Home / Events / ISS Seminar Report: Towards Africa's Unity: a Pre-AU Summit Seminar
ISS Seminar Report: Towards Africa's Unity: a Pre-AU Summit Seminar
Date: 3 July 2012



Organised by the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Addis Ababa Office in collaboration with International Alert, OSIEA, CCP-AU  and Oxfam


There have been some unprecedented and dramatic events during and since the 18th AU Summit in January 2012. The most notable is the impasse that characterised the election of the Chairperson of the AU Commission. This position was contested between Dr. Jean Ping, the incumbent and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s Interior Minister. This issue has been a subject of repeated analyses, policy suggestions and dialogues between member states through the Committee of Eight. Unfortunately, it has dwarfed other key issues and decisions around the forthcoming 19th AU Summit, now re-scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between 9 and 16 July 2012. In addition, there was an unexpected decision by the Government of Malawi to cancel its hosting of the 19th AU Summit in Lilongwe due to the insistence of the AU Commission that Malawi respect the AU rules governing the hosting of summits and accordingly invite Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court. Most especially, the main theme of the summit, Boosting Intra-Africa Trade, appears to have been less prominent in the discourse. This seminar therefore sought to provide a critical policy-relevant debate on how to transcend the prevailing AUC electoral deadlock towards a consensus by AU member states. It also provided an overview of the main issues, decisions and documents for deliberation by member states during the 19 AU Summit.

Opening Remarks

Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Regional Director of the Institute for Security Studies (Addis Ababa office), provided the opening remarks for this seminar. He noted the importance of a forward-looking and provocative seminar intended to promote the unity of African states on issues around the AU Summit, especially the elections of the AUC Chairperson. Ambassador Akinsanya reflected that the theme of this seminar, Towards Africa’s Unity, suggested that there was an urgent need to move beyond the current political game and rivalries that played out during the previous AUC elections for the sake of the recurring, emerging and new security challenges facing the continent. Also, he acknowledged the main partners of this event namely: CCP-AU, International Alert, OSIEA, and Oxfam International, and expressed appreciation for their support. In conclusion, he noted that the expected outcome of this seminar was to inform current policy discourse on various issues that would be covered during the forthcoming AU Summit.

Seminar Presentations

The seminar panel was chaired by Ambassador Professor Royson M. Mukwena, Executive Director of the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA). He introduced the panelists namely:

  • Ambassador (Dr.) Mbuya Issac G. Munlo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Malawi to Ethiopia, AU, ECA and 24 African States
  • Mr. Desire Asogbavi, Head of Oxfam International Liaison office to the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, Programme Manager of the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Programme, ISS Addis Ababa
  • Ms. Janah Ncube, Executive Director of the Centre for Citizens’ Participation on the African Union (CCP-AU).

Ambassador Dr. Mbuya Issac G. Munlo gave a presentation on two main issues. The first was a chronological account of the decision of the Government of Malawi to cancel the hosting of the 19th AU Summit in Lilongwe. The second issue was the AUC Elections and his views on how to transform the experience into an opportunity. On Malawi’s decision to cancel its hosting of the Summit, Ambassador Munlo put in perspective the huge resources that were invested in preparation for this event. He noted, however, that the reconstitution of government following the demise of President Bingu wa Mutharika had led to changes in the foreign policy direction of the newly constituted government under the leadership of President Joyce Banda. The main change had been to re-engage with donor states informed by Malawi’s economic crisis. This re-engagement entailed embracing some of the conditions imposed by the donor community, especially in three main areas: devaluation of Malawi’s currency, respect for minority rights and support the isolation of regimes that had allegedly committed war crimes. It was against this background that Malawi refused to accommodate the request by the AUC to invite Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, leading to the eventual decision to cancel hosting the Summit in Lilongwe.

Ambassador Munlo also reflected upon the AUC election, especially about how to transform the experience into an opportunity. He explained some of the factors that might have led to the electoral deadlock in the election of the AUC Chairperson during the January Summit. He noted the undue, but strong, drive by outsiders to influence the electoral decision, too much emphasis on unwritten rules of procedure and a failure to move beyond national and regional interests. In order to transform this experience into an opportunity he recommended the following: a revamp of the titles of the positions of the Commissioners and Chairperson, revision and refinement of the job content and the eradication of recruitment based on regional precedence and other political processes, but rather a primary emphasis on meritocracy.

Mr. Desire Asogbavi provided an overview of the key issues, dates and meetings during the 19th AU Summit. He noted six key issues that will be discussed during the summit. They are: Boosting intra-Africa trade (the theme for the summit), the AUC Elections, the election of three judges of the African Court, the implementation of AU decisions, peace and security and the review of the 2013 AU Budget. In regard to peace and security in Africa, Mr. Asogbavi noted that the PSC would convene a session on Mali amongst other issues during the summit. It is still unclear whether this is an attempt by the AU to take the lead on the crisis in Mali because of its widening regional security implications beyond ECOWAS. Some anticipated documents will also come out of the summit. Examples include the draft protocols to the Constitutive Act on the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). He concluded his presentation by highlighting the importance of the summit, especially in relation to the recognition and intervention by AU member states to focus on the implementation of AU decisions.

