Les Dirigeants Africains Peuvent-ils Faire Taire les Armes en 2020 Comme Promis? 7 Prérequis Incontournables

English version here 

Les Chefs d’État de l’Union africaine se réuniront prochainement pour leur 33eme session ordinaire prévue pour les 9 et 10 février 2020 à Addis-Abeba, en Éthiopie.

Comme d’habitude, ceci est le premier de ma série de réflexions et d’analyses que je partagerai sur ce blog www.assodesire.com  avant et après le Sommet.

Le thème de l’année 2020 est «Faire taire les armes: créer des conditions propices au développement de l’Afrique». J’ai eu l’honneur de contribuer à ce débat depuis 2017 à l’Union africaine sur invitation du Conseil de paix et de sécurité de l’Union comme personne ressource, à plusieurs de ses sessions sur la question.

Dans leur déclaration solennelle du 50e anniversaire de l’Union africaine, les Chefs d’État et de Gouvernement africains se sont engagés «à atteindre l’objectif d’une Afrique sans conflits, à faire de la paix une réalité pour tous nos peuples et à débarrasser le continent des guerres, conflits,  violations des droits de l’homme, des catastrophes humanitaires, et prévenir le génocide ».

Silencing... French image

En novembre 2017, le Conseil de paix et de sécurité a adopté une « feuille de route traitant des étapes pratiques pour faire taire les armes à l’horizon 2020 ». La feuille de route a également été approuvée par le Sommet des Chefs d’État. La Feuille de route reconnaît qu’au-delà des efforts politiques et militaires en cours, il y a un besoin urgent d’interventions structurelles dans le domaine du développement socio-économique, pour tenir compte des questions de gouvernance, des jeunes et des femmes, de l’emploi et de l’éducation, du changement climatique et d’autres facteurs pertinents.

Qu’est-ce qui pousse les individus et groupes d’individus  à détenir et faire confiance aux armes?

Aujourd’hui, seulement 1/3 de toutes les armes légères en circulation sont aux mains des forces de sécurité légalement constituées. Les 2/3 sont détenues illégalement par des acteurs non étatiques ou des individus, ce qui est préoccupant car, l’utilisation de ces armes affecte directement et indirectement des centaines de milliers de personnes et compromet gravement nos engagements en faveur du développement durable.

Chaque année, la Commission de l’Union africaine présente un rapport sur l’état de la paix et de la sécurité sur le continent à l’Assemblée des Chefs d’État, et des décisions sont prises en conséquence, mais la paix ne se fait toujours pas voir. Dans de nombreux cas, les gens détiennent, gardent et font confiance aux armes, parce que leurs divers problèmes récurrents restent non résolus par les détenteurs du pouvoir.

Les institutions africaines doivent se comporter différemment

Les détenteurs d’armes illégales sur notre continent ne considèrent pas leurs propres actions comme illégales mais plutôt légitimes contre des problèmes tels que le partage inéquitable des ressources nationales, la confiscation du pouvoir d’État et des ressources d’État par un individu ou un groupe d’individus, des formes modernes de changements anticonstitutionnels de gouvernement qui se manifestent aujourd’hui par des élections frauduleuses ou «cosmétiques» pour se maintenir au pouvoir, souvent avec la bénédiction déguisée  de certaines de nos institutions régionales et continentales à travers l’observation des élections qui ne portent principalement que sur les opérations de vote, et qui sont toujours «déclarées libres et équitables».

Si nous maintenons cette façon de conduire nos affaires, je crains que nous ne revenions ici à la fin de 2020 ou même 2030, seulement pour réaliser que les armes ne sont pas réduites au silence sur notre continent. Cela veut dire que le voyage vers notre Agenda 2063 deviendra plus long que prévu et les promesses contenues dans l’Agenda 2030 ne seront que de beaux rêves. En conséquence, la crise de confiance de nos populations – en particulier les jeunes – envers nos institutions, les instances régionales et continentales, va plutôt augmenter. Les populations affectées et marginalisées continueront bien sûr de ne faire confiance qu’aux armes.

