourquoi nous avons besoin d’un leader fort et audible à la tête de la Commission.  En 2017  l’Union Africaine  doit encore gérer le chaos au Burundi et au Soudan du Sud. Le risque de nettoyage ethnique dans ces deux pays doit être absolument pris au sérieux.  L’UA doit consolider le progrès en Somalie et en République Centrafricaine, et accompagner le processus politique et sécuritaire, redoubler de vigilance au Mali (même si l’ONU est techniquement en charge),  soutenir le dialogue politique amorcé par l’Eglise Catholique en RDC et ses avancées encourageantes mais demeurer ferme sur le respect des principes démocratiques les droits de l’homme, l’Etat de droit et la justice.  Le chantier inachevé du Darfour  ne doit pas être négligé et le Soudan entier doit être sous sérieuse observation.

Faire Taire les Armes à l’horizon 2020 : Au-delà du Slogan: L’objectif demeure malheureusement un slogan sans action sérieuse pour le réaliser.  Soyons clair : on ne peut pas taire les armes si on laisse les dictateurs terroriser et martyriser leurs populations à gré et en toute impunité  en violation flagrante des principes démocratiques des droits de l’homme et des valeurs partagées adoptées par l’Union, et de plus, s’accrocher au pouvoir à vie ! On ne peut pas taire les armes si on ferme les yeux sur les massacres des populations civiles pour des raisons politiques. On ne peut pas taire les armes si on promeut l’impunité des chefs d’Etat sans considération de la gravité des crimes dans lesquels ils sont  impliqués contre leurs populations.  On ne peut pas taire les armes si les votes des citoyens sont systématiquement volés, les leaders de l’opposition politique harcelés et mis en prison. Par-dessus tout, les ambitieux  projets de développement du continent ne peuvent se concrétiser que si  la paix et la sécurité sont au rendez-vous.

L’Union doit mettre une plus grande pression sur les acteurs Sud Soudanais, Burundais, Congolais etc et s’assurer que les autres pays fragiles et à  risque rentrent dans le jeu démocratique.

Avec ou sans le Maroc ?

Fin Janvier, nous saurons si le Maroc fera sa rentrée historique dans l’Union Africaine et dans quelles conditions ? Toutes les formalités procédurales ont été déjà accomplies. Le Sommet des Chefs d’Etat pourra donc prendre une décision là-dessus. Le Maroc devra donc souscrire à tous les principes fondamentaux de l’Union y compris le droit des peuples à l’auto-détermination et accepter de cohabiter avec la République Sahraoui Démocratique en tant qu’Etat membre de l’Union. Logiquement le retour du Maroc dans l’organisation continental est une reconnaissance tacite du Sahara Occidental par celui-ci. C’est juste une simple logique si on se souvient de la raison pour laquelle le Maroc a claqué la porte en 1984.  J’espère que l’adhésion du Maroc à l’Union  Afrique créera une opportunité de régler l’épineuse question du Sahara Occidental, considéré comme la dernière colonie en Afrique à libérer. Les Etats membres de l’Union, surtout les « amis » du Maroc (au moins 28 sont connus) doivent veiller à ce que le retour du Maroc contribue à consolider l’Union plutôt qu’à la diviser ou à  la faire voler en éclat. (Voir mon blog sur cette question ici : )

La Chine, L’Amérique et les Autres

L’Afrique a tout à gagner en continuant la diversification de ses partenaires économiques. L’entrée en jeux spectaculaire de la Chine et des autres nouveaux partenaires a ouvertement changé les rapports de force avec les partenaires traditionnels et réorienté l’économie africaine.  Mais nous devons garder les yeux grandement ouverts…  Nos partenariats (anciens comme nouveaux) doivent contribuer à la realisation de nos agendas 2030 et 2063 et nous devons veiller à ce que les standards sociaux, des droits de l’homme et d’équité soient absolument respectés dans la poursuite de ces partenariats. Les acteurs non-étatiques ont un rôle majeur de veilleur à jouer ici.

Avec Donald Trump au pouvoir aux Etats-Unis, il est peu probable que l’Afrique figure au rang des priorités de « l’Oncle Sam », ce qui donnera libre cours à la Chine et aux autres de mieux se positionner en Afrique : avantage ou challenge ? Seul l’avenir nous le dira.

