African Union Summit – July 2017: What to Expect?

Friends;

As usual, I would like to share with you the following preliminary notes and analysis on the upcoming 29th Ordinary Summit of the AU policy organs being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as follows:

  • Permanent Representative Committee (Ambassadors): 27 – 28 June 2017
  • Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 30 June – 1st July 2017
  • Assembly of the Union (Heads of State and Government): 3-4 July 2017

In addition, several statutory meetings of various AU organs and parallel events are scheduled. The official agenda of the Summit is not yet publicly available. This Summit will be the first to be organized by the new leadership of the AU Commission.

With or without observers?

It is unclear if the corridors of the Summit will be open for observers during the sessions. The Assembly has already decided in January 2017 under Kagame’s Report that “external parties shall only be invited to AU Summits on an exceptional basis and for a specific purpose determined by the interests of the African Union”. The question here is to know if African citizens’ formations/CSOs are also considered as “external parties” knowing that the AU claims to be a people driven organization.

Permanent/Resident Representatives of Non-African States and International Organizations will likely be invited for the official opening and closing ceremonies of the Assembly and the Executive Council. The Media is normally invited.

Key strategic issues likely to be on the Agenda of the Summit: (Youth, AU reform, Peace and Security, AU Funding, Election of two remaining Commissioners, Agenda 2063 10-year implementation plan and Continental Trade Area …)

1/ Youth (Theme of the year): “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the Youth”

A presentation and a presidential debate of more than 2 hours to be led by President Idriss Deby (Chad) is planned on the 3rd July. The youth are unlikely to be invited to this debate on the “Roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the Youth” developed by the AU Commission … It was agreed that such a roadmap should be domesticated and implemented by each member state. A couple of countries have in fact, already done a national launch.  The Roadmap has the following pillars: 1- Employment and Entrepreneurship, 2- Education and Skill Development, 3- Health and Wellbeing, 4- Governance and Youth Empowerment.

A presidential solemn declaration on the youth may be adopted following the debate.

Burkina Faso has proposed for consideration an African Decade for Technical, Professional, Entrepreneurial and Employment Training in Africa (2017-2027)

2/ Institutional Reform of the African Union

President Paul Kagame (Rwanda) is expected to present a report on the implementation of his proposed reform plan for the AU, adopted by the Assembly in January this year. A decision will be taken on what has been done and what remains to be done.

Building on his success back home, President Kagame is intensifying the pressure to put the continental body on tract for effectiveness and efficiency to meet the on-going challenges that our continent is facing and to implement the ambitious Agenda 2063.

3/ Peace and Security

The Chairperson of the AU Commission is expected to provide a report on the state of peace and security in Africa with recommendations for the Assembly. Highlights will likely include South Sudan, CAR, Somalia, DRC, Mali etc… as well as emerging security threats such as cybercrime and trending threats such as maritime security and piracy, terrorist, fundamentalism and religious extremism etc.

Since he took over the chairmanship of the Commission in March this year, Chadian diplomat Moussa Faki Mahamat has clearly shown through his movements that peace and security is among his top priorities.  In fact, “silencing the guns in Africa” has been his top message while campaigning to win his position.  In just a few months, Moussa has already visited Africa’s major hotspots. A report on the implementation of the master roadmap of practical steps to silencing the guns in Africa by 2020 will then be considered by the Summit.

Silencing the guns by 2020?

Last year the African Union prepared a Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020. It is a well elaborated document with the correct analysis of the situation … but then what is next? Let’s face it: Are we really moving towards silencing the guns in the next 3 years ? if so, what are we doing collectively and individually in our various capacity to get there? Can we silence the guns without ensuring democratic governance, decent and true elections, responsible and fair management of our natural resources? Can we break the vicious circle of conflicts without insuring justice and accountability for the heinous crimes being committed on our people by our people? …Alternation on power is one of the problems that we need to resolve collectively without further delay . There is an imperative in all societies to renew political leadership from time to time through credible elections.  Since we are still struggling to ensure credible elections in Africa, alternation in power must be tabled and courageously discussed and adopted.

