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.

Le «Retour» du Maroc à l’Union Africaine: Une Opportunité ou un Challenge?

Le Royaume du Maroc a présenté officiellement une demande d’adhésion à l’Acte Constitutif de l’Union Africaine pour «redevenir» membre de l’Union. La demande a également été remise au Président de la Commission de l’UA,  Dr Dlamini-Zuma par le conseiller du Roi Mohammed VI aux Affaires étrangères, Taieb Fassi Fihri, le 22 Septembre 2016, lors d’une réunion tenue en marge de la 71e session de l’Assemblée Générale des Nations Unies à New York.

S’il est géré de bonne foi et en respectant les principes de base de l’Union Africaine, le retour du Maroc à l’Union Africaine pourrait avoir de nombreuses répercussions positives pour l’UA et potentiellement faciliter la résolution du conflit du Sahara Occidental. Dans le cas contraire, cette évolution comporte tous les risques de dangereusement diviser l’Union Africaine.

J’aimerais partager ici mes opinions personnelles sur certaines des implications de ce «retour». Voir la version en Anglais de l’article ici:

En juin et juillet 2016, le Maroc a entrepris une campagne diplomatique en prélude au Sommet de l’Union Africaine. Des émissaires marocains ont visité le Sénégal, la Côte-d’Ivoire, la Zambie, le Cameroun, l’Ethiopie, l’Egypte, le Soudan, le Kenya et la Tunisie. Quelques jours avant le Sommet, le Président Paul Kagame du Rwanda, pays hôte du Sommet a eu une visite de deux jours au Maroc et a été décoré avec la plus haute distinction d’honneur du Maroc. De même, la Zambie a envoyé son ministre des Affaires étrangères à Casablanca où il a annoncé la décision de son pays d’annuler la reconnaissance de la  République Arabe Sahraouie Démocratique.

Au cours du Sommet de l’UA à Kigali, le Roi du Maroc a envoyé une lettre officielle au Président de l’Assemblée de l’Union Africaine indiquant que le Maroc souhaiterait revenir à l’UA. Le Président en exercice de l’UA, le  Tchadien Idriss Deby aurait refusé d’inscrire  ladite lettre à l’ordre du jour du Sommet. Au cours de la deuxième journée du Sommet, les délégués ont vu circulée une motion demandant la suspension de la République Arabe Sahraouie Démocratique de l’UA. La motion, qui aurait été approuvée par 28 États a été catalysée par le Président du Gabon Ali Bongo avec le soutien d’autres alliés tels que le président Macky Sall du Sénégal. La motion n’a cependant pas pu être présentée.

L’entrée du Maroc à l’Union Africaine Pourrait être Positif

Le Maroc, membre fondateur de l’Organisation de l’Unité Africaine (OUA) avait claquée la porte y a 32 ans suite à  l’admission de la RASD comme Etat membre de l’Union. Au cours des années 2000s, l’OUA a été transformée pour devenir l’Union Africaine avec un nouveau traité ; l’Acte Constitutif de l’Union et des objectifs renforcés. Sur le plan juridique, l’UA donc est une nouvelle organisation et tous ses 54 membres actuels ont souscris à ses visions et principes fondamentaux en ratifiant le nouvel Acte Constitutif. Pour le Maroc il s’agira donc d’une adhesion, pas d’un retour…

Je n’ai pas vu le contenu de la requête du Maroc mais une telle demande implique  forcement l’acceptation sans réserve par le Maroc des principes de base de l’organisation. Le Maroc devra alors cohabiter avec tous les membres de l’UA, y compris la RASD. Ceci ouvrerait aussi la porte à une résolution pacifique et acceptable du conflit du Sahara Occidental. L’UA pourra alors regagner de l’influence pour faciliter le processus.

Des Avantages en Matière de Paix et de Sécurité : L’entrée de Maroc dans l’Union Africaine pourra augmenter les chances d’une solution africaine aux crises dans la région du Maghreb, le Maroc étant un acteur majeur en matière de sécurité en Afrique du Nord et un leader dans la lutte contre l’extrémisme et le sécularisme islamique. L’Union du Maghreb Arabe (UMA) a été la Communauté Economique Régionale la moins fonctionnelle. L’engagement du Maroc ou de l’UMA dans les opérations de soutien à  la paix  de la Force africaine en attente pourrait augmenter sa capacité de façon significative. La lutte contre le terrorisme a été l’un des défis les plus importants pour lesquels le Maroc pourra être un allié sérieux  s’il devient membre de l’Union.