Je dois insister sur le fait que la modification des constitutions nationales aux fins de garantir des mandats présidentiels supplémentaires ou illimités, renforcés par des élections injustes, constitue un réel risque de fragilité qui ne contribuera pas à faire taire les armes en Afrique. Pour que la campagne «Faire taire les armes» atteigne ses objectifs, nous devons faire les choses différemment. Nous devons être plus courageux si nous voulons voir des résultats différents.

Nos institutions continentales et régionales devraient avoir le pouvoir et l’autorité de faire un monitoring objectif de la performance des États membres dans la mise en œuvre de nos valeurs partagées qui sont contenues dans les nombreuses décisions, cadres d’action, traités, etc adoptés . Il devrait y avoir un mécanisme solide de sanction pour violation de nos valeurs partagées. Les sanctions ne doivent pas seulement viser le non-paiement des contributions financières. Je ne vois pas d’autre moyens pour changer l’Afrique et y assurer la paix et la sécurité.

Curieusement, l’Assemblée des Chefs d’Etat de l’Union Africaine dans sa dernière décision prise au Niger en juillet 2019 sur «l’Année pour faire taire les armes» a souligné le lien entre la bonne gouvernance, la paix, la stabilité et le développement et a reconnu que ces concepts sont intimement liés et ne peuvent pas être traités les uns sans les autres.

Ça ne commence pas forcément par les armes

La disponibilité des armes ne crée pas nécessairement des conflits. Mais leur prolifération et leur circulation incontrôlée peuvent entraîner une propagation plus rapide de la violence et amplifier leurs effets dévastateurs. Bien entendu, les pays sont moins sûrs si les armes sont facilement disponibles. Cependant, les conflits en cours en Afrique n’ont pas commencé simplement parce que des armes étaient disponibles. En fait, les armes sont arrivées plus tard dans la plupart des cas parce que les problèmes ne sont pas résolus.

7 Prérequis pour faire taire les armes en Afrique

Voici quelques conditions préalables clés que l’Union africaine, les États membres, les organismes régionaux, les citoyens et leurs groupes ainsi que les partenaires devraient rechercher si nous voulons vraiment faire taire les armes:

1 / La constitution et les lois de tous les États membres de l’Union africaine garantissent tous les droits civils et politiques à tous les citoyens sans discrimination. Cela signifie également que des manifestations pacifiques peuvent avoir lieu chaque fois que les citoyens ne sont pas satisfaits de la conduite des affaires publiques, et sans intimidation ni violence contre les citoyens.

2 / Les systèmes de justice de tous les États membres sont indépendants et exempts de pressions indues de la part de l’exécutif dans leur fonctionnement. Les auteurs de violations des droits de l’homme et les criminels sont effectivement poursuivis quel que soit leur statut social et politique et la réparation des victimes est assurée au niveau national… Si cela se produit constamment, la Cour pénale internationale n’aura plus grand chose à faire…Souvenons-nous que sans justice et sans redevabilité, les gens perdront confiance en tout sauf en les armes.

3 / Les institutions étatiques mettent en place des mécanismes socio-économiques et juridiques pour lutter contre les inégalités, l’extrême pauvreté et la corruption à tous les niveaux. Les flux financiers illicites sont considérablement réduits… De gros investissements sont réalisés à partir des ressources nationales, soutenues par la coopération internationale Sud-Sud et Nord-Sud, pour assurer les services sociaux essentiels, principalement l’éducation, les infrastructures et les soins de santé à tous les citoyens.

4 / Des élections crédibles sont regulierement tenues et gérées par des commissions électorales indépendantes sans aucune ingérence, et les résultats du vote reflètent le véritable choix de la majorité mais, les minorités sont respectées, délibérément protégées et ont la possibilité de participer aux affaires publiques à travers différentes autres institutions et par les lois et les règlements. Cela conduira naturellement à une situation où les élections seront davantage influencées par des programmes politiques et non par des origines ethniques. Les perdants des élections, y compris les anciens Chefs d’État ou les Chefs de l’opposition, sont traités avec dignité, respectés et bénéficient de la protection de l’État, mais ils sont tenus responsables s’ils ont commis de crimes.