Beside the already burning conflict zones, I am worried about the silence and/or inaction of the continent on several potential and on-going risky situations such as  Zambia, DRC, Cameroon, Zimbabwe etc.) where unacceptable pressures are being made on independent media, civil society and political opposition. Without abiding to our shared values contained in the various policies standards and treaties that we have adopted, I am afraid “silencing the guns” will remain a beautiful slogan!

We know the guns are mostly carried by desperate and vulnerable youth who, most of the time, have nothing else to lose. They are in Somalia, South Sudan, Darfur, CAR, DRC, Nigeria, Mali etc… They are in many other countries, they are trained and graduated  but without job… some of them are choosing  to leave the continent at any cost… In 2017 alone, more than 1,500 young Africans have perished in the Mediterranean Sea and many other died of thirst in the Sahara Desert, while trying to reach Europe.

Efforts made by the chairperson of the Commission on this issue must be matched by member states’ political will to guarantee democracy and rule of law and if most of the political regimes in our continent continue failing on democracy and rule of law, the road to peace and security, prerequisite for our development agenda will be long, very long…

A contribution to the ways forward: We need to imagine courageous tools and make bold steps to change the paradigms… the Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020 has very useful ideas… but how do we ”force” the power holders to make these happen? We all know the main root causes of our conflicts… So the 1st step for silencing the guns  is an environment of democracy, respect of the human rights and the rules of law and a decent and inclusive management of national wealth aiming at reducing inequality…  But again how do we monitor this and ensure it is happening?   I am imagining, an  independent High Level Task Force on democracy, rule of law, human rights and good governance to be appointed by the Assembly of the Union  in order to systematically track the implementation by member states, of democracy, rule of law and human rights and equality/inclusivity standards contained in our various instruments, especially their relation with fragility and conflicts in different countries in the continent. The Task Force shall be able to make public without any condition, its Report of the state of democracy rule of law and human rights in Africa… so it will become clear to all of us which regimes are undermining our common aspirations.  The said Task Force shall obviously work with and build on the existing mechanisms (APRM, AGA, APSA, Panel of the Wise…) What I wish to see here is a Task Force that is directly accountable to African people without the obstruction of the leadership… This may bring a heavier pressure them… Please share your views and comments on this…

We must stop praising the evil doing among ourselves,  but rather start exposing and sanctioning them in line with our shared values. A lot must be done at country  then regional levels… (see recent example from ECOWAS in The Gambia), then the AU Commission and other organs shall support… We all have a role to play in this… our people must stand up, like recently in Burkina Faso, and say a big NO to bad and irresponsible leadership, make sure that their votes are counted and their money are properly used, not stollen. The elite class has a big responsibility in sensitizing and mobilizing other  for the good cause…

4/ Budget and Funding of the Union

According to the current projections, in 2018, the African Union will need about 800 Million USD for its operations ($154M), programmes ($296M) and peace support ($350M). The approved 2017 budget amounts 782 Million USD.

 It is unlikely that AU Member states meet this year, their commitment made in 2015/2016 to cover 100% of AU operational budget, 75% of programme budget and 25% of peace support operation budget.

So far AU Member States have been paying less than 30% of the overall budget of the Union. More than 70% is paid by external partners.

Uncertainty on the source of funding of the Union: Donald Kaberuka, the High Representative for the AU Peace Fund is expected to provide an updated report on the implementation of the new funding strategy adopted by the Union in July 2016 in Kigali, by which 0.2 % levy on eligible imports should be collected from each member state to fund the AU. According to on-going technical discussions in closed doors, a number of AU member states are dragging their feet on coming up with domestic legislation to implement the Kigali Decision, evoking different excuses including those relating to the WTO rules… I have 2 questions on this: 1- Where were our member states’ technical experts on international trade at the time this  decision was discussed?… 2 – Is it not the mechanism ECOWAS has been using for years? What is different here? Please share your views/comments below…

It is however encouraging to know that some member states (Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana etc) have been moving in the right direction by taking legislative national measures to implement the 0.2% commitment.

5/ Election of 2 Commissioners

In January, the Assembly elected the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson and appointed 6 Commissioners elected by the Executive Council out of 8 portfolios. The remaining following 2 Commissioners will be elected during the upcoming Summit.

  • Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology
  • Commissioner for Economic Affairs.

According to the gender and geographical representation policies of the AU, the 2 commissioners should be 1 male from the Eastern Region 1 female from the Central Region.

