I too hold the mantle: International Day of Democracy

Today, 15th September 2015, little or not so little fifteen year old Muteteli from Rwanda aspires to one day be Member of Parliament. She aspires to represent constituents from her region, help young children grow up to be the best they could possibly be; to live to their full potential. Young Muteteli aspires to assist farmers to produce more food for internal use and export, teachers be well qualified, hospitals to have well run facilities and to overall harness the energies and innovation of the promising Rwandan youth.

“I will one day be Member of Parliament, I will make good decisions and I will make Rwanda proud,” she muses amidst a smile. Are her dreams valid? Very much so.

(The Bring Back Our Girls Movement)

If one asks Muteteli whether she is aware of what a civil society organization is, she will quickly respond with a resounding yes. “They are the people who hold my Member of Parliament representative accountable and raise issues on what needs to be done more of.” If one probes further on whether she would want a civil society during her parliamentary tenure, the answer is also a resounding yes. “Just as my mother holds me to account on my wrongs, I too want people to tell me where I should focus my energies.”

Ban Ki moon rightly put it when he stated that civil society is the oxygen of democracy. It acts as a catalyst for social progress and economic growth and plays a critical role in keeping Government accountable; helps represent the diverse interests of the population, including its most vulnerable groups; that being the women and youth.

Article 29 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance stipulates that, ‘State Parties shall recognize the crucial role of women in development and strengthening of democracy.’

What does this mean?

In the words of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, “No one benefits if women are held back; we have to change mind sets, not just laws. In Rwanda, more women than ever before are serving in positions of responsibility and leadership in government and in the work place. These role models, in turn, shape the expectations and the missions of the next generations”.

Pic Credit: Huffington Post

Democracy and its ideals as defined by the United Nations is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives. This means that there is rule of law whereby constitutions are upheld, term limits are respected, civil society groups can exercise their freedoms whilst holding government to account, elections are free and fair and the institutions within the state are free to deliver on public services equitably without interference from bureaucratic red tape and corruption.

This year’s International Day of Democracy theme is on creating spaces for civil society and a study by Civicus indicates a nexus between democracy, civil society engagement and women’s leadership.

Beginning with its leadership, it is reported Rwanda claimed the world’s highest percentage of women in parliament in 2003 and today, its women hold 64% of the country’s legislative seats. Rwanda is arguably run efficiently and effectively with a fast rising private sector and civil society which is steered by pragmatic sound policies and legislation from its political institutions. The study indicates that Rwandan civil society’s greatest strengths is its relatively positive values; that its civil society, to a great extent, nurtures and upholds positive values such as anti-corruption practices, gender equity, poverty eradication, tolerance and democracy promotion. This is a country that survived genocide in the 90’s and more or less built its economy from scratch.

The African Union came to the succinct realization that women hold the mantle in promoting democracy and good governance and as such, during its 24th Heads of State Summit in January 2015, ended with a strong call for women’s empowerment in Africa as a step towards achieving the goals of Agenda 2063, its blueprint development strategy for the next 50 years.

 

Pic Credit: Afronline.org

It cannot be overemphasized how crucial the role of civil society and more so women’s participation in democracy building is.  Ban Ki moon also rightly put it when he stated as follows:

Women hold up more than half the sky and represent much of the world’s unrealized potential. They are the educators. They raise the children. They hold families together and increasingly drive economies. They are natural leaders. We need their full engagement… in government, business and civil society.

What does a Data Revolution in Africa look like?

(Pic credit: Onthinktanks.org)

The Heads of State and Government at the 23rd AU Summit within the Common Africa Position on the Post 2015 agenda were convinced of the need for structural transformation for inclusive and people centered development in Africa. They tersely came to an agreement on how such a developmental approach requires the creation and enhancement of adequate policy space and productive capacities, notably through infrastructure development; science and technology; transfer and innovation; value addition to primary commodities; youth development and women’s empowerment. They also agreed that this approach requires addressing the challenges posed by climate change; desertification and land degradation; drought, loss of bio diversity; sustainable natural resource management; and the promotion of a responsive and accountable global governance architecture.

Critical to this discussion therefore is: how can data assist in mitigating these challenges and existing gaps whilst offering new insights on how to accelerate development across the continent?

