THE African Union (AU) set a goal to silence weapons on the continent by the tip of 2020. The failure to realize this ambition can partly be attributed to its indifference to the aspirations of many individuals on the continent, particularly the youth.
For the reason that AU was formally based on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, changing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), it has been unable to develop and implement a constant coverage to realize democracy and good governance amongst its members. That is mirrored within the AU Fee’s finish of time period report (2017-2021) and occasions previous to and through that interval.
In contrast to its predecessor, the AU has authorized powers to become involved in inner conflicts on the continent. It has the correct to intervene when the folks in a member state are subjected to gross human rights abuses equivalent to conflict crimes, genocide and crimes in opposition to humanity.
The AU’s Agenda 2063, the blueprint for Africa’s renaissance, outlines points equivalent to poverty, undemocratic behaviour, human rights violations, fragile states, gross authorities corruption, proliferation of unlawful arms, uncontrolled exploitation of pure assets and inequality. It proposes stiffer sanctions in opposition to AU member states that behave undemocratically by, for instance, frightening violence throughout elections. Ideally, this could come in useful to deal with the endemic violations in most of Africa’s elections.
For instance, 11 member states held normal elections in 2017, adopted by 14 in 2018, 15 in 2019 and 16 in 2020. Of those, the polls in Tanzania, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger and Togo, amongst others, ought to have attracted sanctions or some type of inquiry.
Just like the current election in Uganda, they didn’t replicate an “Africa of fine governance, democracy and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of legislation” as envisaged within the AU agenda. In its end-of-term report, there may be restricted dialogue of the AU’s efforts to make sure free, truthful and peaceable elections on the continent past deploying observer missions.
Turning a blind eye
The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, who got here to energy after the “peaceable transition” that the AU helped to dealer in 2018, has changed South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa as AU chairperson. The election that introduced Tshisekedi to energy had severe query marks hanging over its legitimacy, with credible proof of huge rigging and backroom offers.
However the AU swept that below the carpet in favour of a peaceable transition that’s now threatened by a few of the ignored points. The DRC additionally stays mired in battle with killings and looting in numerous components of the huge, mineral-rich nation.
Thomas Kwasi Tieku, the creator of Governing Africa: 3D Evaluation of the African Union’s Efficiency, argues that the AU’s significance to the African political elite is such that they might have created it immediately if it didn’t exist already. “The AU has been very profitable in addressing the wants of the African political class however it’s but to make a major distinction within the lives of many peculiar Africans,” he writes.
The AU, Tieku says, has efficiently socialised African leaders to simply accept liberal values as the muse of worldwide cooperation in Africa.
Nevertheless, the AU has been “much less profitable in connecting its actions and applications to many peculiar Africans; offering widespread public items and companies valued by commoners in Africa; giving voice to the vast majority of younger folks in Africa; selling intra-Africa commerce, good governance, and monetary independence of the African continent in addition to struggled to deal with the expressed materials wants and quotidian considerations of peculiar Africans”.
The implications of shutting down social media platforms and the web throughout tense intervals equivalent to elections look like misplaced on the AU. This has occurred in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Tanzania, Gabon and Ethiopia, amongst others, however handed with out even an announcement from the AU.
In 2019, the Tanzanian authorities introduced that it had withdrawn the correct of people and non-governmental organisations to immediately file complaints in opposition to it within the African Courtroom on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Tanzania’s choice, which drew no penalties from the AU, got here in opposition to the backdrop of judgments by the courtroom that went in opposition to the Tanzanian state.
Past an announcement and appointing envoys, the AU has completed little to reply to the unfolding disaster within the Tigray area in Ethiopia, the place its headquarters are located. And on the state-sponsored violence in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda, the place younger folks protesting in opposition to police violence, repressive insurance policies, corruption and unhealthy governance have been executed, brutalised and incarcerated, the AU has been silent.
The instances of Egypt and Sierra Leone, 15 years aside, are instructive in understanding the AU’s ineptitude. When the OAU Meeting of Heads of State and Authorities met in Harare, Zimbabwe, in Might 1997, delegates took up the problem of the army coup in Sierra Leone, which was a direct assault on democracy and good governance.