At the closure of the deadline, the AUC received the following application from the Deans of the regions:

Candidates for the post of Commissioner for Human Resources Science and Technology:

  1. Sarah Mbi Enow ANYANG AGBOR from Cameroon, Female, Central Africa Region
  2. Dr. John Patrick KABAYO from Uganda, Male, East Africa Region

Candidates for the post of Commissioner for Economic Affairs

  1. Hon. Yacin Elmi BOUH from Djibouti, Male East Africa region
  2. Newaye Christos GEBRE-AB from Ethiopia, Male, East Africa Region
  3. Victor HARISON from Madagascar, Male, East Africa Region
  4. Marthe Chantal Ndjepang MBAJON from Cameroon, Female, Central Africa Region

For the election of Commissioners, the statutes of the AU Commission imposes a pre-selection process at the regional level. Each region shall nominate 2 candidates for each portfolio. The nomination process shall be based on modalities to be determined by the region.

6/ Agenda 2063 : First 10-year implementation plan

A progress report on the implementation of the Agenda 2063 will be presented to the Summit. An African Economic Platform has been held for the first time this year with the aim to discuss cross-cutting issues that affect Africa’s economies and ways of which opportunities and options from these could be harnessed to ensure continental transformation. The other progress made is the domestication of the agenda into national planning frameworks done by several member states, the process on the Continental Free Trade Area and the African Commodities Strategy as well several discussions held with traditional and new partners. We should not however forget the fact that the realization of the Agenda 2063 is conditioned by a peaceful environment within the continent.

On the implementation of decisions: Less than 15% of African Union decisions are actually implemented and the upcoming summit will make more decisions… It is important to insist on the urgent need to change the rules of the game and to do things differently in terms of realizing the promises made through   agreed policy frameworks and standards. If our leaders cannot implement their own decisions, why are they continuing meeting to take more decisions? Up to 5,000 delegates or more attend the AU summit 2 times every year to take an average of 40 decisions per summit. In between summits, hundreds of other policy meetings are held in different capitals. The average cost of a full member states meeting is between 300,000 – 1Milion USD… Some Specialized Technical Committees meetings cost up to 1.5 Million USD. At the end, if only less than 15% the  decisions made are implemented… how can we make it to 2063?

This article will be updated regularly until the Summit startsLast update: 9 June.

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

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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.

Why are African citizens leaving their countries ? Xenophobia – Mediterranean Sea – Killing in Libya…

President Jacob Zuma, reacting to criticisms from African countries over the xenophobic violence against foreigners in South Africa recently declared: “Why are their citizens not in their countries? Why are they in South Africa? This is an unacceptable statement from a leader of a big country, and made in a very wrong time. We all know that the xenophobic violence started last month after the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini said that “foreigners should pack their belongings and leave the country”.

In that context, President Zuma’s declaration this week is a dangerous move that can be understood by those South African involved in the violence as a justification of their evil actions… This is really unfortunate especially as it is coming from an African Union member that is investing and doing business in most of African countries.

Wrong timing again because South Africa is due to host the 25th Summit of the African Union from 8 – 15 June 2015. 5,000 – 7,000 delegates from the whole Africa and elsewhere are expected to converge to Johannesburg and Pretoria to discuss many challenges faced by the continent including integration, free movement of people and goods, good governance etc…  President Zuma may not really mean to justify xenophobic violence, but the way of saying it and the time are wrong and may have a negative consequence.

But, in fact why citizens are leaving their countries to risk their life?

When we are condemning J-Zuma and his fellow Zwelithini‘s statement, we must not skip the fundamental question of “why are citizens running away from their countries in Africa? Why Zimbabweans, Nigerian, Mozambicans etc. are so many in South Africa? What Malians, Senegalese, Eritreans… are doing on the Mediterranean Sea?  What Ethiopians, Eritreans… are looking for in Libya on their way to cross the sea? And Why African Leaders and institutions are keeping silence on these questions? Close to 2000 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean sea to Europe this year only, many times more than during the same period in 2014…

Many in our continent, many of our leaders and institutions know the answers to these questions. Unfortunately, there are no actions being taken to resolve them; there are not even any honest acknowledgements of the problem; rather, we are served with empty diplomatic statements everyday with no concrete actions for change. We are turning around and the situation is getting worst.