Calendrier – Quelques Grands Rendez-Vous

13-14 Janvier : Sommet Afrique-France : Thème: Partenariat, Paix et Emergence –  Bamako, Mali.

23-31  Janvier : 28th Sommet de l’Union Africaine –  Thème : Jeunesse – Addis Abéba, Ethiopie

23-28 Mars : Conférence Continentale des Experts et Ministres Africains des Finances, du Développent de la Planification et de l’intégration  – Dakar, Sénégal

3-5 Mai : Forum Economique Mondial pour l’Afrique, Thème : Croissance Inclusive – Durban Afrique du Sud

Fin Juin : Sommet de l’Union Africaine, Thème : Jeunesse

Date à déterminer : Forum pour le Développent de l’Afrique, Thème : Migration, UNECA, Addis Abéba.



Prospects for Africa in 2017

French Version here:

We have just entered into the year 2017! It is bringing a number of uncertainties but it also carries with it, seeds of hope…

As I always do at the beginning of each year, I would like to share with you some personal reflections on the major challenges and opportunities that our continent, its institutions and sons and daughters will face in 2017 and of course beyond this year.

In 2017 and in the years to come inequality, conflicts and insecurity, youth and unemployment, migration, electoral democracy, civic space, free movement of people, China, new American policies etc. will occupy the political debate and the daily life of Africans. Africans will expect much from the promises made by the African Union with its new leadership and an improved structure, but the regional economic communities will have increased responsibilities in the management of crises linked to democratic governance and conflicts. The African Development Bank with its  new “High-Fives” and its dynamic leadership team, will have a major role to play in our economic space, especially in the area of youth and employment. In the discourse below, I  touch on some of these issues in details.

Economic Growth, Inequality and Poverty

The continent’s average growth rate will continue to plummet to below 2%, the lowest  in 20 years, mainly due to the fall in commodity and oil prices and the difficulties faced by the largest economies on the continent (Nigeria, South Africa). Interestingly, some countries will maintain a good record, a high rate for several reasons (Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal) according to recent estimates. Given that economic growth does not have an automatic and immediate impact on poverty reduction, the most challenging task for us is to ensure that the products of growth are distributed fairly and that they are no longer used to widen the gap between rich and poor, knowing that this is an important source of conflict.

Africa now has good reasons for investing in agriculture, encouraging and sustaining productivity, introducing modernization in the sector and, of course, increasing cultivable lands. This will have the threefold advantage of meeting the food needs of our people, creating jobs and diversifying our economy to reduce poverty. This will also have the advantage of promoting regional trade among African countries.

2017: The African Year of Youth:

The African Union declared 2017 as the year of youth. The two Summits of Heads of State in January and July as well as other major continental gatherings will dedicated to this – focusing mainly on  unemployment, migration and education. It is important that the different actors on the continent and elsewhere and their partners agree to give young people the necessary push that they need  for both their integration as well as emancipation. The African Development Forum that will  be organized  by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) will focus on the issue of migration from an African perspective. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also promised to make it a priority during the next G20 summit. She has even evoked a “Marshal Plan” for Africa to boost investment and create employment. I do not personally like the idea of a “Mashal Plan” for Africa though. If our Western partners can assist us to stop the 60 Billion illicit financial flows out of Africa every year – an amount systematically stolen by multinationals from Africa in complicity with our own leaders – we would be fine and in absolute no need for Marshal plans. At the end of January, the African Union in Addis Ababa will certainly consider a short- and medium-term action plan to better “harness the demographic dividend of Africa by investing in the youth”. It remains to be seen whether the political will and the financial means will be there to implement a possible plan. In any case, it is necessary to quickly work on this important part of our populations to prevent that they fall further into the temptation of radicalization and extremism as it is already the case in certain parts of the continent. Our youth are the hope of the continent. We must carefully take care of them so that they are fully part of the progress towards our sustainable development agenda.

Free Movement of People in Africa: An Unavoidable Prerequisite

Any plan for African youth must include free movement of people on the continent as a prerequisite. The process under way in the African Union must be accelerated to the maximum in order to allow exchange of ideas and experience among young people. Pending on the drafting and the adoption of the Treaty on Free Movement, why not take an immediate Africa-wide decision to cancel visas for short stay, or at least allow the issuing of visas upon arrival? A few African countries have already recently done so.