5 / Des programmes innovants créent des opportunités d’éducation et de formation diverses et de qualité. Le secteur privé est réglementé, accompagné et encouragé pour créer de nouvelles opportunités d’emploi pour les jeunes. Les institutions publiques garantissent l’égalité des chances aux citoyens, sans discrimination d’être employés et engagés dans les affaires publiques.

6 / Le Traité de l’Union africaine sur la libre circulation des personnes et des biens est ratifié et pleinement mis en œuvre sur tout le continent. Le passeport panafricain ou même une carte d’identité africaine standardisée est délivrée rapidement sur demande aux citoyens. Ainsi, l’interaction entre les peuples de différentes nationalités et régions du continent catalyse d’importantes opportunités d’apprentissage, crée une synergie et stimule notre intégration économique. Les jeunes ne ressentent plus le besoin d’immigrer vers l’extérieur. Aucun décès n’est enregistré en Mer Méditerranée ou dans le désert du Sahara et une bonne partie de la diaspora rentre au bercail pour participer à la reconstruction du continent.

7 / L’Union africaine regagne la confiance de ses citoyens et devient une organisation véritablement axée sur les citoyens, et efficace pour assurer la mise en œuvre de ses décisions par les États membres. L’espace civique est garanti pour que les citoyens et leurs groupes participent à la vie politique. Cela signifie que l’UA a déclaré illégales toutes les lois draconiennes votées, empêchant la société civile d’opérer normalement dans les Etats membres. La liberté d’association est respectée mais les ONG sont redevables pour leurs actions.

Si tous ces prérequis sont observés, les armes seront sûrement réduites au silence en Afrique.

Observez cet endroit!!!

Je partagerai bientôt ma note d’information sur les autres questions clés de l’ordre du jour du Sommet à venir.

Veuillez m’envoyer vos commentaires et suggestions par e-mail à Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com ou sur What’sApp / Telegram au +19172160155

Can African Leaders Silence the Guns in 2020 as Promised? 7 Unavoidable Prerequisites!

La version en Français est ici

Dear Friends

The Heads of State of the African Union will soon meet for their 33rd Ordinary Session scheduled for the 9th and 10th February 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As usual, this is the first of my series of reflections and analysis to be shared on this blog www.assodesire.com  in the lead up to the Summit and after.

The theme of the year 2020 is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”. I have had the honor to contribute to this debate several times since 2017 at the African Union as an invited Guest Speaker at the Peace and Security Council of the Union to its sessions on the issue.

In their Solemn Declaration of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union, African Heads of State and Government have committed themselves “to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars, civil conflicts, human rights violations, humanitarian disasters, and violent conflicts and to prevent genocide.” They further pledged “not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars by 2020”.

Theme 2020 pictureIn November 2017, the Peace and Security Council adopted a Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to silencing the guns by 2020. The Roadmap has been also endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State. The Roadmap recognizes that, beyond the ongoing political and military efforts, there is a need for structural interventions in the area of socio-economic development, to allow for issues of governance, youth and women, employment and education, climate change and other pertinent factors to play constructive roles in the efforts to silencing the guns in Africa.

Why are people holding and trusting the guns?

Only 1/3 of all small arms in circulation today are in the hands of legally constituted security forces. The remaining 2/3 are held illegally by non-state groups or individuals and this is cause for concern because, the use of these weapons, directly and indirectly, affects hundreds of thousands of people and severely undermines our commitments for sustainable development.

Every year, the African Union Commission presents a report on the state of peace and security in the continent to the Assembly of Heads of State, and decisions are made accordingly but peace is still not happening. People are holding, keeping and trusting the guns, mostly because their various recurrent problems remain unsolved by power holders.

African institutions must do business differently

Illegal weapon bearers in our continent do not consider their own actions as illegal, but rather legitimate against issues like the inequitable sharing of national resources, the confiscation of state power and state resources by an individual or group of individuals, modern forms of unconstitutional change of government manifested today by fraudulent or “cosmetic elections” to ensure additional or unlimited terms on power, often with the hidden blessing of some of our regional and continental bodies through election observation that mostly look at just the voting operations, often “declared free and fair”.

