The 25th African Union Sum­mit and the Chal­lenge of Unit­ing to Dis­unite


The 25th Or­di­nary Ses­sion of the AU Assem­bly of Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment was held in Johannesbu­rg, South Africa on 14th-15th June 2015. The theme of de­bate of the 2015 AU Sum­mit was “Women’s Em­pow­er­ment for the Re­al­i­sa­tion of Agenda 2063.” Two rea­sons might have in­flu­enced the African Union Com­mis­sion (AUC) in the choice of this theme. The first is that, in the ac­tu­al­iza­tion of the AU Agenda 2063, women are con­sid­ered in­dis­pens­able. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chair­per­son of the AUC, noted in her state­ment to the AU Assem­bly of Heads of state and Gov­ern­ment on June 14 that ‘women and youth form the ma­jor­ity of the vot­ers’ in Africa.’ Se­condly, there is the fac­tor of Nel­son Man­dela’s say­ing ac­cord­ing to which ‘the legacy of op­pres­sion weighs heav­ily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, hu­man rights will lack sub­stance. As long as out­moded ways of think­ing pre­vent women from mak­ing a mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety, progress will be slow. As long as the con­ti­nent re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge the equal role of more than half of it­self, it is doomed to fail­ure.’ Dr. Zuma strongly be­lieves in the em­pow­er­ment of women for the pur­poses of de­vel­op­ment in Africa.

In spite of the im­por­tance of women, sev­eral other is­sues were raised by African lead­ers in their state­ments and which ap­pear to be more se­ri­ous than the ques­tion of em­pow­er­ment of African women. Her Ex­cel­lency, Dr. Zuma, in her own state­ment, raised some crit­i­cal is­sues. First is democ­racy. There were Pres­i­dents and Heads of Gov­ern­ment who at­tended the AU Sum­mit for the first time. They were Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari (PMB) of Nige­ria, Pres­i­dent Hage Gein­gob of Namibia, Pres­i­dent Filipe Jac­into Nyusi of Mozam­bique, and Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisilli of the King­dom of Le­sotho. Pres­i­dents who were re-elected were also there: Prime Min­is­ter Hailemiria­m De­salegn of Ethiopia, Pres­i­dent Faure Gnass­ingbé of Togo and Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir of Su­dan. With the joy of new elec­tions and re-elec­tions, what is the sit­u­a­tion of women in Africa, and par­tic­u­larly in coun­tries where there have been newly elected lead­ers? Are the foun­da­tions for en­dur­ing democ­racy laid be­yond elec­toral pol­i­tics?

AUC Chair­per­son and De­vel­op­ment Is­sues

On the is­sue of Ebola Virus Dis­ease, Dr. Zuma con­grat­u­lated Pres­i­dent Sir­leaf John­son for an EVD-free Liberia but noted that in Sierra Leone and Guinea, num­bers of EVD vic­tims have only been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced. Con­se­quently, there is the need ‘to stay the course un­til the other two coun­tries are also de­clared Ebola-free.’ If we agree with the AUC Chair­per­son that ‘with African sol­i­dar­ity and re­solve, we can find our own so­lu­tions to our chal­lenges,’ and that the EVD has also ‘ex­posed the weak­nesses of our health sys­tems, es­pe­cially public health,’ and there­fore we must train more health work­ers and build and strengthen our health sys­tems and in­fra­struc­ture,’ what re­ally is the state of readi­ness of the AU Mem­ber States, es­pe­cially the women in such coun­tries?

Dr. Zuma rightly re­called that Africa is ‘faced by the in­ci­dents of xeno­pho­bia and the tragedy of many peo­ple dy­ing in the Mediter­ranean Sea, leav­ing their coun­tries out of des­per­a­tion, to make liv­ing else­where.’ This is true, but how does women em­pow­er­ment pre­vent peo­ple from dy­ing in the Mediter­ranean Sea when the prob­lem of un­der­de­vel­op­ment is not en­gen­dered by women? Can there be unity in Africa, not to men­tion in­te­gra­tion with in­ci­dents of xeno­pho­bia in South Africa?

