African As the AU summit draws to a close, it must ensure it has dealt with not just its stated themes
Although the theme of the African Union (AU) summit, which will end in Johannesburg tomorrow, is female empowerment and plans for Vision 2063, the range of issues it is dealing with is larger and more diverse. By their very nature, summits are the culmination of discussions that start at lower levels, ascend through ministerial committees and, ultimately, require the approval of heads of state at the summit of the African multilateral framework.
As a result, apart from the decisions that must be made on the theme, which would have long been discussed by member states at ambassadorial and senior official levels, the AU summit makes decisions on the reports by a variety of committees of heads of state mandated to ventilate views on specific matters that previous summits could not exhaust.
Among these is the report of the Committee of Ten on UN Reform chaired by Sierra Leone, which shows that there has not been visible progress in global discussions about the reform of the UN Security Council to reflect today’s realities.
Discussions taking place in the UN have seen very little progress as Kenya’s foreign minister was quoted as saying.
Reform requires that those who unjustifiably hold disproportionate decision-making power must humble themselves and share this power with emerging regions that have been subordinated for the 70 years of the UN’s existence.
But it is hard for the five powerful states that hold veto power in the security council to give up power and privilege.
The African position of demanding two permanent seats in the council and several nonpermanent seats has been viewed as a spoiler in discussions that have seen many compromises being suggested, many of which seek to avoid forcing the powerful to share their unfair power, thus avoiding reform of any serious nature. Africa will have to consider a compromise like one permanent seat instead of two when the powerful show that they commit to the democracy and justice they demand from others by accepting the idea of a seat for each region of the world.
The report by a committee chaired by Liberia on the post2015 development agenda grapples with how Africa and the rest of the developing world ensures that what will follow the Millennium Development Goals will go further than these goals in ensuring that global prosperity is shared and humankind lives harmoniously with the natural environment.
This requires that Africa’s agenda in the form of concrete proposals on new development goals and targets resonates with that of the rest of the south, and that it persuades the developed world to join in the purpose of a world for all in place of a world without others, a world where 1 billion people live in poverty.
The UN negotiations in September this year will afford Africa, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an opportunity to build this global consensus for social justice. There is a report on climate change negotiations, as well as African trade in light of international negotiations that are taking place. The danger that Africa will overcommit on the former at the expense of the other has to be watched.
The peace and security council focuses the summit on the ongoing task of building a strong, collective security in Africa to respond to challenges of intrastate conflict, including rebellions, piracy and other maritime troubles, cross-border crime and terrorism, as well as conflicts arising from weak state institutions as a result of internal neocolonial misrule and external imperial designs since independence in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, and others.
Tensions of competitive politics that blow up into violent conflict, often around elections, are becoming a permanent item on the agenda. The international contact group work on Libya will have dedicated attention to the quagmire that Africa warned of in that country during the Nato campaign.
The recent shenanigans in Burundi have been handled by the East African Community, which got the Burundi parties to agree to a new electoral calendar while it decides how it will participate in it. The calls for President Pierre Nkurunziza to be stopped from running for elections does not seem to have garnered much support internationally, leaving the opposition with one democratic option: to defeat him by virtue of a popular vote.
Without a credible and unifying candidate, and riddled with internal divisions, the opposition will almost certainly lose against Nkurunziza in an election set for anytime this year. This is why it has banked on having him excluded from elections, which the Burundian constitutional court could not find reasons to do.
The AU has long agreed on the peace architecture, including the early warning mechanism, standby forces for rapid response to conflict and peace building, but this just does not happen. This is partly because African countries have not put their resources where their mouths are.
Much of the work relies on the “kindness” of former colonial powers that have their own national interests to further and other donors. Although rich in many ways, African countries have failed to invest in their independence and freedom, allowing billions to leave the continent illegally and allowing a few leaders to become billionaires without establishing any businesses. The summit is expected to discuss this resource mobilisation issue that the AU Commission has raised so many times.
In the absence of a change in strategy – showing the existence of a collective will to pull Africa out of its predicament as the epicentre of poverty, underdevelopment, disease, dependency and state fragility – the summit will come and go, and Africans will continue to encounter broken dreams and illusions of freedom. Vision 2063 requires firm and decisive action by Africans. Big African countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa have an added responsibility to underwrite the renaissance of Africa in practical ways. For this, they must be willing to make bold sacrifices for a better Africa.
Zondi is director of the Institute for Global Dialogue and a teacher at the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at Unisa. See page 6 for Nigerian professor Stella Williams’ experiences
this past week at the 2nd African Union High Level Panel