At a time when the African Union is undergoing institutional reform to make the continental body more efficient and self-reliant, the last thing it needs is a gender-related scandal.
A group of women who work at the Addis Ababa headquarters of the AU are calling on President Paul Kagame, the AU chairman, to order an investigation into cases of discrimination against female staff.
The staff, who mainly work under the Peace and Security Commission, accuse the head of the commission Smaïl Chergui of sidelining women in the AU’s most vital organ.
“Pattern of corruption”
They also claim that Moussa Faki Mahamat who is the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), has been reluctant to let go of fellow Chadian Amine Idriss Adoum, who is the AUC director for administration and human resource management, now alleged to be ‘more powerful’ than the deputy chairperson.
“We want President Kagame to intervene in this matter because it is tainting the African Union and as chairman, he has the power to put a stop to what is going on,” the group of women who spoke to The EastAfrican said but requested anonymity for fear of victimisation.
“Our contracts are being terminated in a manner that cannot be explained while women are not considered for available senior posts. There are also those who have served in the commission for years but are not promoted or considered for senior postings,” they said.
The EastAfrican has seen two memos, one written on January 25, titled “Me too up for her, She matters for all of us” addressed to Mr Mahamat and the deputy AUC chair Kwesi Quartey, signed by at least 35 female employees in the AUC.
In the petition, the women accuse Mr Faki of not addressing their concerns.
“The AU Ethics Office and the AUC staff association have detailed to you the cases and patterns of corruption, manipulation, malpractice in recruitment, shortlisting and interviews in administration and human resources of the Commission, [but] you have done nothing about it to date,” the memo reads.
Among other accusations, the memo alleges that recruitment procedures are regularly bypassed by senior officials.
Addressing the media in South Africa on May 7, where he had travelled to officiate at the opening of the 6th session of the Pan-African Parliament, Mr Mahamat said that his office “has not received such complaints” but promised to get to the bottom of the matter.
“I want to make it clear that I will not allow discrimination against women under my watch. I have ordered an investigation to get to the heart of these allegations. Gender parity is at the heart of this administration. This is my personal conviction and professional duty to all staff,” tweeted the AUC Chair Office spokesperson Ebba Kalondo.
“We, female employees of the AU Commission, are totally appalled by the entrenchment of professional apartheid against female employees in the commission as manifested in the Peace and Security department,” the memo reads.
In a different memo dated February 14, 2018, also addressed to Mr Mahamat, senior officers in the Administration and Human Resource Department of the African Union broke their silence over the matter, distancing themselves from the ongoing uproar.
Mr Chergui, who was re-elected to the Peace and Security Commission in January last year, is yet to comment on the allegations levelled against him.