Africans need an AU chair with ethical and moral authority

11 Aug

Editor’s Note:

    We are grateful to L. Muthoni Wanyeki for her excellent article, which has addressed a lingering and primary regional crisis in Africa’s governance.

    In particular since the Organization of African Union’s (OAU) transition into the African Union (AU), we have known only AU commission chairpersons to date that either are inept, or corrupt, or spineless floor mats to dictators, officials without principles and incapable of dealing with crooked African leaders, etc.

    It is great now that some Africans woke up, especially West African states that now are leading the rebellion by rejecting those candidates presented to the summit. What those Africans did at the summit in Kigali is interesting; they used the broom to clean out past practices from the regional organization, which has become Africa’s disgrace.

    Of course, one of the known handicaps the African Union has faced is also the fact that it has to deal with the host country ‘government’ and its idiosyncrasies. The world knows for a fact from its land grab practices, ethnic racism, nepotism how corrupt it is. Its as much crooked and specialist in pretension about its interests in and concern for Africa – unlike Ethiopia’s past commitments to Africa – now just a lip service.

    Did any one know that the TPLF negotiated with, at least, two top AU officials in secret and without any record, Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom acting on behalf of the regime about Ethiopian election observation?

    The TPLF made its interest known in the former Namibian leader Hifikepunye Pohamba as the only AU Election Observer acceptable to it. The grapevines say the TPLF had been in touch with him; they wanted to exploit what he could bring to the election, as a man of stature, already good words about him everywhere, and a winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize money for his contributions as leader of Namibia.

    What the TPLF needed is his credibility to benefit the election it organised, while blurring what it had secretly aimed to do.

    The top officials of the AU and the TPLF reached agreement to designate the former Namibian leader, which he readily accepted. The assumption is that the proposal was first intimated to him by the TPLF. It is not clear at all, if the leader of the AU election observer mission knew the mess he was being egged on into.

    Recall that the Union was the only organization to observe the TPLF election of May 2015. All other election monitors refused to participate, fully aware of the Front’s habits and history.

    Yes, the TPLF hit the bull’s eye and bagged all the parliamentary seats.

    The corrupt AU was made to endorse the election as free but, without even observing a quarter of the polling stations. The only credit due the monitors is not stamping it as fair election.

    As they say, the rest is history!


Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The dust has settled on Kigali’s African Union Summit of Heads of State. The most notable outcome from which was a non-outcome.

The West African states stood their ground. Flat out refused to accept what they considered an unacceptable slate of candidates for the position of AU chair. When they failed to open up the nominations, they simply refused to vote. Meaning none of the three candidates mustered the two-thirds support required under the Constitutive Act.

The elections for all AU Commission positions were postponed. Nominations will be done in October. Elections will now be held at next year’s January summit.

The current Chair, Nkosazan Dlamini-Zuma, and all commissioners thus hold their positions until next January as well.

Which, as many commentators on South Africa’s internal politics have mentioned, serves the political ambitions of the current Chair at home well.

She’ll stay above the nasty fray of African National Congress politics and return home with her nose relatively clean.

But the opening-up and deferral of the AU Commission elections also serves the African public well. We now have time to think about what we want from leadership.

To play more of a role in ensuring candidates who provide the aspirational, inspirational leadership we crave to make it through.

We weren’t able to play that role at the Kigali AU summit — closed to everybody outside of states and a selected part of the African women’s movement. That closure itself points to the way the AU’s current leadership has gone adrift.

The promise of the Constitutive Act was that the AU would be a union of both states and peoples. To posit that the heads of state need one summit a year unbothered by non-government types was not only an affront — it went against the letter and spirit of the Constitutive Act.

The determination of the West African states was encouraging in that sense. It signalled that some states feel the AU has been drifting off-course. It signalled too that they have higher expectations of leadership than the slate lined up before Kigali could offer.

There are so many urgent Africa-wide issues — in this region alone, the resurgence of long-term incumbency in the name of the “third-term.”

The horrendous treatment of civilians during conflict — and complete impunity for the same. The failure of settlements between the political elite to definitively end conflict. The resurgence of authoritarianism; this time dressed up with the fig leaf of electoral “legitimacy.”

The growing inequality —and the utter indifference of the political elite to addressing it. Africa may be “rising” but the majority of Africans are not.

Recalibrating determination of who’s under the poverty line and who’s now supposedly crossed it doesn’t address the scale of the problem.

We need an AU chair with the ethical and moral authority to speak to these issues—and have us believe that s/he means it, structural constraints of the position notwithstanding.

Somebody to inspire and motivate us. Africans with that standing must feature in the October nominations.
/Africa Review

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

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