With­out doubt, stren­u­ous ef­forts have been made since 1991 to push for­ward the in­te­gra­tion agenda. The 1991 Treaty Es­tab­lish­ing the African Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, in its Ar­ti­cle 1(d) and 1 (e), di­vided Africa into five re­gions as a cat­alytic means to fast track in­te­gra­tion in Africa. In 2002, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity was re­struc­tured into an African Union in or­der to pro­vide greater ef­fi­ciency and com­mit­ment to a more united and in­te­grated Africa. African lead­ers wanted to speak with one voice. They want their peo­ples to move freely and to also have the right of es­tab­lish­ment in any coun­try of their choice. Apart from con­ti­nen­tal in­te­gra­tion through re­gion­al­iza­tion, AU Agenda 2063 was set and the First 10-year of its im­ple­men­ta­tion plan has been adopted. In the past fif­teen years, Dr. Zuma said Africa’s agenda has fo­cused on ‘pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, it’s now time we ur­gently paid at­ten­tion to vo­ca­tional and higher ed­u­ca­tion. We can­not drive our eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment only through pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.’

The essence of the fore­go­ing is to sug­gest that African lead­ers would need to sit back and re­flect more than ever be­fore. Africa’s prob­lems go be­yond em­pow­er­ment of men or women. African lead­ers are more na­tion­al­ists than in­te­gra­tionists. Even though a trade agree­ment was done last week by 26 coun­tries mak­ing up the Tri­par­tite of COMESA, EAC and SADC in Shamal Sheik, ev­ery African leader has his or her own spe­cial pre­oc­cu­pa­tion which he/she would want the AU to deal with.

Be­sides, Africa’s too much de­pen­dence on Euro-Amer­i­can part­ners for the ex­e­cu­tion of de­vel­op­ment projects in Africa will need to be put in con­text. There is no dis­put­ing the fact that for over 90%, Euro-Amer­i­can part­ners have been fund­ing de­vel­op­ment projects in Africa. Why is Africa not able to fund its own projects? In a mes­sage of sol­i­dar­ity from the Chi­nese pres­i­dent, HE Xi Jin­ping, de­liv­ered to the AU on June 15 by the Chi­nese Vice Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs, Mr. Zhang Ming, China said ‘Africa’s strength lies in its unity. Africa’s unity needs a strong AU. China can­not be more cor­rect, es­pe­cially that, ear­lier in Jan­uary 2015, a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing by which the Chi­nese are to con­struct a high-speed train that would con­nect Africa’s cap­i­tal cities. This type of tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance is a welcome de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, when will the peo­ple of Africa be able to do it by them­selves? When will mean­ing be given to ‘African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems?’

Robert Mu­gabe’s Quar­rels with Nige­ria and South Africa

Robert Mu­gabe is not only the Pres­i­dent of Zim­babwe but also the cur­rent Chair­man of the AU Assem­bly of Heads of State and Gov­ern­ments. In his clos­ing state­ment at the AU Sum­mit, he re­port­edly in­di­rectly blasted Nige­ria and South Africa for vot­ing in favour of UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973 in 2011. The res­o­lu­tion was to au­tho­rize mil­i­tary ac­tion against Muam­mar Gaddafi of Libya. In the eyes of Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe, both Nige­ria and South Africa had be­trayed the whole of Africa and there­fore could never be trusted again. Although the names of Nige­ria and South Africa were not specif­i­cally men­tioned in the state­ment, the mere fact that he re­ferred to African gov­ern­ments that had been on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil when Res­o­lu­tion 1973 on Libya was adopted in 2011 and both Nige­ria and South Africa were both on the Coun­cil at that ma­te­rial time, clearly shows an in­ten­tion to in­dict both coun­tries.