If we stick to the current way of doing business, I am afraid we will come back here at the end of 2020 or even 2030 or later, only to realize that guns are not silenced in our continent. This means that the journey to our Agenda 2063 will become longer than planned and the promises contained in the Agenda 2030 will remain beautiful dreams. As a result, the mistrust of our populations – especially the youth – and in our institutions, regional and continental bodies, will rather increase. Affected and marginalized populations will continue trusting nothing else but the guns.

I should insist that changing national constitutions in order to ensure additional or unlimited presidential terms, reinforced by unfair elections constitute a real risk for fragility that will not help to silence the guns in Africa. So, for the “Silencing the Guns” Campaign to happen, we must do things differently. We must do something courageous and probably painful if we want to see different results.

Our continental and regional bodies should be given power and authority to objectively monitor member states’ performance in implementing our adopted shared values contained in the numerous progressive decisions, frameworks, treaties adopted by the African Union.  There should be a serious sanction mechanism to be used in case of violation of our values on which the African Union was built. Sanctions should not be limited to the non-payment of financial contributions to the Union. I see no other ways to change Africa and ensure peace and security.

Curiously, the Assembly of the Union in its last decision taken in Niger in July 2019 on the “Year of Silencing the Guns” underscored the nexus between good governance, peace, stability and development and recognized that these concepts are thoroughly intertwined and cannot be considered exclusive of each other.

It does not necessarily start with the guns

The availability of arms does not necessarily create conflicts. But their proliferation and their uncontrolled circulation can lead to a more rapid spread of violence and, magnify their devastating effects. Of course, countries are less safe if weapons are easily available. However, conflicts that are going on in Africa have not started just because arms were available. In fact, arms come in later in most of the cases because problems are not resolved. So silencing or collecting the guns can only succeed with a holistic approach.

7 Prerequisites to silence the guns in Africa

Here are some key prerequisites that the African Union, member states, regional bodies, citizens and their formations, as well as partners, should look after if we truly want to silence the guns in Africa:

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

2/ Justice systems of all member states are made independent and free of undue pressure from the executive in their functioning. Human rights violators and criminals are effectively prosecuted regardless of their social and political status and reparation for victims is ensured at the national level… If this happens constantly, the International Criminal Court will have nothing else to do… Let us remember that without justice and accountability people will lose their trust in everything except for the guns.

3/ State institutions set up socio-economic and legal mechanisms to tackle inequality and extreme poverty and to combat corruption at all levels. Illicit Financial Flows are significantly reduced and stopped… Heavy investments are made from national resources, supported by international South-South and North-South cooperation, to ensure essential services, mainly, quality education, infrastructures, and health care are accessible for all citizens.

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

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

6/ The African Union Treaty on Free Movement of People and Goods is universally ratified and fully implemented all over the continent… The Pan African Passport or even an African standardized ID is delivered promptly upon request to citizens. So, Interaction between peoples of different nationalities and regions of the continent catalyzes strong opportunities for learning, creates synergy, and boosts our economic integration. Young people feel no need to immigrate to Europe or America.  No death is recorded in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Sahara Desert and, a good part of the diaspora comes back home to take part in the reconstruction of the continent.

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

If we do these, guns will be surely silenced in Africa.

Watch this Space!!!

I will soon share my briefing note on the key other issues on the upcoming Summit agenda.

Please send me your comments and suggestions via email to Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com or what’s App/Telegram to +19172160155 

Generating Knowledge and Evidence to Promote Inclusive & Sustainable Development

Generating knowledge and evidence to support inclusive & sustainable development: I recently made the case, during a key note speech in the Hague, Netherlands, for different stakeholders – academia, researchers, NGOs, practitioners policymakers, UN bodies etc – to work together. The seminar was on  ‘Knowledge and Research: Theory and Practice for Dialogue and Dissent’. Participating researchers came from various countries working on the research programme ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’, staff of CSOs and NGOs, and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands involved with the policy framework for Dialogue and Dissent came together to discuss and reflect on knowledge and experience concerning the role of civil society in influencing pro-poor policies.