Un Gain Economique Majeur: la réussite économique du Maroc serait un sérieux atout pour le programme d’intégration économique de l’Union africaine et des programmes spécifiques tels que l’Agenda 2063.

Une avancée Historique: Le retour à L’Union Africaine d’un Etat clé de l’histoire du panafricanisme projetterait une image positive du continent.


Un Retour «Forcé» du Maroc Pourrait Dangereusement Diviser l’Union Africaine

Dans une récente interview, le Président Macky Sall du Sénégal soutenant le retour du Maroc a déclaré: «Le Maroc a décidé de revenir et a demandé que la légalité constitutionnelle internationale soit respectée, conformément aux principes de l’ONU où le Sahara Occidental n’est pas représenté comme Etat indépendant ”, se référant ainsi à la récente tentative avortée de 28 pays pour suspendre la République Arabe Sahraouie Démocratique de l’UA par une motion. Le Président Hery Rajaonarimampianina de Madagascar a également  salué la décision du Maroc et a promis de tout faire pour que ce retour légitime se concretise dès le plus vite possible.

Le Maroc multiplie des actions en faveurs des Etats membres de l’Union à travers la création et le renforcement de liens diplomatiques et économiques. Le Maroc élargis son cercle traditionnel d’amis (Afrique de l’Ouest) à d’autres régions du continent notamment avec le renforcement récent des relations diplomatiques avec le Rwanda,  l’Ouganda et la Zambie. L’élargissement de ce cercle constitue à n’en pas douter une menace réelle  pour la RASD. L’Union Africaine prend normalement ses décisions par consensus mais il est peu probable d’avoir ce consensus sur la question de maintenir la  RASD ou non au sein de l’Union Africaine. Même une majorité simple sera difficile à obtenir dans la configuration actuelle.  D’ailleurs, il n’existe aujourd’hui aucun mécanisme permettant d’expulser un Etat  membre de l’Union Africaine en dehors du cas de suspension pour non-paiement de cotisations ou en cas de coup d’Etat.

Les Etats super-influents comme l’Afrique du Sud, l’Algérie et le Nigeria sont loin de laisser passer une motion d’expulsion ou de suspension de la  RASD  de l’Union Africaine. Même au pire des cas, une action dans ce sens remettra en cause le sacro-saint principe du droit à l’autodétermination, un des principes fondateurs de l’OUA. L’Union Africaine en sortirait profondément affaiblie et devisée.

Le Maroc pourrait également utiliser une stratégie différente qui serait de faire entrée soft dans l’Union Africaine en acceptant la position actuelle de l’organisation sur le Sahara Occidental, mais continuer la bataille contre la RASD au sein de l’Union avec le soutien des alliés. Cela me semble être le scénario le plus probable mais aussi le plus facile pour intégrer  l’Union … Mais le Maroc et ses alliés réussiront- ils à bouter la SADR dehors? Telle est la question…

Il est important de souligner ici que l’Afrique a beaucoup plus a gagner d’un règlement pacifique du conflit Sahraoui sur la base des principes fondateurs de l’Union Africaine, des droits fondamentaux de l’homme et du droit international.

Morocco’s “Return” to the African Union: Opportunity or Challenge?

The Kingdom of Morocco officially submitted a request to accede to the African Union Constitutive Act and become a Member of the Union. The letter was also handed over to the Chairperson of the AUC, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma through the adviser to the King Mohammed VI on Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco, H.E. Taieb Fassi Fihri, on 22 September 2016, at a meeting held on the margins of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

If it is managed in good faith and the respect of African Union basic principles, Morocco’s return to the African Union could have numerous positive implications for the AU and potentially bring about the long awaited for “resolve” to Western Sahara conflict. If not, this development has every risk of dangerously dividing the Union.

Here are my personal views on some of the implications of this development:

See the French version of the article here:

In June and July 2016 Morocco undertook Pre-AU-Summit Campaign through Moroccan envoy Salaheddine Mezouar who visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Cameroon Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia and from 15 July, Morocco sent Special Envoy Taieb Fassi Fihri to Kenya. Preceding the AU Summit, President Paul Kagame of the host nation Rwanda held a two-day visit to Morocco and was decorated Morocco’s highest national award of honour. Equally,  Zambia sent its Minister of Foreign Affairs to Casablanca where he announced the country’s decision to “de-recognise” Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

During the AU Summit in Kigali in July 2016 the King of Morocco sent an official letter to the Chairperson of the Assembly  the African Union indicating Morocco wishes to return to the AU. The Chadian Chairperson of the AU Idriss Deby reportedly refused to table the letter at the Summit. During the second day of the Summit, delegates saw a motion calling for the suspension of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic from the AU. The motion, allegedly endorsed by 28 states was catalyzed by the President of Gabon Ali Bongo alongside other strong allies such as President Macky Sall of Senegal. The motion however failed to be presented.