Elections are still being organized and declared “free and fair”… with dictators ruling for over 25 years  being re-elected with more than 90% votes by the same “people” who cannot survive  in the countries… Those “leaders”, the same to make decisions on democratic and good governance have been ruling their countries for 30 – 40 years or have taken their power from their father or uncle… some of them are even securing the same power for their children or wife, many of them are re-writing the countries’ constitution to extend presidential terms… yet, they are the one to make and implement decisions to bring us to a “peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa”. This is unrealistic!  We will not get there …. unless the following happen, going forward:

  • Maximum 2 presidential terms not to exceed in total 10 years as a norm in Africa
  • African Union Commission (AUC) to exercise real executive power to implement adopted democratic norms with an objective, efficient and public accountability mechanism
  • A longer term (up to 7 years) to be given the AUC leadership with no possibility of renewal and the Chairs & commissioners to be chosen on a competency and experience basis only. (I will say why in a different blog)
  • True and genuine citizens’ participation in national, regional and continental decision making process
  • Western partners and institutions to stop playing double-face game by preaching democracy and good governance while supporting and protecting some dictators over strategic interests at the same time…. The same western partners must deliberately support transparency and accountability over illicit financial flows and exploitation of natural resources from Africa… After all, a burning Africa will surely affect Europe, America and the other. A Senegalese writer recently said in a TV programme in France: “We will win together or loose together”
  • Genuine and firm accountability system over human rights violations and the breaching of democratic rules

In all, a revamping of the 1990s revolution is currently needed in Africa if we are really serious with our Agenda 2063.

Disclaimer: My opinions here are absolutely personal!

Burundi is burning – Act NOW!

We cannot afford another conflict in Africa at this time. Burundi came from very far and it took a lot of resources, energy and human life to get to the Arusha Peace Agreement. The whole Africa, the African Union and other International actors must standup and be clear on this: No possibility for 3rd term! Please, no more diplomatic or ambiguous language! Citizens are being killed in Bujumbura now; the risk for another human made disaster is very high. Our continent already has enough challenges to face.

The Peace and Security Council must clearly say NO to a 3rd mandate. We have no resources for an additional peace enforcement mission. African cannot continue wasting its resources to make peace while it is easier to abide to democratic principles and our shared values. We need our resources to boost development and take care of our populations, provide free universal health care, promote education, science and technology etc. in order to reach our 2063 targets.

Me must not keep silence and let innocent populations being killed over and over again because of the selfishness of a few leaders. A strong position of the African Union against Nkurunziza’s move for a 3rd term can have an influence. Burkina Faso was a missed opportunity; our Continental Body must seize this one…

Burundi may not be like Burkina Faso because a lot fire arms are circulating there. We may not be able to stop it once it gets worst and the whole region will be affected… So, no time to waste – Act now !

The role of China in peace and security in Africa

The role of China in peace and security in Africa

By Desire Assogbavi (2010)

In recent years, China’s activities in Africa have expanded dramatically: Africa–China trade increased tenfold between 1999 and 2006. Chinese political and business leaders visit the continent regularly, and the country is pouring investment and aid into Africa. In exchange, China is securing access to the continent’s natural resources, which Beijing considers essential for China’s further development.  Some analysts argue that China–Africa relations have opened up a new era for Africa’s development and a new style of cooperation. But the Chinese engagement is questionable in terms of peace and security, which is now the main problem facing Africa and the fundamental obstacle to the continent’s integration.

In this chapter, I will be looking particularly at the impact of the new China–Africa ‘alliance’ on peace and security in our continent by considering the case of Darfur.

A strong economic interest

China is now the world’s second largest consumer of oil. More than 25 per cent of its oil imports come from the Gulf of Guinea and Sudan. China’s investment in Africa now stands at $1.5 billion a year. There are at least 700 Chinese enterprises operating in the continent. In terms of debt relief, China recently wrote off $1.3 billion owed by African countries, which has led to a fresh injection of good feeling in Africa towards China.