During the two day National Forum on harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development held in Nairobi Kenya between 28th and 29th August 2015, multi stakeholders from government, private sector, academia, nonprofit organizations, local communities and development partnerships convened a midst whetted ambition to begin addressing the informational aspects of development decision making in a coordinated way.

“Where will the locus for disaggregated data be situated with the shift in development trends? Will it be open data sources, national statistics offices or will it be with philanthropy organizations that are increasingly shifting to partnerships with the private sector? ODA is decreasing in countries such as Kenya which have shifted to middle income status. Will it be in conjunction with private sector organizations? How will this revolution look like?” asked a keen participant in the audience.

These are fundamentals questions reeling in everyone’s mind as crucial conversations on the data revolution embark in Africa ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals being acceded to in September 2015 and the convening of the World Data Forum scheduled to be held in 2016.

Without high-quality data providing the right information on the right things at the right time to the right people; designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies becomes almost impossible. Institutions require bolstering to manage and steer this new shift in development with adequate resources and political will being the key priorities to making this a reality. How will this happen amidst the current challenges facing the continent? Below is an info graphic highlighting some of them.

(Pic Credit: APHRC)

The sparking of  a conversation on harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development marks Kenya’s first step in working towards a global partnership for a data revolution, establishing the country as a leader on the African continent and globally.

Nonetheless, a common challenge facing majority countries in Africa today, Kenya not excluded,  is the lack or inadequacy of fundamental statistics measuring the quality and quantity of taxes and trade, births and deaths, or even growth and poverty.  Add on to this the mis-match in priorities between governments in Africa and the donor community. Governments alike require sub-national data to help guide budgetary and policy decisions while on the other hand external donors often want national level data to make allocation decisions across countries; this priorities have often been misaligned further exacerbating the already existing data gap.

As the deputy president of the Republic of Kenya Hon. William Ruto rightly put it, “the data revolution must not become a struggle between an ancient regime of traditional official statistics and a new big data republique. A worthwhile revolution should develop greater capacity for national statistics offices while fostering integrated and harmonious relations with other data producers. “

As espoused in the Africa Data Consensus, a sustained data revolution is needed to drive social, economic and structural transformation in every African country. Such a revolution will also make it easier to track our countries’ progress towards meeting national and globally agreed sustainable development goals, with a view to leave no one behind. The building blocks for an African data revolution are already in place. National Statistical Offices have long been the backbone of data production and management, producing official statistics and supporting data activities to create accurate and timely data for decision making. However, today’s development challenges and prospects call for a broad data ecosystem that spans the entire value chain driven by national priorities and underpinned by the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. This ecosystem must be inclusive of all forms of data – including official and other data – and involve all stakeholders.

*This article by the author was originally posted on www.dataforum.or.ke

How can we design democracy so that it better fits African realities?

The state of democracy in Africa is one of the most controversial and difficult questions facing the continent today.

  • Is Africa getting more or less democratic?
  • Why have so many countries become stuck in a murky middle ground between democracy and authoritarianism?
  • How can we design democracy so that it better fits African realities?

Academia, researchers and media commentators all give different answers to these questions. Some would give up on democracy in Africa, seeing it as a dangerous experiment that too often goes wrong. Others believe that the early signs are promising and that if we keep up the struggle for another generation, democracy will become entrenched within African societies.

AGA (African Governance Architecture) is conceived as the overarching framework for promoting and sustaining democracy, governance and human rights in Africa

In my book, I argue Africa should not be thought of solely as a place in which to analyse the fragility of democracy. Rather, it is a continent that has much to teach us about the different pathways through which even the poorest and most unstable countries can break free from authoritarian rule.

Lessons Africa can teach

It is important to place democracy in Africa in its historical perspective to demonstrate how the experiences of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s shaped the kinds of political systems that we see today.

In doing so, it reveals an often overlooked fact: African democracies are distinctive not because they face so many challenges, but because they have managed to make so much progress. This is true despite the absence of many of the supposed “pre-conditions” of democratic consolidation.

Political scientists have identified a long wishlist of factors that make it easier to establish and consolidate a democracy. Topping the list are a coherent national identity, strong and autonomous political institutions, a developed and autonomous civil society, the rule of law and a strong and well-performing economy.