Dr Mehari Taddele Maru’s presentation was titled, “AU Commission Elections Deadlock: Turning a Crisis into an opportunity (a Legal Perspective)”. Dr. Mehari commenced his presentation with an overview of the electoral deadlock during the January Summit and some of the emergent political events that may likely shape the election outcome during the July Summit. He underscored the unease by regional players on the AUC elections and the aggressive micro-targeting campaign by supporters for both candidates for the position of AUC chairperson, further reinforced by Dr. Jean Ping and Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma through their unwillingness to withdraw from the contest. He further problematised the functional effectiveness of the Committee of Eight, constituted to resolve this electoral impasse. In particular, Dr. Mehari explained the inherent flaws in what he described as delegated power to contending countries to mutually agree on how to address the crisis.

More importantly, Dr Mehari clarified that legally speaking there are no candidates. Thus, the expected solution for now is a political one. Even if the Committee of Eight has a full mandate to forward recommendations, it has yet to come up with any concrete solutions.  In this regard, he detailed three options for the Committee of Eight. 1) allow the two current candidates to run again, which may lead to another deadlock, unless both agree to support whoever goes through to a 4th round of balloting. This is probable, but undesirable. He further pointed out that similar voting behavior could be witnessed in the next election. However, as Mali and Guinea-Bissau are under sanction, Dr Jean Ping may receive fewer votes than last time. 2) propose a third candidate, as this could be seen as a diplomatic way out. However, this would be a transitional and short-term solution, not necessarily compatible with the rules of procedure. The third person nomination could come from SADC. This is less probable, but undesirable; 3) a new call for nominations for all posts, which would require the extension of the mandate of the existing leadership and fresh elections to be conducted at the January 2013 Summit. This would enable the three months requirement for nomination stipulated in the rules of procedure. This is highly likely and desirable even if an extension of the term of the ‘lame duck’ commission has its own negative effect as indicated below

Dr Mehari explained the short and long term consequences of this electoral deadlock. Some of the possible short term consequences include: an undue focus on the AUC elections, a possible negative impact on performance and financial accountability within the AU Commission, questions competence of Pan-African leadership and, diplomatic tensions.  However, he noted that there could be some long term benefits due to this deadlock. The main benefit relates to the fact that the elections for the AU Commission have been brought under the spotlight due to the South Africa’s nomination for the post of chairperson. This, Dr. Mehari, explained has been an excellent contribution to the competitive nature of the elections at the AU. He expressed his hope that this would provide an opportunity to reverse the sharp decline in nominations. If properly utilized this current deadlock could also be used to overhaul the nomination process to elect better candidates for the AUC in future.

Finally, Dr. Mehari forwarded detailed specific recommendations on how to transform the prevailing crisis into an opportunity. He encouraged the reform of the nomination process at the AU, particularly at the regional and member state levels, aimed at ensuring observance of the AU Rules, the criteria for nomination, public participation and the need for greater meritocracy. This should also enable the drive towards a more merit-based competition in addition to the important representation of gender and the various geographic regions. More importantly, he called for a total reform of the marking to assess the competence of candidates in order to give priority to merit, integrity, competence to deliver and a Pan-African commitment as attested by the candidate’s past achievements. In conclusion, Dr Mehari noted the importance of improving the rules of procedure, noting the possibility of including qualified majority rule as a deadlock breaker, especially if elections advance to the fifth round and the minority candidate continues to block the election. The amendment of the rules of procedure to allow for a qualified majority in the fifth round would require a blocking minority of 45% as opposed to the current 35%.

Ms Janah Ncube gave a presentation about the draft protocol that will be considered during the 19th AU Summit on the Constitutive Act of the AU, relating to the Pan-African Parliament. She emphasized the main objectives of the PAP, including its aim of giving voice to the African peoples and the Diaspora. Furthermore, she provided a comprehensive account about the election procedures of the PAP which include the election to the PAP of five members from each AU member state. Other issues that she raised included the Rules of Procedure, the relations between the PAP the REC parliaments and National Parliaments; and relations between the PAP and other organs of the AU. In her analysis she elucidated the connection between the PAP and engagement with CSOs.

Concluding Remarks

After the presentations, there was a Question and Answer session which lasted for two hours. Participants asked specific questions and provided their comments about the various topics covered. This was followed by concluding remarks by Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru and vote of thanks by Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya. Dr. Mehari summed up the various presentations during the seminar and extended his appreciation to participants especially the diplomatic representatives for their participation. Ambassador Akinsanya re-iterated his vote of thanks to all participants on behalf of the ISS and partners.


Your comments
comments powered by Disqus