The original article was published here.

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today, we aim to have a conversation about building bridges between different stakeholders – including academic researchers, researchers working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), practitioners and policymakers – and we seek linkages and collaboration among those different actors when it comes to generating knowledge and evidence in support of civil society taking up its role in pro-poor policies. Under the ‘New roles of CSOs for inclusive development’ (the Assumptions Programme), we reflect on the following three sub-themes:

  • Evolving relationship between global, regional, national and local civil society actors
  • Legitimacy and effectiveness of civil society organizations (CSOs) in influencing
  • Stretching civic space in practice

While discussing this, we should be deliberately guided by how we generate, use and integrate evidence from academia, practitioners and NGOs in order to increase impact.

Evolving relationship between global, regional, national and local civil society actors

There are many reasons for universities and NGOs/CSOs to explore working together to influence policy and practice. NGOs and CSOs can build on the trust enjoyed by university research, while universities can capitalize on NGOs and CSOs’ success in reaching policy and practice.

NGO research is rooted in real life – the experiences of partners and communities. NGOs are pioneers in participatory methods and their media teams are quick to make their findings noticed by policymakers. NGO people are ‘doers’ and activists, with little time for theorizing. They think in terms of guidelines and toolkits. They tell stories that stick in the minds of policymakers. On the other hand, research from universities is better structured. As academics, they have the education to make research smarter and they enjoy more credibility. They can take a more long-term reflective perspective, which activists often lack. Research from universities is the most trusted, but the least used, source of evidence. NGO research is generally less trusted than university research, but their output is far more likely to be read than that of academia. On a timescale, the focus of NGOs is urgent, immediate and often in response to events. Academics work to a different rhythm, both in terms of the issues they address and the way they respond to them.

So, there is a strong need for more ‘knowledge brokers’, not only to bridge the gap between science and policy, but also to synthesize and transform evidence into an effective and usable form for policy and practice. We should talk to each other early on: academics should not wait until they have written a paper before looking for an NGO or knowledge broker to help disseminate its message. At the same time, NGOs (or donors) should not decide their policy line, then commission an academic to do policy-based evidence making. We should create research ideas together. Donors, could also help by encouraging collaboration through 50/50 funding, half for action and half for research. Better cooperation among those actors would lead to better policies – policies that meet the most important and urgent needs of the people.

I have spent 15 years of my career seeking to promote impactful citizen’s participation at national and Pan African levels. I would like to share a few stories on how the actions of NGO actors have had a serious influence on policies. In 2007, Oxfam, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Safer World published a report titled Africa’s Missing Billions1, showing how Africa suffers enormously from conflict and armed violence, costing the continent around USD 18 billion per year and seriously derailing its development. It was the fruit of a collaboration by NGO researchers, then later used by NGO advocates to influence important policies at the continental and regional levels. That report catalysed a Summit of African Union (AU) heads of state and governments in Tripoli, Libya in 2009. The report of the Summit, drafted by the African Union Commission, is extensively quoted this report.2 At the Summit, a detailed plan of action3 was adopted, including institutional reforms, to deal with the conflicts in Africa. This was a direct result of the action by NGO/CSO researchers and activists at various levels. The report has also been a strong catalyst for the signing and ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty by many African governments.

However, the publication of a report in the media is not enough to bring about policy impact. Activists have to create an influencing space, but also use existing invited space, to showcase their findings. Local organizations have identified victims and survivors of violations, convinced one or two progressive states to put the issue on the agenda, and brought the victims and survivors to speak directly to the Peace and Security Council of the AU. I have seen an ambassador crying when a Somalian woman brought by a local partner described to the Council how she was raped. Personal stories such as this can have great impact. But these reports are usually strongly criticized by academia, because of lack of academic rigour. Publishing NGOs have recognized the issues linked to research methodology. But, despite this, the policy impact is there.