Adam Przeworski, for example, has famously shown that countries that enjoy a per capita GDP of more than US$6000 when they introduced democracy almost always succeed. Those where it is less than US$1000 almost always fail.

Both in the 1960s and in the 1990s, few African countries fulfilled this – or any other – wishlist criteria. Yet many of them have nonetheless made significant progress towards establishing stable and accountable multiparty systems. This set of countries is bigger than you might think.

Roughly one-quarter of Africa’s 54 states are now “free” – meaning that they feature high levels of both political rights and civil liberties – according to the American think tank Freedom House. This includes Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mauritius, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa.

In other words, a significant proportion of the continent is democratising against the odds.

How to avoid democratic disasters

While it is very important to recognise achievements of the continent’s success stories, it is also important to recognise the way in which elections have encouraged corruption and exacerbated ethnic tensions.

In Kenya, for example, it was the onset of multiparty politics, and the threat that this posed to Daniel arap Moi’s government, that led to the rapid escalation of graft and, ultimately, the Goldenberg scandal.

Similarly, it was the threat of losing power in the 1992 elections, when the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy opposition had so much momentum, that led to the instigation of ethnic clashes to displace and intimidate the supporters of rival parties. That violence, we now know, was the forerunner of the post-electoral crisis of 2007-08.

We therefore need to think really hard about how to design political systems in such a way that minimises the risks of democratic disasters. One of my core arguments is that Africa has suffered from unbalanced political systems that have been poorly designed to foster sustainable multi-party politics.

The problem with winner takes all

History tells us that while elements of competition and inclusion strengthen multiparty systems, too much of either can be fatal to the process of democratisation. Let us start with competition.

In places like Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya, winner-takes-all politics and the concentration of power around the president mean that losing parties could expect to be excluded from access to state resources.

Elections, therefore, encouraged the collapse of political order by exacerbating ethnic tensions and giving leaders an incentive to use irresponsible and destructive strategies to retain power – such as the exclusion of rival leaders from electoral contests and the deployment of militias.

(Opposition supporters protest in Nairobi after a disputed vote that convulsed Kenya.Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

The experience of these countries was so harrowing that it is tempting to conclude that countries should try and be as inclusive as possible. This could be done, for example, by forming a permanent power-sharing government. But maximising inclusion is also problematic because it inevitably stifles political competition, which is the lifeblood of representative democracy.

It is by kicking out bad leaders that voters can hold their governments to account. In Ghana and Senegal, democratic reform was driven by opposition parties, campaigning for freer and fairer elections to improve their own chances of winning power.

Because power-sharing systems guarantee all parties representation in government, they threaten to undermine the very mechanism through which elections can drive democratisation. Excessive inclusion is therefore just as bad for democracy as excessive competition.

The task facing those who draft or adapt state constitutions is thus to decide on the appropriate balance between competition and inclusion. Such balance must allow for sufficient accommodation that all parties feel they have a stake in the system, while also maintaining as much competition as possible in order to promote accountability.

Unfortunately, there is no ideal constitutional template that can be deployed across the continent to achieve this goal. Different countries may require different degrees of inclusion in order to achieve political stability. Judging whether a political system can bear the strains associated with greater competition requires an intimate knowledge of a country’s demography, geography and political history.

Given this, it is remarkable – and worrying – just how few African countries feature inclusive political mechanisms that prevent certain communities from losing out systematically. For example, very few states feature meaningful decentralisation. Constitutional change, such as the new political system introduced in Kenya in 2010, is very much a step in the right direction. It locates the country in a reasonable middle-ground between majoritarian competition and forced inclusion.

Although the presidency continues to wield great power, the capacity of opposition parties to check the executive within the legislature has increased – at least in theory. And while there is no provision to ensure representative government, many communities who feel excluded from power nationally have been able to wield it locally by their choice of senators and governors at county level.

Devolution is no a panacea, however. In countries such as Nigeria, the creation of sub-national governments led to heated contestation and often violence as different communities campaigned for the right to be given their own state.

Similar tensions are likely to emerge in the run up to the next Kenyan general elections, especially if the Jubilee Alliance Party fails to build an effective political machine.