China’s new strategic partnership with Africa effectively took off at the November 2006 Beijing summit. This marked an historic moment in China–Africa relations. At this meeting, 48 African delegations including 44 heads of state lined up in front of the Chinese presidential palace to great the Chinese president. It is rare – even during the African Union summits – to see so many important African heads of state at a single meeting. Something very attractive must have been promised!

In fact, it is raising global energy demands that have caused China to turn to Africa as a major supplier of oil. In addition, Africa seems to have become an open market for comparatively ‘cheap’ Chinese manufactured products.

A challenge for peace and security in Africa

Armed violence is one of the greatest threats to Africa’s development. Africa currently gives the impression of a continent riddled with territorial disputes, armed ethnic conflicts, civil wars, violence and the collapse of governments and states.

In the last 40 years there have been at least 30 major conflicts in Africa, which have claimed the lives of seven million people and displaced more than 20 million. In a report published in October 2007 IANSA, Oxfam and Safeworld estimated the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa’s development.  Findings showed that around $300bn since 1990 has been lost by Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda[1]. Yet 95 per cent of the weapons used during those conflicts come from outside of the continent – many of them from China or marked ‘made in China’.  Reports further revealed that most of those weapons are sold to governments in Africa and end up in the hands of whoever wants to use them.

Behind the so-called principle of ‘non-interference in other’s domestic issues’, China’s relations with Africa create challenges for governance, peace and security in the continent. Supporting and reinforcing despots and genocidal and undemocratic regimes that systematically terrorize their citizens in order to remain in power is just not useful for a continent that has suffered for many decades and that has been trying to escape from this situation.   

A negative influence on the situation in Darfur

China is not the cause of the ongoing conflict in Darfur but Chinese oil investment in Sudan undermines international efforts to end the Darfur crisis. China has acted as Sudan’s key international patron and has been crucial to the ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) foreign relations on the question of international intervention in Darfur. The NCP would not have been able to pursue its strategy in the absence of Chinese support.  China has so far played a largely negative role in the crisis – it has repeatedly obstructed meaningful UN Security Council resolutions and shielded the government of Sudan from international pressure. There are also numerous reports implicating China as a key provider of military equipment and establishing arms factories in Sudan and Darfur rebels have recently targeted Chinese oil interests in response. However, if China is encouraged to play a more constructive role on Darfur, then potentially it could be a crucial catalyst for change due to its enormous economic leverage over the government of Sudan. China is Sudan’s largest bilateral trading partner, responsible for buying up to 71 per cent of Sudan’s exports. China continues to support the government of Sudan, but its increased diplomatic engagement and more critical posture toward the regime can contribute to peace.

Chinese relationships with some African governments reinforce dictatorship and provide new opportunities for authoritarian regimes that take citizens in a permanent hostage This is undermining all the efforts of the continent to build democratic institutions and states.

The same applies to Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly said that he prefers to forge strong relation with China because, unlike the West, China does not place any political conditions on its investment aid. Yet Mugabe, in power for the last 28 years, is seen today as the worst dictator of the region. 

Pang Zhongying, a professor of international studies and director of the Institute of Global Studies at Nankai University said: ‘The Chinese are now finding their people being taken in hostage in Southern Nigeria. They are finding that people are now yelling and protesting as their leaders come to town – just as they did when they said “Yankee go home” when American presidents visit their country.’

From non-interference to non-indifference

The establishment of the African Union (AU) in 2002 reflected a new moral awareness of the need to provide the continent with a political framework and legal tools to deal with issues of ‘non-indifference’. The provisions in both the Constitutive Act of the AU and the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) are in proximity with the notion of ‘non-indifference’ when faced with massive and heinous crimes committed against civilians in Africa.

This constituted a major difference between the AU and its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity. The AU founders recognized the right to intervene in the internal affairs of member states in order to protect human rights and constitutional order. This is enshrined in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act 2000, which clearly states that the AU has a right to intervene in the affairs of a member state pursuant to a decision of the assembly of heads of state in respect of ‘grave circumstances’, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as a serious threat to legitimate order, in order to restore peace and stability in a member state. 

In order to implement this significant shift, the AU has put in place a strong and effective institutional framework to support and sustain that political will. This realization provided the impetus for the elaboration of an African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which recognized the importance of investing in the anticipation and prevention of conflict and of putting in place structures to resolve conflicts effectively once they have broken out. APSA consists of the Peace and Security Council, the Framework for the operationalization of the Continental Early Warning System, the Panel of the Wise, the African Standby Force and the AU Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development.