In 2014, Oxfam published a global inequality report4 with concreate suggestions for action by policymakers in order to tackle inequality. This report catalysed a special session of the AU Peace and Security Council on the issue and its links to conflict and humanitarian challenges. The session gave important policy guidance to other organs of the AU and its member states on how to tackle the issue, including dealing with Illicit financial flows.

Here again, the findings were not kept on the shelves of libraries or merely uploaded onto a website. Activists had to co-create space ‘conspiratorially’ with friendly governments, and the result is that the AU and its member states have become aware of the findings. Several ambassadors have formally written to receive copies of the report. Once this happens, then local civil society can follow up at the national level. In addition, the recommendations from the reports made it into the AU’s strategic plan of action. In a similar case, a paper by NGOs promoting universal health coverage during the Ebola outbreak convinced a number of governments to come on board and support the agenda. So research by NGOs/CSOs can have a powerful impact.

Legitimacy and effectiveness of influencing by CSOs

I would like to say a few words on the legitimacy and effectiveness of influencing by CSOs, but also on the relationship between global national and local civil society. Civic space is defined as the set of conditions that determine the extent to which members of society, both as individuals and in informal or organized groups, are able to freely, effectively and without discrimination exercise their basic civil rights. Civic space is the foundation of any open and democratic society. When civic space is open, citizens and their formations are able to organize, participate and communicate without hindrance. In doing so, they are able to claim their rights and influence the political and social structures around them. Civic space enables citizens to participate and hold governments and the private sector to account. Civic space is, therefore, a critical enabler in the fight against poverty and pursuit of social justice.

The legitimacy of civil society participation at the international level was affirmed by the UN Charter5, which states that the United Nations Economic and Social Council may consult with NGOs on matters within its competence. In a prosperous and democratic society, the state and a vibrant civil society are two sides of the same coin and complement each other. Civil society must be seen as a reservoir of social capital capable of contributing to all aspects of a country’s development including health, education, peace and security.

The influence of civil society in national and continental policy making does not diminish the relevance of governmental or inter-governmental processes, but rather enhances it. If we look at the area of peace and security, for example, because of its immersion in society, civil society is able to contribute to peace-building initiatives and social cohesion. Civil society has shown its capacity to organize, collect, analyse and evaluate first-hand information, allowing the identification of the sources of potential tension as well as emerging conflicts. Although ‘traditional’ conflicts are usually well understood by diplomats and specialists in political science, addressing new conflicts requires a much more on-the-ground knowledge, new skills in  social and cultural analysis, the active involvement of communities and their leaders, links to vulnerable groups, bridges into mainstream development processes, and new ways of working. Many civil society organizations have unique capacities in all these areas.

But, is this picture still the same today and everywhere that CSOs operate? That is the question. Are today’s CSOs really linked to the grassroots where the directly affected populations live? How much our are elite, frequent travellers working on the rights of marginalized people in touch with those affected people living in rural areas? How much of the donors’ money accounted for in global statistics actually reaches the beneficiaries?

In January 2010, I met with the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, who introduced one of the most restrictive CSO laws in Africa. On that subject, he indirectly referred to the instrumentalization of national CSOs by big international NGOs, as well as the lack of capacity development of local actors, whose agenda is defined by western NGOs. In this way he partly justified some aspects of his NGO law. However, shouldn’t we consider a more genuine solidarity between national and international CSOs and make a deliberate plan for capacity building, leading progressively to the ‘localization’ of interventions by CSOs?

Stretching civic space in practice

Around the globe there is a proud history of civic activism that is under threat today. Social movements and activists has been a vital component in most independence struggles, and civil society a driving force behind state formation. It has also been instrumental in the affirmation and realization of human rights and dignity.

Civil society across Africa has played a central role in the continent’s history and development. Today, however, the gains brought about by citizen participation are being reversed by increasing restrictions on civic space. The consequences of this have not only been felt by the activists, social movements and civil society groups at the sharp end of these restrictions, but by society at large.