Although Nigerian federalism may have exacerbated tensions at the local level, it has eased them at the national level. That reduced the prospects for a second civil war, which is surely a trade-off worth making.

We therefore have good reason to think that constitutional reform like that enacted in Kenya will significantly improve the prospects for political stability – so long as it is respected. Given this, it is far too soon to give up on African democracy.

Author

Nic Cheeseman Associate Professor in African Politics at Jesus College at University of Oxford

This article was originally published in The Conversation

Moving from early Pan-Africanism towards an African Renaissance

Like the famous mythical Sankofa bird symbol, Africans must look into their past to create their future; acknowledging our previous mistakes and learning from them but also celebrating our successes and building on them.

A focus on African Renaissance gives an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s self-reliance trajectory and the need to demystify, appropriate and popularize our history, our shared values, and our narrative about the state of Africa today, in honor of the generations that went before us and to inspire current and future generations.

Pan-Africanism at its inception was more than just a search for racial or geographic identity. Initially led and popularized by Africans in the Diaspora such as Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, it was a clear rejection of the laughable fallacy that Africans did not have a history. It was also a strong refutation of the mindset that defined Africa and Africans from the perspective of the historical experience of slavery, colonialism and racial discrimination.  Rather it was the affirmation of the rich cultural heritage of African societies and the importance of achieving freedom and continental unity.

Since then the concept of Pan-Africanism has continued to evolve, measured by the challenges and aspirations of the African continent. During the independence period, this ideology enabled Africans to overcome domination and oppression by ending colonialism and apartheid in the continent. The possibility of rapid socio-economic transformation of the continent was another goal promoted from early days. As noted by Emperor Hailé Selassié during the launch of the OAU, “Unless the political liberty for which Africans have for long struggled is complemented and bolstered by a corresponding economic and social growth, the breath of life which sustains our freedom may flicker out.” This statement still rings true. [1]

Despite strong political mobilization for the liberation from oppression, Africa has failed to fulfill its full potential. It is well known that in the early 1960s, at the time of the establishment of the OAU, there was high optimism that the continent will perform well. Several African countries were at par or had even higher GDP rates than their counterparts in Asia. It is now common place to mention that, the GDP per capita of Ghana and South Korea were at the same level in 1960. Up until 1975, the fastest growing developing country in the world was Gabon. Botswana’s growth rate exceeded that of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand. Despite the optimism of the time, Africa failed to complete the transformation journey which Asia has to a large degree now traversed. While East Asia’s share in world global exports grew from 2.25 % to 17.8% over a period of 40 years (1970 to 2010), Africa’s share in world global exports drastically reduced from 4.99% to the current 3.33%. This led to Africa being called the ‘hopeless continent’, ‘a scar on the conscience of humanity’ and many other Hegelian fallacies.

As we entered the 21st century, Pan-Africanism reflected Africa’s conscious need for not only political independence, regional integration and the improvements of its living standards, but also the throwing of the shackles of economic bondage and democratic stagnation that had seen it reverse the short lived prosperity of the independence era. This meant devising a new economic positioning and new forms of partnership in which Africa, as an equal partner, would negotiate with the rest of the world, with fierce defense of its own defined priorities.  Without losing the key elements of unity, cultural heritage and freedom, the reinterpretation of Pan-Africanism in the form of an African Renaissance is very relevant. It is a new phase that requires popular participation and mobilization of the African people behind the goals of structural transformation and improved governance.  Indeed, Africa’s Renaissance can only be complete when the African voice will be heard and taken into account.

The relevance of the Pan-Africanism ideal, and its continuous attraction to intellectuals both on the continent and in the Diaspora, will be measured by the ability to adjust to new demands and new generations. Indeed, the ability to continue to provide inspiration and conviction to Africans across ages is the trade mark of Pan-Africanism. Thankfully, things have changed for the better since the turn of the century. Six out of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, there is a marked reduction in the number and size of conflicts in the continent, democratic governance and the respect of human dignity are on the rise. Africa is therefore ripe for change. It must seize this moment for re-strategizing.