Civic Space at Risk: According to the African Union’s new vision expressed in the Agenda 2063, citizens are front and centre of our development and our people are a critical enablers of this vision. Citizens must have the right to organise themselves and  the ability to speak out against poverty, inequality and injustice. Yet across the continent, there is an alarming and growing trend of citizens’ fundamental rights to assembly, association and free speech being restricted. In addition, many governments are (mis)using new and existing laws to limit the creation of legitimate civil society organizations (CSOs), restrict their operations, and control their funding. Since 2012, 29 restrictive laws have been adopted in Africa… What is certain is that in the coming years citizens’ movements will rather consolidate and strengthen in Africa regardless of the restrictions and this brings a serious risk of conflict between power and citizens. Our regional institutions and the African Union must table this problem for discussion as soon as possible. For example, they should consider a study on those restrictive laws in Africa and come up with a moratorium to stop them. (See the blog I recently published jointly with a colleague on the issue as well as Oxfam’s policy brief  here:

Human Rights, Governance and Electoral Democracy: Unfinished Business

Declared as the Year of Human Rights by the African Union, 2016 was rather the year when liberties and freedoms, civic and democratic space, justice, protection of civilians etc. have been shamelessly and systematically reduced in our continent mostly under the silence of regional and continental institutions. In the Gambia for example a young activist has been tortured to death by the police in 2016 with no consequence for the perpetrators; opposition leaders were arrested for no reason and a President lost elections and refused to go.

Africa must find a way out of the vicious circle of conflicts related to the credibility of elections and the political alternation in power. Without this, our continent will continue its progressive falling into hell, thus undermining any prospect of economic development. Countries to be observed in 2017 include the Gambia, DRC, Cameroon, Liberia, Kenya, Rwanda, Angola, Libya, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Countries where an election hold-up has already been consumed are not safe from worries (Gabon, Congo, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea etc.). The alternation to power is part of the democratic game especially when  institutions are still weak and the electoral system is vulnerable. We have to talk about limiting presidential terms sooner or later. This is the only way in many of the current cases to get rid of leaders who are permanently clinging on power. For the moment good students are still few in Africa: Ghana, Senegal, Botswana, Burkina Faso, South Africa.

In addition, 2016 showed us in Ethiopia that the developmental state ideology alone is not enough to guarantee peace, stability and sustainable development. A bigger portion of pluralist democracy and more respect of civil liberties are needed.

The African Union: a New Start?

If all goes as planned, the current leadership of the African Union Commission will be renewed. The current President of the Commission, the South African Mrs. Dlami-Zuma, the Vice-President Erastus Mwencha from Kenya and most of the commissioners should hand over power to new elected officials late January for 4 or 8 years. Out of the 5  current candidates, the battle for the post of President of the Commission will be mainly between the Senegalese Abdoulaye Bathily, former Representative of the United Nations in Central Africa, the Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Kenyan  Amina Mohamed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In addition Guinean President Alpha Condé is likely to be appointed Chairman of the AU for 2017 to replace  Chadian President Idriss Deby.

The most important and most expected project is the in-depth reform of the African Union spearheaded by  Rwanda President Paul Kagame. He will propose the headlines of this reform during the January Summit in Addis Ababa. The reform will have to take into account the thorny issue of the financial dependency of the Union that his compatriot, the former boss of ADB Donald Kaberuka is already working on.

Shared Values: While it is clear that the African Union in its current structure is not suited to fully implement the ambitious Agenda 2063, it is also certain that the structural change of the Union will not suffice on its own to make progress. The African Union needs a profound and courageous change in the way it operates in terms of respect for its own fundamental principles and “shared values”. The Union needs a serious mechanism of accountability in relation to its principles and values. It needs a strong Commission with real powers to “compel” member states to respect and implement their own decisions.

In the case of elections, for example, the African Union must have the prerogative and the capacity to raise, denounce and put an end to serious breaches of electoral standards and frauds. If not, it is not worthwhile that the Union continues to observe elections. It will be nothing but a waste of resources. It is very embarrassing to see that elections in Uganda, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and so on have been described as fair, equitable, transparent and democratic without further debate.

