Home / Events / ISS Seminar Report, Addis Ababa: Salient Features of the 18th AU Summit (pre-AU Summit Seminar)
ISS Seminar Report, Addis Ababa: Salient Features of the 18th AU Summit (pre-AU Summit Seminar)
Date: 18 January 2012
Venue: , ISS Conference Room, 6th Floor, Get House Building, Africa Avenue, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A Pre-AU Summit Seminar, organized by ISS jointly with Open Society Initiative for East Africa, Centre for Citizens` Participation in the African Union (CCP-AU), and International Alert

18January 2012


This Seminar was organized by the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis of the ISS Addis Office (CPRA-Addis Ababa Office) in collaboration with International Alert,Open Society Foundation for East Africa (OSFEA) and the Centre for Citizens Participation in the African Union (CCP-AU). As an event on the eve of the 18thAU Summit, Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Director of the ISS-Addis Ababa office underscored its importance as a platform for exchanging ideas and knowledge about the potentials, expectations and implications of the AU Summit in the areas of boosting intra-Africa trade, Peace and security in Africa and,the AU Commission elections.

Key Discussions

There were six main speakers at this seminar addressing three core themes relevant to the 18th AU Summit including:Boosting Intra-Africa Trade, challenges of peace and security in Africa in 2011and the forthcoming AU Commission elections. The panel was chaired by Dr.Lulsegged Abebe, Senior Advisor of International Alert. On the first theme,Tanzania Ambassador Joram Biswaro presented on the “Integration and Sovereignty within the context of boosting intra-Africa Trade”. There were two main arguments that emerged from Amb. Biswaro`s presentation. The first was that enhanced intra-Africa trade could be realized through an increased concession of sovereignty between Africa states. Second, African states must be willing to address inherent infrastructural, political and economic problems such as corruption, conflicts, limited infrastructures and production, poor data gathering and persistent threats to peace and security. The second issue that was addressed by the panelists was peace and security challenges in Africa in2011. Desire Assogbavi, Head of Oxfam Liaison Office with the AU provided snapshots of some of the key issues that were addressed at the 17thAU Summit in Malabo including the conflicts in Cote d`Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan,South Sudan and Libya. Mr. Assogbavi also used this platform to advocate for the guarantee of civilian protection particularly in AU`s military response in Somalia.

Other panelists notably Achieng Akena (OSFEA)and Janah Ncube (CCP-AU) reinforced several positions made by Assogbavi.However, Ncube further emphasized the need for the AU to be more people-centred as opposed to the dominant statist structure. She pointed out that CCP-AU was established in 2007. Its focus is to convince African leaders to move from a‘state-centrism` to a more ‘population-centrism` integration. Ms. Ncube calls for a union of people and not states only. In this regard, the question of free movement of people across Africa was also raised. Ms. Akena recalled the issues rose during the Malabo Summit in June and July 2011. These were: Libya; North Africa; Somalia; Comoros; Blue Nile; the Sudan; Madagascar; as well as the question of the AU financing. Sheal so discussed the issue of African diaspora.

Dr. Salah Hammad of the AU Commission spoke on the need to bridge the gap between the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA).  He explained the APSA and AGA in detail and indicated that AGA will support the AU work on democracy, human rights, good governance. APSA and AGA are complementary, and therefore need to merge or at least synergized in their work. He pointed out that the coordination between the two architectures remains very weak and this constitutes a major challenge for AU. The case of Libya showed that the AU was slow to respond because nomechanisms were in place. There is therefore the need to enhance the AU work inall different issues and the two architectures. For this the AU Commission was tasked to consider how to bridge the two.

The last issue that was discussed was the upcoming elections at the AU Commission. Dr Mehari Taddele Maru provided a lucid presentation of the processes, procedure sand legal instruments guiding elections at the AU as the most important agenda items of the AU Summit. Dr Mehari pointed out that there are six core functions of the AU Commission. These are: secretariat of AU and its organs, representation,initiation of norm-setting, diffusion of norms already set, follow-up of execution norms set, and serving as the main finance and budget related office of the Union. But he indicated that the Au Commission currently is functioning only with 52 % of its approved human resource and less than 40 % of its approved budget due to lack of good leadership and management.  He pointed out that the AU Commission is the engine of the Union and thus the election of its leadership requires the utmost attention of the Member States. However,this is not the case in 2012 elections of the AU Commission, he explained. Importantly,he provided an assessment of the pattern and dynamics of AU elections in the last decade through a comparison of statistics using graphs.

Source: Dr Mehari Taddele Maru (18 January2012 presentation)

Source: Dr Mehari Taddele Maru (18 January2012 presentation)

Dr Mehari`s main argument is that there has been a numerical decline in the nomination of candidates at the AU Commission elections. Yet, this has not necessarily led to a corresponding decline in the active campaigns of candidates participating in the elections.  Speaking in general terms and compared to previous election years (2004, and 2008), he characterized the2012 election as not sufficiently competitive and enjoyed less consideration by Member States of the AU. He summed up his argument by calling for a revisit of the entire electoral process within the AU in order to enhance the number of candidates in future elections. He suggested the current AU Assembly to consider the means to improve competitiveness of the election as an agenda. Accordingly he suggested a reform of the nomination process as an important area of intervention.  

During the discussion time, several comments were made and questions were raised.  Most participants were very critical of the role of the AU in promoting intra-Africa trade. The 18th AU Summit should therefore avoid being yet another talk-shop for AU member states but provide concrete decisions.

In his concluding remark, Dr Mehari pointed out that the aim of the seminars of CPRA-Addis is to provide a platform to debate and shape the policies of policy makers such as the AU, RECs and governments as well as international actors working on Human Security in Africa.  He pointed out that the January 2012 AU Summit while focusing on Intra-Africa Trade will still be seized of peace and security agenda, ICC recent decisions and AU position to take the matter to the International Court of Justice, the UN-AU partnership and discrepancies in the understanding of their respective roles.  He reminded that 2012 will mark the ten years anniversary of the AU and that called for the AU Summit to focus on how to bridge the gap between norm and implementation in the AU. He called for the AU to make its second decade a decade of implementation. Finally, he thanked donors, partners and the chair as well as the participants for the success of the seminar. 


ISS Conference Room
6th Floor
Get House Building, Africa Avenue
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Seblewongel Mulugeta
Tel: +251-11-5156320
Fax: +251-11-5156449
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