The AU’s proclaimed vision is for ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’. Laudable in its aspirations, what guarantees do we have that it will not remain rhetoric? We must ask ourselves how we reach these goals.Agenda 2063 identifies the prerequisites for Africa’s sustained transformation in clear and unambiguous terms and offers a reinterpretation of the continent’s trajectory and claim the 21st century as Africa’s!

What might draw Africa back from achieving its objectives?

In pursuing any bold transformation, there are a few risks that must be appreciated and tackled head on. Current challenges facing any developing countries are very different from past two decades. These include addressing borderless problems such as the impact of climate change, creating jobs while building an educated and innovative workforce, tackling the scourge of disease, famine and conflicts, as well as ensuring that Africa’s vast natural resource wealth benefits its people. Economic inequality, expanding opportunities for all, reducing illiteracy and creating the enabling conditions for the growth development and protection of nascent local industries are just a few examples of a myriad of tasks that will certainly continue to drag Africa down in the world scales.

Towards an African Renaissance.

One thing is sure; Africa must act very differently, if it is going to take advantage of the current momentum. African leaders need a paradigm shift in their thinking. This transformation has already begun and it shows itself in diverse ways. For example, the perceptible change in the orientation of current African leaders from a dependence on external aid and external actors to an Afro-centric and internal support system.In an interview he granted in 1993, Issa Diallo questioned the rationale behind Africans expecting foreigners to build their countries for them[2]. An aid dependence mentality is slowly giving a space to a more assertive leadership.

Starting from the original OAU Charter, there already existed a myriad of resolutions, treaties, accords and inter-governmental agreements to sustain Africa’s ambitions. What is needed now is for African leaders to move their agenda forward. The advantages of regional integration were recognised by Africans through the Pan-African ideology long before others and even longer before the term ‘globalisation’ was coined. The OAU’s creation simply reflected this awareness. The benefits of regional cooperation – increased investment, sustainability, consolidation of economic and political reforms, increased global competitiveness, prevention of conflict- are accepted, but sometimes just that: accepted.

If Africa is going to own its narrative, it has to preserve its policy space and try out its own development approaches. Renaissance means ‘revival’ or ‘rebirth’ and in the context of its usage now, not only offers an opportunity to awaken the spirit of Africa in the 21st century, but also a rallying call to rid the continent of poverty, instability, corruption and neglect. This new mindset means the need to rethink the traditional models of growth and development. In conclusion, the spirit of African unity is alive. It still lives amongst Africans. As Patrice Lumumba said so long ago, ‘The day will come when History will speak… Africa will write its own history… It will be a history of glory and dignity. Long live Africa!![3]

[1] ECA, AU. 2013. Celebrating success: Africa’s voice over 50 Years 1963-2013. Speech of Emperor Haile Selassie during the inauguration of the OAU in 1963
[2] Interview with Issa Diallo in ‘The Courier’ Jan 1992. http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/uk/d/Jec131e/1.1.html
[3] Patrice Lumumba, 1961. Letter from Thysville Prison to Mrs. Lumumba.http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/lumumba/1961/xx/letter.htm

By Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Africa

Article Cross Posted from the Executive Secretary’s Blog

Is the African Union needed?

The African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, ended on Saturday with delegates from more than 50 member states attending.

The plan was to discuss gender equality and sustainable development across Africa. But the African Union’s overall purpose is much wider.

Its goal is to protect human rights, defend African positions on international issues, and bring the continent together on social and economic topics.

But has the African Union been up to the job? Can it still help Africans?

Presenter: Sami Zeidan

Guests:

Michael Amoah – Research associate with the Centre of African Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Thembisa Fakude – Researcher at the Al Jazeera centre for studies.

Dismas Mokua – Deputy president of Africa Axis, a consultancy focused on doing business in Africa.

Erastus Mwencha – Deputy chairman of the African Union.

Source: Al Jazeera

ASEOWA Guinea – 12 Ebola Survivors at the AU run Ebola Treatment Unit

By Paschal Chem-Langhee

Public Information and Communication Officer,

The African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA),

Conakry, Guinea.