As shown above, the theme of the sum­mit was about women em­pow­er­ment but what ap­pears to be the main pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the Chair­man of the AU is the demise of the Libyan leader, prompted by the adop­tion of Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973. What­ever might have prompted South Africa to vote for the res­o­lu­tion may not be clear. How­ever, the ra­tio­nale for Nige­ria’s sup­port for the res­o­lu­tion can­not be far-fetched. For in­stance, Muam­mar Gaddafi’s Libya, as at the time of the vot­ing, was a ma­jor threat to Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity. It should be sim­ply re­called here that Colonel Muam­mar Gaddafi had rec­om­mended to Nige­ri­ans that the only vi­able so­lu­tion to Nige­ria’s prob­lems of in­se­cu­rity is to di­vide Nige­ria into Mus­lim North and Chris­tian South. Put dif­fer­ently, Libya sim­ply wanted the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Nige­ria. In this re­gard, why would any re­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment con­done the en­emy-threats from Muam­mar Gaddafi? Ter­ror­ists were com­ing from Libya to Nige­ria. Nige­ria’s vote for Res­o­lu­tion 1973 was in Nige­ria’s self-en­light­ened in­ter­est and there should not be any apol­ogy for that. This can­not be rightly in­ter­preted to mean a be­trayal. In fact, no Mem­ber State can sup­port any AU pro­gramme if it is not sta­ble and se­cure back home.

To a great ex­tent, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe is right to quar­rel with xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in South Africa. He con­sid­ered that ‘hu­man mi­gra­tion is as old as the hu­man race it­self’ and that ‘we have an obli­ga­tion to fa­cil­i­tate and cre­ate con­di­tions that are con­ducive and pro­mote that move­ment.’ Con­se­quently, he sub­mit­ted that African coun­tries must work to­gether in or­der to erad­i­cate xeno­pho­bic at­tacks.’ In fact, as he fur­ther put it, ‘while con­demn­ing the re­cent spate of bar­baric vi­o­lence tar­geted at for­eign na­tion­als… let us be cog­nizant of the fact that this is a prob­lem that falls upon all of us and we should work to­gether to find a so­lu­tion. United we will not fail.’ Agreed, with unity, there is no room for fail­ure. But why has the ser­mon of unity be­come a new song of praise? Why is the ser­mon not trans­lated into mean­ing­ful ac­tion? Has the com­ing to­gether of Mem­ber States of the OAU/AU not more of a re­flec­tion of dis­unity, in other words, unit­ing to dis­unite? Have the lin­gua franca bar­ri­ers been re­ally re­moved?

There is another con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, that of Ezul­wini Con­sen­sus on Africa’s per­ma­nent mem­ber­ship of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. In 2005, Nige­ria pro­vided lead­er­ship of the AU. Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo was Chair­man of the Assem­bly of Heads of States while Am­bas­sador Oluyemi Adeniji, CON, chaired the meet­ings of the Coun­cil. A Com­mit­tee of Ten (two coun­tries from each re­gion of Africa) was set up. Its main man­date was to look at the ex­i­gen­cies of UN re­form, and par­tic­u­larly at the level of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. The Com­mit­tee of Ten was to work on the ba­sis of the Ezul­wini Con­sen­sus which de­manded at least two per­ma­nent and five non-per­ma­nent seats on the Coun­cil. In this re­gard, it was ex­pected that each non-per­ma­nent mem­ber would come from the five re­gions of Africa (West, North, Cen­tral, East, and South­ern, Africa).

What should be noted here is that some coun­tries in­sisted on the grant­ing of the right of veto. Nige­ria was not against. In fact, Am­bas­sador Adeniji led an of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tion to Ja­pan to share views with the G-4 Group (Ger­many, Ja­pan, In­dia and Brazil) which was also seek­ing per­ma­nent mem­ber­ship of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. The im­por­tant point here is that, when Nige­ria sug­gested in her re­port to the AU that the con­di­tion of veto be re­moved to al­low first for per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Africa on the Coun­cil, it was Egypt that first ac­cused Nige­ria and gave her a bad name that she was us­ing the Com­mit­tee of Ten to pro­mote her na­tional in­ter­est and not that of the African Union. Now, South Africa wanted at the last sum­mit in Johannesbu­rg to hold a spe­cial meet­ing on the need to re­visit the con­di­tion­al­ity of veto. Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe is re­ported to be op­posed to the idea. Can Africa ever speak with one voice?