Morocco’s return for the African Union could be a positive development

Morocco, a founding member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) left OAU 32 years ago over the admission of SADR and the subsequent refusal to expel  SADR from the Union.  In the year 2000, the OAU has been transformed to the African Union with a new Constitutive Act and enhanced objectives. So, legally talking, the AU is a new organization and all its current 54 members have subscribed to its visions and principles.

I have not seen the contents of Morocco’s application for membership to the AU but such a request to “return” to the AU should naturally entail an unconditional acceptance of the basic principles of the organization. Morocco will then have to cohabit with all members of the AU, including the SADR. This also brings the hope of a peaceful and acceptable resolution to the Western Sahara Conflict. The AU will then regain full leverage to facilitate the process.

Gains on Peace and Security:  African solution or approach to crisis in the Maghreb region would be greatly enhanced by cooperation with Morocco a major security actor  in North Africa and a lead in countering violent extremism and management of secularism. The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) has been the least functional Regional Economic Community (REC) the strength, Military engagement of the AMU in Peace Support Operations and the African Standby Force could increase significantly. Countering Terrorism has been the most prominent challenge with which Morocco can also assist if it becomes a member of the Union.

Economic Gains: Morocco’s economic success would be a serious asset for the African Union’s economic integration agenda and specific programmes such as Agenda 2063.

Historical Win: The return of one of the leading Pan African States in the history of Africa and a founding member of OAU will project an excellent image of the continent.morroco-pic1

A “Forced” return of Morocco could dangerously split the African Union

In a recent interview, President Macky Sall of Senegal, in full support of Morocco’s move declared: “Morocco has decided to come back and has requested that international constitutional legality be respected in accordance with the UN where the Western Sahara is not represented as an independent state’’, referring to the recent failed attempt of 28 countries to kick the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic out of the AU by a motion. President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar also ‘welcomed’ Morocco’s decision and promises that he will ‘work to ensure that this legitimate return be effective as soon as possible.’

Morocco is building relationships and depositing favors with member states through creating and strengthening diplomatic and economic ties. Morocco’s traditional stronghold in West Africa is expanding with recent allies in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. With this warm welcome and increased support, Morocco will be able to garner within the Union, so, the standing of Western Sahara could be increasingly threatened.

In any case, there is currently no mechanism within AU policies and regulations to expel a member state from the Union except the cases of suspension for non-payment of contributions or for unconstitutional change of government. The AU normally makes its decisions based on consensus which is unlikely to be the case for this particular question on whether SADR should be kept in the AU or not.  Even a majority vote would be difficult to attain on this. In this case, the political decision making process of the AU would be strained and split on the question of Western Sahara.

The “expulsion” or “suspension” of SADR is unlikely to succeed within the current geopolitical framework of the African Union. Powerful members such as South Africa, Nigeria,  Algeria, Ethiopia etc would surely stand against such a move. Any forced attempt to expel SADR by whatever mean legal or political could dangerously split the African Union.  If this were to happen, in the worst case scenario the AU, as an organization which inherited the decolonization agenda, would violate one of its sacred principles of the right of people for self-determination. This would terribly weaken the organization’s standing.

Morocco may also use a different strategy which is to softly land in the African Union by accepting its current stand and position on Western Sahara but then continue the battle against the SADR from within the Union with the support of allies. This seems to me as the most likely scenario that Morocco may use and the easiest to get accepted in the African Union… But would Morocco and its allies succeed to push SADR out? That is the question…

It is important to stress here that Africa will rather gain from a peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara conflict based on the founding principles of the African Union, fundamental Human Rights and the international law.

Questions, Comments? email me:

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.

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.

WESTERN SAHARA: “40 FACES, 40 YEARS – A LIFETIME IN EXILE” – African Union Headquarters, 25th April 2016: My Opening Remarks


Your Excellency Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union

Your Excellency Amb. Yilma Tadesse, Senior Representative of the AU to MINURSO
Ambassadors, Directors and representatives of International Organizations,

Ms. Umetha Hamdi, and Mr. Mahmud Mohamed, from the Western Sahara Refugee Camp

Colleagues & Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocol observed…. Good Morning and Thank you for joining us !