Without CSOs and the independent voices they represent, the ability to address abuses of power and build responsive, accountable institutions is severely constrained. In almost every constitution, there are commitments to allow citizens’ participation in one form or another. However, these commitments to protect civic space are being eroded as many governments across the region characterize civil society more as political opponents than organizations making a positive contribution to social change. While exceptions exist, the current trend is for citizens, activists and the organizations that represent them to have less space to operate in.

We have talked about shrinking space, but there is also shifting space: space can be open for some time and closed at other times or for other people. It can also open for some issues, while blocking others. Sometimes, in order to enforce their restrictions, governments create their own NGOs (GONGOs), which only pretend to speak for the people.

Looking at the current geopolitical trends with the rapidly growing influence of China in Africa promoting the idea of a development state, it is not expected that civic space will reopen again just like that. This is the moment to invest strategically in promoting active citizenship, nationally, but also regionally. Regional civil society and coalitions targeting regional and Pan African institutions have an important role to play, complementing and backing up national groups.

Interventions at the regional level are less exposed to risks, compared to those by national CSOs. In many cases regional CSOs can really contribute, influence and pressure member states through regional and continental bodies on regional policy issues. For example, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) forum reacted differently to CSO/non-state actor engagement. Another example is, ECOWAS, which seems to be more open to CSOs than the RECs. But the general trend is more encouraging at the regional than at the national level.

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.

AfricanUnionHeadquarters

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.

ETHIOPIA-ADDIS ABABA-18TH AU SUMMIT

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.

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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”.

ETHIOPIA-ADDIS ABABA-18TH AU SUMMIT

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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My 10 Quick Takeaways from the Tana Forum on Peace & Security in Africa – 8th Edition

Tana High Level Forum on Peace & Security in Africa is an unique opportunity for sharing, learning & networking. An informal space where discussions are open, frank and candid. Views and opinions in Tana Forum are generally considered as personal and do not necessarily represent institutional positions.

The theme of the 8th edition held on 3 & 4 May 2019 was “Political Dynamics in the Horn of Africa: Nurturing the Emerging Peace Trend”.

I am sharing here my quick personal takeaways from the Forum.

For official reports and working documents please visit: https://tanaforum.org

Takeaways

1/ Multilateralism should be our guiding principle in dealing with peace and security/conflict issues in the continent.

2/ Concerted efforts by the African Union and the Regional Economics Communities (RECs) are key to capitalize on the current momentum in the Horn of Africa, consolidate/reinforce partnership among Member States to align priorities and actions, and to withstand external influences that can negatively hold the region back from its search for peace & security.

3/ Africa should better own and make use of the United Nations system and programs.

4/ There is a need to revise relations between leadership and citizens in Africa.

5/ Need for a better political and economic governance based on our agreed shared values.

6/ Protecting civic space, enhancing citizens participation including a genuine press freedom are paramount today.

7/ Need to speedy the process of free movement of people, goods and services.

8/ Need to put in place concrete measures for youth empowerment to capture and harness the demographic dividend.

9/ We should promote people to people relations in the region toward an effective regional integration.

10/ Tana Forum should continue with an enhanced diversity and gender balance.

The State of World Population 2019 – New UNFPA Report

Dear friends

I would like to share with you the annual flagship publication of UNFPA, the State of World Population 2019 report, which has just been launched globally today 10th April 2019.

This year’s report is entitled, “Unfinished Business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all.”  It looks into the barriers that women and girls have faced over the past 50 years since UNFPA was established, and how governments, civil society and organizations such as UNFPA came together over the years to help overcome those obstacles. Furthermore, the report explores the barriers ahead and shows what we can do together now to help overcome them.

Diving in, the 2019 report brings to the fore two crucial questions: “Are women better off today since the establishment of UNFPA?” and “Have we finished the business of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development?”

We trust that this report would help us refocus the discussion on population and its link to sustainable development.

You can download the report here.

SWP 2019_Multiple Language Poster_HighResWe also have hard copies in English and French available in our office in Addis Ababa UNECA, Congo Building. Please call +251988190192 to reserve one.

Kindly share it with your network.