Peace and Security:

Peace and security remain the sine qua non conditions for the development and progress of our continent and the well-being of our people. Africa has not made enough progress in this area in recent years. In many cases, such as in Burundi and South Sudan, our institutions did not take into account early warning signs that were nevertheless quite visible. In reality what our regional institutions need are courage and the political will to cut with old methods. For example, the African Union Commission and, more specifically, its leadership must be able to speak out loudly whenever our shared values are being violated by national leaders and challenge them. That is why we need a strong and audible leader for the AU Commission.

In 2017 the African Union will still have to manage the chaos in Burundi and South Sudan. The risk of ethnic cleansing in these two countries must be taken seriously. The AU must consolidate the progress made in Somalia and in the Central Africa Republic and accompany the political and security process. The Continental body should redouble vigilance in Mali (even if the UN is technically in charge), support the political dialogue initiated by the Catholic Church in DRC and its encouraging progress, but remain firm on the respect for democratic principles, the rule of law, human rights and justice. The unfinished business of Darfur should not be neglected and the entire Sudan should be under serious observation.

Silencing the Guns by 2020: Beyond the Slogan: This campaign unfortunately remains a slogan without serious action to realize it. Let us be clear: we cannot silence the guns if dictators are allowed to continue terrorizing and martyrizing their populations willingly and with impunity in flagrant violation of democratic principles, human rights and the shared values adopted by the Union and more, clinging to power for life! We cannot silence the guns if we close our eyes to the massacres of civilian populations for political reasons. We cannot silence the guns if we promote impunity of heads of state without considering the gravity of the crimes in which they are implicated against their own populations. We cannot silence the guns if the votes of citizens are systematically robbed, leaders of the political opposition harassed and jailed before, during and after elections. Above all, the continent’s ambitious development projects can only be realized if there is peace, security and stability.

With or Without Morocco?

At the end of January, we will know if Morocco will make its historic comeback to the African Union and under which conditions…  All procedural formalities have already been completed. The Summit of Heads of State should therefore be able to take a decision on this. If all goes well, Morocco will have to subscribe to all the fundamental principles of the Union including the right of peoples to self-determination and agree to cohabit with the Sahrawi Democratic Republic as a member state of the Union.  Logically the return of Morocco to the continental organization is a tacit recognition of Western Sahara. It is just a simple logic if we remember the reason why Morocco slammed the door in 1984. I hope that the accession of Morocco to the Union will create an opportunity to settle the thorny question of the Western Sahara, considered as the last colony in Africa to be liberated. Member States of the Union, especially the “friends” of Morocco must ensure that the return of Morocco contributes to the consolidation of the Union rather than to divide or shatter it. (See my blog on this topic here: )

China, America and Others

Africa has everything to gain by continuing to diversify its economic partners. The spectacular entry and positioning of China and other new partners in Africa has openly changed the balance of power with traditional partners and reoriented African economy and development process. But we must keep our eyes wide open … Our partnerships (old and new) must contribute to the realization of our agendas 2030 and 2063 and we must ensure that social, human rights and equity standards are absolutely respected in the pursuit of these partnerships. Non-state actors have a major watchdog role to play here.

With Donald Trump in power in the United States, it is unlikely that Africa will be among the priorities of “Uncle Sam”. This may give free way to China and others to better position themselves in Africa. Is this an opportunity or a challenge? Only the future will tell us.

Calendar of key meetings in 2017

13-14 January: Africa-France Summit: Theme: Partnership, Peace and Emergence – Bamako, Mali.

23-31 January: 28th African Union Summit – Theme: Youth – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

23-28 March: Continental Conference of African Experts and Ministers of Finance, Development, Planning and Integration – Dakar, Senegal

3-5 May: World Economic Forum for Africa, Theme: Inclusive Growth – Durban South Africa

End of June: 29th African Union Summit – Theme: Youth

Date TBC: 10th Africa Development Forum, Theme: Migration, UNECA, Addis Abéba, Ethiopia.

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?


“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.

The African Union Summit in Rwanda: Which Human Rights?