Along with “strongly and unequivocally [condemning] the coup d’état”, delegates additionally referred to as on “all African nations, and the worldwide group at giant, to chorus from recognising the brand new regime and lending help in any kind in anyway to the perpetrators of the coup d’état”.
As well as, the OAU additionally appealed to the Financial Neighborhood of West African States (Ecowas) to assist the folks of Sierra Leone to revive constitutional order. It indicated that a part of this effort should embody restoring the ousted authorities. The OAU cooperated with Ecowas’ army arm, the Financial Neighborhood of West African States Monitoring Group, to oust the army junta on 13 February 1998.
However when the army overthrew the democratically elected authorities of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt on 3 July 2013, the AU’s response was completely completely different. Not solely was it timid, ambivalent and never as definitive or forceful because the OAU’s response to the coup in Sierra Leone, however it additionally did not insist on the restoration of Morsi’s authorities.
Though it briefly suspended Egypt’s membership, the AU proceeded to work with the chief of the coup, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and in doing so violated certainly one of its most vital governance rules. In accordance with article 25(4) of the African Constitution on Democracy, Elections and Governance, “[t]he perpetrators of unconstitutional change of presidency shall not be allowed to take part in elections held to revive the democratic order or maintain any place of duty in political establishments of their state”.
“The AU ought to have challenged el-Sisi’s choice to current himself as a candidate for the presidency of Egypt since that call violated one of many rules of the Lomé Declaration and the African democracy constitution,” stated John Mukum Mbaku, a senior fellow on the Brookings Establishment, a think-tank based mostly in Washington DC.
However not solely did the AU fail to sanction el-Sisi, it additionally allowed him to take part in AU actions, together with being elected to function its chairperson.
“The total embrace of opportunistic autocrats equivalent to el-Sisi doesn’t augur properly for the deepening and entrenching of democracy in Egypt and different components of Africa,” Mbaku added.
This background is vital in understanding the AU’s scattered strategy to democracy and good governance on the continent. A number of African heads of state, together with el-Sisi, Faure Gnasingbé in Togo, Paul Biya in Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni in Uganda and Paul Kagame in Rwanda, have all modified their nation’s structure to increase their presidential mandates.
Whereas that is forbidden by Article 23 of the democracy constitution, the AU has not made any effort to sentence or stop such behaviour.
Though selling democratic rules and establishments is, together with well-liked participation and good governance, one of many AU’s most vital targets, it has not constantly supported grassroots efforts to eradicate authorities impunity and army opportunism and entrench democratic establishments and a wider tradition of democracy on the continent.
The exception is Sudan, the place the AU took steps that recommend it refused to permit the army coup within the nation by suspending Sudanese membership in 2019. Omar al-Bashir, who had dominated Sudan for 30 years, was being overthrown, and the AU solely lifted the suspension as soon as a civilian-led authorities had been established.
In distinction, in Egypt and in Zimbabwe in 2017, the entrenched forces working these nations have been consolidating their energy, which had been threatened.
“The AU should start by creating and implementing a constant coverage towards the entrenchment of democratic establishments and a tradition of democracy within the continent,” stated Mbaku. “As a part of this course of, the AU ought to impose extreme sanctions on any authorities that involves energy by a army or constitutional coup.
“The truth is, the AU ought to do all the pieces in its powers to disclaim recognition to such a authorities. Within the case of a army coup, the AU shouldn’t solely deny recognition to the post-coup army authorities, however must also make sure that any particular person who took half within the coup isn’t allowed to take part in a post-coup authorities.”
Mbaku argues that the AU ought to implement its personal guidelines concerning the unconstitutional change of presidency. The AU, he insists, must also present help to grassroots efforts to reinforce and make sure the rule of legislation in varied components of the continent.
And whereas elections are vital to entrench democracy, the AU should additionally recognise that granting residents different rights, equivalent to the correct to kind political events and compete for positions in authorities, to peaceable meeting and to petition the federal government for aid of grievances, have to be handled as equally crucial in creating and sustaining a political system based mostly on democracy, the rule of legislation and constitutionalism.