African As the AU sum­mit draws to a close, it must en­sure it has dealt with not just its stated themes

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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

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