Continental body loses its head

Saturday July 23 2016


The failure by the African Union Heads of State Summit in Kigali to elect a new chairperson of the commission has painted the continental body in a bad light.

Three candidates had applied by the April deadline, but 28 countries, mostly from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) boycotted the elections on the grounds that none of the three met the requisite standards.

It therefore denied the three candidates — Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (Botswana), Agapito Mba Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea) and Dr Speciosa Kazibwe (Uganda) — the required two-thirds majority. Thus, the current Chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, will continue until the January 2017 summit in Addis Ababa.

What that means is that the AU has violated its own election rules when those who have applied are ruled out with the intention of head-hunting probably a former president. What is the message the leaders are sending to the governments that supported these candidates?

If the AU cannot play by its own rules, then Africa has no moral standing to demand more representation in the UN Security Council. The fair treatment Africa has been demanding from the rest of the word is diminished if the continent appears not to be fair and democratic in its own elections.

What is emerging is that the AU is being held captive by a few superpowers in the continent who want to dictate the affairs of the Union.


The so-called Big Five — South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia and Algeria — who are the biggest contributors, accounting for 65 per cent of the AU’s membership revenue, appear to exercise undue influence on the affairs of the union.

For instance, in 2012, the nomination of South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma went against the unwritten rule that the chairperson’s post should not go to one of the Big Five.

Besides giving lip service to gender parity, the Kigali summit achieved very little, with its decision to send troops to troubled South Sudan being the only positive move.

The leaders resolved to reduce the donor-dependency that sees 65 per cent of the AU’s activities being funded by donors. They therefore decided to impose a 0.2 per cent import levy on selected products beginning next year to fund the organisation’s programmes.

It is not a bad idea for the continent to be self-reliant, especially when it comes to peace and security. It has been a longstanding shame that Africa has to beg donors to fund the deployment of peacekeepers in conflict areas.

However, the rationale that the AU should be financially independent if only to reduce external influences shows that the leaders are more concerned being called to account by the rest of the world, rather than the continental body becoming a key player in economic and political policies and decisions that affect the common African.

Secondly, the levy on imports places more of a burden on poor countries that are net exporters, instead of imposing a levy on exports by the rich countries.

It means poor African will pay more taxes on the basics, while the luxuries such as arms are not taxable.