01 ASEOWA and partner clinicans celebrate dispatch of Ebola survivors from Coyah ETU (1)

(ASEOWA & partner clinicians standing behind Ebola Survivors)

Sunday 25th January, 2015 – Twelve persons have been healed of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) following medical care at the African Union run Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Coyah, Guinea, so far. According to ASEOWA’s Dr Dalion Muamba, a clinician deployed to Coyah, “Seven other patients have also regained their health. They were however declared non-cases because they tested negative to EVD, although they had previously shown EVD symptoms”.

02 ASEOWA and partner clinicians celebrate dispatch of Ebola survivors from Coyah ETU (1)

On Monday, 19th January, 2015, six EVD survivors and two non-cases were discharged. It was a ceremony of sorts as state authorities, inhabitants of Coyah, the media and others, joined the families of survivors to welcome their loved ones back into the communities. It was also an opportunity to denounce stigmatisation against Ebola survivors, and incidences of reticence and denial perpetrated in some communities.

To underscore the successes registered so far, the Coyah ETU was also visited by the ASEOWA head of mission, General Dr Julius Oketta. His visit coincided with that of the ministers of health and of communication in Guinea, together with Cuba’s ambassador to Guinea.

DSC_0734

(L: Cuba’s Ambassador, M: Minister of Health , R: ASEOWA Head of Mission)

In addition to clinicians and nurses at the ETU, ASEOWA has deployed epidemiologists and other paramedical staff to the Coyah prefecture. According to ASEOWA’s Dr Jacques Monkange, “Together with partners, we have trained four hundred and seventeen (417) youths in community sensitisation, from all four sub-prefectures in Coyah. We have also equipped them with flip charts to inform and to educate the population using the door-to-door mobilisation strategy”. As stated by General Oketta, “EVD begins with the community and ends with the community”, so the positive involvement of everyone is important to end this epidemic.

The Coyah ETU which is jointly run by the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Cuban experts and other partners, opened on 31st December 2014. It is also a training centre. Reiterating the AUC Chairperson, H.E. Dr N.Dlamini Zuma’s goodwill message to all ASEOWA volunteers, General Oketta hinted that discussions are ongoing to transform the ETUs into full hospitals, thereby strengthening the public health system of affected countries in the post Ebola phase.

DSC_0472

L: ASEOWA Team in Coyah     

DSC_0550

R: Head of Mission poses with Clinicians about to start work

Website: http://pages.au.int/ebola

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AUonEbola

Twitter: #AUonEbola, #UnitedAgainstEbola

Governance Ahead: Understanding the African Union’s African Governance Architecture, African Peace and Security Architecture and the linkages between them.

Africa has made considerable strides in striving towards democratic and participatory governance. Today, African leaders are convinced, more than ever before, that democratic governance and durable peace are a fundamental sine qua non for sustainable human development. All major Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU) normative frameworks bear testimony to this firm conviction by African leaders including the 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), the 2000 Constitutive Act of the African Union and the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The AU has undergone a paradigm shift from the old OAU doctrine of non-interference to the new doctrine of non-indifference to human rights abuses, mass atrocity and crimes against humanity within its Member States. However, while we have made tremendous progress, existential threats of democracy persist. This is the context within which the African Governance Architecture (AGA) was established.

The African Governance Architecture in a nutshell

The AGA is a direct by-product of the AU Shared Values Agenda. In February 2010, the 14th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly endorsed a decision taken earlier by the Executive Council (EX.CL/Dec.525(XVI), recommending the theme of the 16th Ordinary Summit to be on Shared Values, while also putting in place a Pan-African Architecture on Governance. Subsequently, in January 2011, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council endorsed the strengthening of the AGA, through the launch of the African Governance Platform as an informal and non-decision making mechanism to foster exchange of information, facilitate the elaboration of common positions on governance, and strengthen the capacity of Africa to speak with one voice.

The AGA and its Platform became operational in 2012, the very year declared by AU policy organs as the Year of Shared Values. The AGA was established to translate the objectives of the legal and policy pronouncements on AU Shared Values, as the implementation framework for the promotion and sustenance of democracy, human rights and governance in Africa. By AU Shared Values, we mean those values, norms and standards as enshrined in the Union’s various instruments such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law, tolerance, respect, community spirit, gender equality, youth empowerment, unity in diversity, constitutionalism, democratic governance, peace, security stability, development, environmental protection, popular participation, accountability and transparency, strong democratic institutions, anti-corruption, improved service delivery, equality, credible and democratic elections, durable solutions to humanitarian crises and free movement of African citizens across borders of AU member states.