The 27th Summit of the Heads of State of the African Union will be held in Kigali, Rwanda from 10 -18 July 2016 under the theme: “African Year of Human Rights with Specific focus on the Rights of Women”. The African Union Commission decided not to invite observers (Non-African countries, Non-State Actors and other) to this summit. I would like to share the following personal reflections on the Summit:

Issues likely to dominate the AU Summit

Which Human Rights? The year 2016 has been declared as the “African Year of Human Rights with Specific focus on Women’s Rights”.  Officially, this theme is premised on the realisation that 2016 marks a watershed in the continent’s efforts to promote and protect human rights and provides an opportunity to take stock of the gains made over the years by the human rights bodies within the continent.

Interestingly 2016 is being marked by a serious decline on fundamental human rights in Africa with numerous violations of basic political rights and a denial of the African Union “shared values” by a number of leaders, most of whom have been clinging to power for decades by all means including changing the supreme law of the land… the constitution.

In Kigali, Heads of State and Government will have an interactive discussion following a presentation on the theme by the African Union Commission and a decision or a solemn declaration/commitment may be be adopted on the theme as usual.

am not sure what an additional decision or declaration on Human Rights will be for… while in Gambia politicians and activists are being tortured to death and in Uganda  political opposition leaders and candidates  jailed before, during and after the elections… and this did not prevent regional and continental “observers” to declare  the elections free and fair….

After  failing to send troops to protect innocent civilians, can the heads of state really convince Burundians that this is their “Year of Human Rights” ?

If  our leaders are really serious about the “Year of Human Rights” they should consider  the  concrete suggestions below while making their decisions.  The upcoming Summit is also an opportunity for progressive, like-minded and pro-democracy and pro-” AU’s shared values” leaders to break the silence against old school dictators who are  only pulling our continent backward.

Elections of the AU Commission Leadership: The “hottest” business of the Summit is the election of the AU Commission Cabinet. The 10 cabinet members of the AU Commission including the Chairperson, the Deputy Chairperson and 8 Commissioners will be elected/re-elected in Kigali if everything goes well. The current Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has only served one 4-year term (from 2012) is re-eligible but she is not contesting (officially) for another term.  The Deputy Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha and two other commissioners (Infrastructure and Energy, Rural Economy and Agriculture), having been elected twice (in 2008 and 2012) are not eligible for re-election.  The other six commissioners (Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Social Affairs, Trade and Industry,  Economic Affairs and Human Resources Science and Technology), who have only served one term are eligible for re-election. However except the Commissioner for Political Affairs and the Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, these have all put forward their candidature.

Some analysts think that, even if the election happens, it is unlikely for any of the current candidates for the Chairpersonship to gather the 2/3 votes from Member States,  needed to be elected. So, there is an eventuality for a postponement of the elections. Some countries/regions are  pushing for the postponement of the election and the  re-opening of the applications to new candidates.

Peace and Security: The summit is expected to discuss the on-going conflicts in the continent. The Peace and Security Council will also meet at Heads of State level. The Summit will normally adopt an omnibus decision on the state of peace and security in the continent. The following burning and unresolved situations will be discussed: Burundi, South Sudan, Sudan, DRC, Somalia, CAR, Western Sahara, Mali etc. Emerging threats to peace and security, such as maritime security and terrorism are also likely to be discussed.

Constitutionalism, Governance, Electoral Fraud/Violence & Unlimited Presidential Terms: It is not sure who will champion discussions on electoral frauds and violence as well as unlimited presidential terms issues in Kigali, but it is now in the common knowledge that if these issues are not resolved soon in Africa, more violent conflicts will emerge and our development plans including the Agendas 2063 /2030 will remain just “beautiful papers” with no prospect for realisation. It is expected that some progressive leaders will table these issues for discussion.

One African Passport/Free Movement: As part of the 10-year implementation plan of the agenda 2063, the AU is making efforts to create a single African passport for travel across the continent. Such a passport will presented to the heads of states in Kigali. In an attempt to promote free movement of people, related decisions are expected to happen during the Kigali summit. There is already a plan to adopt a protocol on free movement in Africa in 2018.  A few countries including Rwanda, Ghana and Namibia have issued “visa on arrival” policies for African passport holders. More countries must do so in the mean time.