In addition, in September 2005, world leaders at the UN General Assembly, made a historic commitment to their collective responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, including a willingness to take action where the national government – which has primary responsibility – is manifestly failing in this regard.

These new developments, coupled with international and civil society pressures have probably impacted upon China’s thinking and behavior in Africa.

Positive signs from China

Due to both civil society and international pressure, Beijing is learning that separating business from politics is easier said than done. Therefore, over the last two years there have been signs that Chinese language and engagement on the situation in Darfur is improving and that China wants to be seen and credited as a positive actor in the crisis.

After years of repeatedly obstructing United Nation Security Council Resolutions, China agreed to Resolution 1769 authorizing the deployment of UNAMID (the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur) – and spent considerable diplomatic time and effort lobbying Sudan to accept it.

The appointment in the summer of 2007 of the first Chinese special envoy, Liu Guijin, is another indication that China at least wants to be seen to be doing something, even though the profile of the special envoy has been very low key since his arrival in Khartoum, where he prefers to do things quietly and behind closed doors. While this may be an alteration of policy more in form than substance, it still presents an opportunity for pressure to be placed on Khartoum via a Chinese interlocutor. At the same time, it allows China to promote its own interests through more vocal diplomacy and participation in multilateral forums on Darfur.

At the January 2008 AU summit, the Chinese delegation issued an unprecedented public warning to the government of Sudan that the world is ‘running out of patience on Darfur’. Prior to that the Chinese ambassador to Sudan, Wang Gangly, was reported as saying, in February 2007, ‘Usually China doesn’t send messages, but this time [on the occasion of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent visit to Sudan] they did … It was a clear strong message that the proposal from Kofi Annan is a good one and Sudan has to accept it.’ To try and improve public perceptions of its role, China has also increased humanitarian aid to Sudan, including assisting in the construction of 120 schools and hospitals. However, at around $10m this is still relatively small compared to China’s economic interests. Some Chinese companies are building an 85km-long water project in South Darfur and  315 Chinese engineers were deployed to Darfur in October 2007 to take part in UNAMID.

The way forward

Despite this progress, there is still much more that China could be doing. As such an important ally, China needs to be encouraged to:

Promote a peaceful environment in Africa as a catalyst for a good business

Improve their role at the UN Security Council 

Sustain diplomatic pressure on the government of Sudan and rebel groups to cease hostilities in Darfur and reach a political solution to the conflict

Stop the sale of weapons to the government of Sudan. China has previously exported military helicopters to a number of countries including Sudan and there have been a number of documented cases of helicopters killing civilians in Sudan’s conflicts

Press for full and unimpeded UNAMID deployment and performance

Contribute more funding, military and police assets, and personnel to UNAMID. A greater Chinese involvement in peacekeeping operations in Darfur could substantially enhance peacekeepers’ ability to protect civilians

Encourage the government of Sudan to cease any support of actors destabilising and exacerbating the crisis in Darfur and Chad.

Contribute more financially to the African Union’s Peace and Security Architecture.

 

Bibliography

Erica S. Downs; The fact and Fiction of Sino African energy relations’, China Security Vol. 3 No.3 Summer 2007

Darren Taylor; VOA article: ‘Analysts explain the significance of the evolving relationship between China and Africa’, published on 3 May 2007

Ambassador Djinit Said, Commissioner for peace and security, AU; speech on the responsibility to protect, Addis Ababa 8 June 2007

Geoffrey Mugumya, Director Peace and Security, AU; speech on the responsibility to protect, Addis Ababa 8 June 2007

About the Author

A native of Togo, Desire Assogbavi is currently the Head of Oxfam International’s Liaison office with the African Union. . 

The opinions expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and do not reflect the view of his organization. 

Note

1. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling the country $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available.  China provided Sudan with A-5 Fantan bomber aircraft, helicopter gunships, K-8 military training/attack aircraft and light weapons used in Sudan’s proxy invasion of Chad in 2007.

 

 

[1] Africa’s missing Billions: International Arms flows and the cost of conflict. Oxfam publication 107, October 2007.