Oxfam Liaison Office to the African Union is delighted to co-host this event on the Sahrawi refugee crisis with the African Union Commission.
I would like to explicitly thank the Bureau of the Chairperson, the Department of Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Department for this fruitful cooperation and support.
This photo exhibition, and the seminar with the participation of Sahrawi from the refugee’s camps – comes at a crucial time.
60 million people in the world are displaced today from their home. Many of them are forced to flee because of conflict or despair. Among them are the Sahrawi refugees, who have been displaced for forty years.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
As a humanitarian and development organisation present in 90 countries around the world including 38 in Africa, Oxfam works together with local partners, to fight poverty and related injustice.
When doing so, we base ourselves on the international legal framework and we are mindful to bring out the voices and wishes of the concerned communities — The Sahrawi refugees are no exception.
The Sahrawi refugee crisis is old, complex and it reminds the international community, and particularly Africa, of a painful colonial history. But, the Sahrawi situation is virtually unknown in the world, or, worse — ignored. This must change.
Oxfam has been working with partners to deliver humanitarian assistance to Sahrawi refugees since 1975. We are committed to sharing more information and we are working to make this humanitarian crisis more visible, showing the dire conditions in which refugees have been living for 40 years. We work to ensure that more diplomats, analysts and journalists can visit the refugee camps to see first-hand, the situation and, most importantly, hear from refugees themselves—as we all will do today.
This photo exhibition is part of our attempt to shed light on people that have never experienced anything other than life as a refugee. These 40 men and women live in the heart of the Sahara desert, in a remote and harsh environment. The Sahrawi refugees remain heavily dependent on humanitarian aid and still, there is no prospect that this will change any time soon.
We are planning to bring this exhibition to many cities on different continents in order to address the absence of knowledge on this crisis.

Chers Amis,
Deux choses sont importantes pour Oxfam:
D’abord, nous devons subvenir pleinement aux besoins des réfugiés sahraouis. Les besoins de base sont encore loin d’être couverts, en partie, à cause de l’environnement particulièrement sévère, et à cause d’un manque de sources de financement pour la crise.
Après 40 ans, les donateurs devraient également tenir compte des aspirations des réfugiés, en particulier les jeunes. Se limiter à expédier de l’aide est inacceptable. Nous devrions aider la population à se prendre en charge, a être capables de renforcer leur communauté et, construire leur vie d’une manière définitive et en dehors des camps de réfugiés.
Ceci me conduit à mon deuxième point: les causes profondes de la crise doivent être embrassées et traitées par la communauté internationale. Les réfugiés sahraouis doivent avoir la possibilité de vivre avec dignité et de construire leur vie en dehors des camps.
Ce conflit doit être réglé par voie de négociations pacifiques en vue de trouver une solution politique juste, durable et mutuellement acceptable, qui permette l’autodétermination du peuple du Sahara Occidental.
Ce mois d’avril est un moment important dans le contexte du Sahara occidental, en particulier au niveau de l’ONU. Les principaux acteurs doivent être conscients du cadre juridique international et se rappeler des promesses faites au peuple du Sahara Occidental.
Mesdames et Messieurs,
L’Organisation de l’Unité Africaine, le prédécesseur de l’Union Africaine, a joué un rôle important dans le cadre des accords qui ont été conclus au début des années 90, y compris l’accord de cessez-le feu et un référendum.
Les événements récents qui menacent l’espoir d’une résolution négociée, risquent non seulement de régénérer la violence et des souffrances humaines inutiles, mais aussi de compliquer davantage la recherche d’une solution durable, mutuellement acceptable, conformément au droit international.
Nous sommes à la croisée des chemins en ce qui concerne la crise des réfugiés sahraouis. La communauté internationale doit se mettre ensemble et travailler à trouver des compromis.
Laisser un problème de côté ne va jamais le résoudre —, bien au contraire, il s’aggravera avec toutes les conséquences imaginables.
Oxfam espère continuer à travailler avec l’Union Africaine et d’autres acteurs dans la recherche d’une solution à cette crise.
Que ces 40 visages de 40 personnes vivant dans une situation humanitaire catastrophique, et qui luttent pour prendre le contrôle de leur vie —- soient une source de motivation pour nous tous, pour les décideurs et les détenteurs du pouvoir partout…
La pauvreté à laquelle ce peuple est confrontée, et l’impact humain plus large de cette crise est une injustice qui n’a que trop duré.`
Je vous remercie pour votre attention.