African Agenda 2063: The AU’s Agenda 2063 has been adopted by African Heads of State and Government as the Continent’s new long-term vision for the next 50 years. Priority programmes and projects of the Agenda include: An Integrated High Speed Train Network, the Continental Free Trade Area, the African Passport and Free Movement of people, Unification of African Air Space, the Grand Inga Dam Project etc.  The 10-year implementation plan is having hard time to show concrete steps 3 years after the adoption of the Agenda while basic conditions for a true development move are getting worse in the continent.

Other issues: A number of other issues including the illicit financial flows out of Africa, the alternative sources of funding of the AU, the restructuring of the African Union Commission, the ICC etc. will also be on the agenda of the Kigali Summit. Find out more in the coming weeks on

Calendar of the Summit

  • From 10 to 12 July 2016: Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (Ambassadors)
  • From 13 to 15 July 2016: Ordinary Session of the Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs)
  • From 17 and 18 July 2016: Ordinary Session of the Assembly (Heads of State and Government)

Closing of the mid-year Summits to observers

In January 2015, the Assembly of the Union directed the Commission to make proposals on the streamlining of the AU Summits and the working methods of the Union in order to accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2063. In June 2015, the Commission proposed a set of recommendations to the Assembly including a proposal that only one summit be open to partners and that only partners (observers accredited to the AU/with MOUs with AU) with business related to the theme of the Summit be invited to the AU Summit. The Assembly then decided among other things to “continue with 2 summits which should be streamlined with one Summit focusing on policy issues with participation of partners (…) and the other Summit focusing on the implementation of decisions”. The decision did not precise which of the 2 Summits will be open and which will be closed but given the practice of the last 2 years, it is looking like the January Summit will be open and the June/July summit closed.

The AU Commission is not inviting observers to the Kigali Summit. So, CSOs, non-African countries and other observers are not invited and their side events may not be allowed within and around the summit premises. This move is being strongly contested by the civil society and is seen as part of the whole strategy of governments to shrink civic space. (See my blog on this issue here: )

To give a true meaning to the “Year of Human Rights” The Kigali Summit should adopt the following decisions/ Commitments

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.

The Controversial Closing of the AU Summit to Citizens/Observers

Observers including citizens and their formations as well as non-African countries and other bodies are not invited to the upcoming Summit of the African Union  to be held in Kigali, Rwanda next month. This move is being strongly contested by the civil society and is seen as part of the whole strategy of governments to shrink civic space.

I am sharing the following personal reflections on the issue:

In January 2015, the Assembly of the Union directed the Commission to make proposals on the streamlining of the AU Summits and the working methods of the Union in order to accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2063. In June 2015, the Commission proposed a set of recommendations to the Assembly including a proposal that only one summit be open to partners and that only partners (observers accredited to the AU/with MOUs with AU) with business related to the theme of the Summit be invited to the AU Summits. The Assembly then decided among other things to “continue with two summits every year which should be streamlined with one Summit focusing on policy issues with participation of partners (…) and the other Summit focusing on the implementation of decisions”. The decision did not precise which of the 2 Summits will be open and which will be closed but given the practice of the last 2 years, it is looking like the January Summit will be open and the June/July summit closed.

While the African Union Commission and its various departments are being more and more open to civil society’s participation in between  Summits, namely during experts and ministerial policy gatherings, closing the AU Summit space to African citizens as observers is a challenge to a key mission of the Union which is to build “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” The AU Summit is a unique a symbolic opportunity for informal yet important interactions between the people and power holders.

Some country representatives argued that the closure of the July Summit is mostly due to the disturbance caused by development partners around the summit… puling delegates to side/bilateral meetings while policy discussions were going on… but this is not a good reason to close the summit to everybody else including citizens and their formations. Delegates must be more disciplined and accountable in managing their own schedule during the Summit.

The Agenda 2063 itself recognised that people’s ownership and mobilisation is needed as one of the critical enablers to concretise the seven aspirations of the 50-year business plan of our continent.

Today, civic space is being terribly challenged in a growing number of countries in our continent. Since 2012, at least 29 restrictive laws  on civic space have been introduced in African countries. Unless this trend of massive shrinking of citizens’ space is stopped, and closed space reopened, I am afraid the road to 2063’s aspirations will be longer than planned.

 I will post another blog on this issue this week on including tips for civil society to deal with such a situation.