AU Sum­mit and South African Court’s War­rant of Ar­rest on al-Bashir of Su­dan

Pres­i­dent Al- Bashir of Su­dan has been a wanted man as a re­sult of the war­rant of ar­rest placed on him by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. He was ac­cused of hav­ing com­mit­ted war crimes, geno­ci­dal acts and crimes against hu­man­ity dur­ing the Dar­furian con­flict. The place­ment of the war­rant of ar­rest is in spite of the fact that Su­dan never sub­scribed to the Rome Statutes by which obli­ga­tions were cre­ated for all the sig­na­to­ries to the ICC statutes.

Pres­i­dent al-Bashir has been much con­scious of the threats to his life and there­fore has al­ways tried as much as pos­si­ble to avoid trav­el­ling out of his coun­try. As an in­cum­bent Heads of State, he en­joys diplo­matic im­mu­nity. Be­sides, he seeks un­der­stand­ing on his safety with any coun­try to which he in­tends to pay visit. In fact, South Africa, on June 5, as­sured all in­tend­ing lead­ers com­ing to Johannesbu­rg for the 25th AU Sum­mit of diplo­matic in­vi­o­la­bil­ity and safety. How­ever, a South African court is­sued a war­rant of ar­rest on Pres­i­dent al-Bashir dur­ing the AU sum­mit in com­pli­ance with the ICC statutes. In this re­gard, there were con­flicts of law and in­ter­ests to ad­dress here.

On the one hand, there is the obli­ga­tion from the ICC on the ba­sis of sanc­tity of agree­ments freely con­sented to. There is also the AU’s agree­ment ac­cord­ing to which no sit­ting African Pres­i­dent should be ar­rested or tried by the ICC, es­pe­cially that the AU had lodged sev­eral com­plaints be­fore the ICC but the ICC has not shown any in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing them. This led to the per­cep­tion of the ICC as hav­ing only one ob­jec­tive of seek­ing to sub­ject African lead­ers to un­nec­es­sary ridicule. In other words, is it in the in­ter­est of South Africa to give pri­or­ity to the ICC obli­ga­tion or to the AU obli­ga­tion? In any case, the South African court partly ful­filled the ICC obli­ga­tion by is­su­ing a war­rant of ar­rest and also partly ful­filled the AU obli­ga­tion by aid­ing and abet­ting the es­cape of al-Bashir. Thus, South Africa ended up not be­ing the en­emy of one and friend of the other.

The ques­tion now is: for how long will this hide-and-seek game con­tinue? Shouldn’t African lead­ers be con­sid­er­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of an African Crim­i­nal Court of their own? If an African crim­i­nal court is es­tab­lished in Africa, to what ex­tent will the crim­i­nal sus­pects be ready to ac­cept trial by the court? More in­ter­est­ingly, why should any African leader en­gage in war crimes or crimes against his peo­ple not to men­tion crimes against hu­man­ity?

To­wards a Func­tional Unity and Bet­ter AU Sum­mit

African Union Sum­mits need re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in de­sign and fo­cus. For over fifty years, the ap­proach has been that of ‘reg­u­lar mat­ters aris­ing from pre­vi­ous min­utes.’ Too much time is wasted on pro­to­col. If, for what­ever rea­sons there is need for ‘mat­ters aris­ing,’ there should be a spe­cial ses­sion on the theme of the sum­mit. In this re­gard, all de­bates should fo­cus on the theme. The de­bates should not be sim­ple com­ments but analy­ses that will pro­vide sug­ges­tions on how to deal with chal­lenges iden­ti­fied by all the in­ter­locu­tors.

For in­stance, as the 2015 Sum­mit has em­pow­er­ment of women as the theme, all con­tri­bu­tions should be tai­lored to­wards the chal­lenges of em­pow­er­ment, how the de­bater in­tends to ad­dress the prob­lems at the na­tional level. And true, the de­bates should fur­ther war­rant spe­cial re­view by the tech­nocrats in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the AUC. It is by so do­ing that the im­ple­men­ta­tion plan of the AU Agenda 2063 can be mean­ing­ful and fea­si­ble. It has be­come nec­es­sary to stop noise mak­ing about unit­ing when con­sciously and un­con­sciously African lead­ers ac­tu­ally are dis­unit­ing the peo­ple of Africa.

Dlamini Zuma, Chair­man per­son

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