Kagame makes last push to reform AU before his term ends

Saturday November 17 2018

African leaders pose for a photo during the African Union Summit in Addis Abba, Ethiopia on November 17, 2018. PHOTO | AFP


Rwandan President Paul Kagame will this weekend push for an adoption of key reforms in the African Union Commission, during a special sitting, and possibly his last as the chair of the African Union before Egypt takes the reins.

The special summit, to which leaders of Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, Togo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Comoros had already confirmed attendance, is expected to push through key and far-reaching reforms in the structures of the AU Commission that seek to streamline and empower it.

However, it is the number of leaders who will show up at this weekend’s meeting in Addis Ababa that will determine the success of the summit, and the implementation of the reforms, having suffered a poor show in May at the Heads of State Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania.

Since the launch of the AU reform process in January last year, championed by President Kagame, significant progress has been made in its implementation, with the introduction of quotas for youth and women, the rationalisation of working methods and the slow but steady progress towards financial autonomy were among of his key achievements.

“As the reforms take place there is need to recognise that self-financing of the Union in a sustainable manner will be a key determinant of our accomplishments,” Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera, who is also the chairperson of the Executive Council said.

On Wednesday, foreign affairs Ministers of AU member states (Executive Council) met in an attempt to consider the draft agenda, decisions and declarations of the Permanent Representative Committee members on AU Institutional Reform, AU Development Agency, and Financing the African Union.


The EastAfrican understands that this meeting failed to agree on whether to allow the commission’s chairperson Mr Mahamat to appoint his deputies and commissioners as proposed in the changes as opposed to the current format of voting by countries.

It will be another win for President Kagame if the leaders adopt the proposed structural changes at the Commission, as a final push to enact as many changes before Mr Kagame’s one-year term as chairman expires at the end of January.

The Special Heads of State Summit will also see them adopt the resolutions of the PRC with regards to financing the African Union, the AU Peace Fund, and the division of labour between the AU, RECs, continental organisations and member states.

Financial autonomy

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, said that the proposed reforms touch all the AU organs and, if adopted, will change how the commission undertakes its mandate.

Since taking charge of spearheading the AU reforms in 2016, President Kagame promised to wean the AU off foreign donor funding and reduce the number of summits and commissions.

So far, he has succeeded in reducing the summits to one annually, from two. It is cutting down on the commissions and the structural changes that will now form the bigger part of this weekend’s meeting in Addis, and make his biggest win yet.

However, achieving financial autonomy for the AU has been slow in implementation after it emerged that some members failed to agree on the proposal to levy tax on imports, which then would be channelled to the commission to run its activities.

The application of 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports in order to fund the Union has been President Kagame’s top priority so as to fend off the Commissions dependence on donors and other non-African countries for funding its activities.

The levy would, if executed, raise $1.2 billion against the AU’s average annual budget of $782 million and end dependence on donors.

The implementation of the financing mechanism was supposed to begin immediately with member states putting in place national legislation but countries have continued to raise concerns on how this would be effected, with most failing to come up with domestic legislations.

Lacklustre reception

In the recent budget, only Rwanda and Kenya in the East African region, effected this levy, showing its lacklustre reception at policy and budget planning levels.

Other countries that effected the levy are Ethiopia, Djibouti, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Gambia, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

In May, the heads of states summit in Nouakchott also approved the 2019 budget at $681.48 million, which was 12 per cent less than this years, with most of its programme budget largely expected to be funded by donors.

The AU’s operating budget next year will be $416.32 million which will include Amisom’s operational budget of $243.43 million. The Commission’s programme budget for next year will be $265.15 million. At least 74 per cent of the AU’s funding comes from donors.

“Rationalisation of our working has resulted in greater efficiency in conducting the affairs of our Union. Progress towards financial autonomy has established the conditions for greater ownership of our policies and efforts. However, it must be recognised that much remains to be done,” Mr Mahamat said.