The principal goals of the AGA are to connect, empower and build capacities of AU Organs, Regional Economic Communities and relevant stakeholders, including civil society, in order to enhance good governance and democracy in Africa. Through the AGA, the Union is facilitating the implementation, support and complementing the efforts of AU Member States to achieve the above commitments enshrined in the AU Constitutive Act and other relevant standards and norms. To ensure coordination and synergy amongst all the various organs, institutions and the RECs on governance, democracy and human rights issues, the Africa Governance Platform serves as the dialogue and information-sharing forum for the achievement of the goals of the AGA. It provides an avenue for consultations, coordination, dialogue and collective action among the various AU Organs and Institutions for lesson learning and experience-sharing on how best to deepen democratic and participatory governance on the continent.

How complementary are the AGA and the APSA?

The AGA cannot succeed without a strong complementarity with the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). One of the specific objectives of the AGA indeed is to ‘facilitate joint engagement in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and development associated with governance challenges in Africa’.(1) Thus both the AGA and APSA are supposed to address the structural root causes of crisis and conflict in Africa. It is only when democratic and participatory governance is institutionalised and peace and political stability prevail that Africa stands a better chance for sustainable human development and prosperity for its citizens. This is also the vision of the AU elaborated in the Africa Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda.

We are mindful that while inter-state conflicts have subsided in Africa, intra-state conflicts have persisted even in the post-Cold War situation. These conflicts continue to derail our development goals, postpone democratic gains and generate humanitarian crises in different ways;

(i) weak state institutions are unable to exercise authority over their territorial jurisdictions;

(ii) given weak institutions, provision of development and services to the people suffers thereby generating crisis of legitimacy of the state;

(iii) a militarisation of society and establishment of military formations contest space with the formal security establishment thereby generating disorder and near-anarchy;

(iv) mismanagement of diversity through, inter-alia, politicisation of ethnic identity and ethnicisation of politics which triggers intra-state conflict;

(v) mismanagement of and contestation over natural resources;

(vi) environmental degradation and climate change which in turn exerts pressure on rural communities resulting in violent conflicts between pastoralists and farmers, and

(vii) socio-economic exclusion, inequality, unemployment and marginalisation. These are the structural root causes that propel violent conflicts and instability in Africa with devastating impacts on peace, democracy and development. Failure to address these root causes will confine all our responses to mere symptoms of the problem.

The AGA is designed as the comprehensive, overarching and consolidated framework for addressing issues of governance and governance related challenges aimed at addressing structural causes of political instability and crisis through inter alia, preventive diplomacy, mediation, negotiated settlement of conflicts, humanitarian assistance and durable solutions, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction and development. The AGA addresses the governance and democracy mandate of the AU, the APSA addresses the peace and security agenda and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) deals with the developmental agenda of the continent.

Strengthening the institutional linkages between the AGA and the APSA

There are various Shared Values instruments that facilitate cooperation between the AGA and the APSA. These include most notably the 2000 AU Constitutive Act, the 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), the 2003 Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council, the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the 2009 Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy Framework. More recently, the Africa Agenda 2063, which is to be adopted during the Summit of Heads of State and Government in January 2015, and the Common African Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda are additional policy frameworks which underline the need for cooperation between and among the AGA, APSA and the AU development architecture.

In practice, however, the AGA and APSA do not yet have strong institutional connections. The main arenas that provide glue between the two AU architectures are the technical and political meetings of the AGA and the operations of the Peace and Security Council. APSA institutions, such as the Peace and Security Council, are supposed to take part in the AGA technical and political meetings. The technical meetings are attended by technical staff of the AGA member institutions while the political meetings are attended by the political heads of the institutions. The other arena relates to the workings of the Peace and Security Council. AGA Clusters regularly provide situational analysis to members of the Peace and Security Council on various issues including

(i) elections in Africa,

(ii) human rights situation in Africa, and on the

(iii) humanitarian situation in Africa.

A great opportunity for further strengthening the linkages between the AGA and APSA can be found in the African Union Post-Conflict Recovery and Development (PCRD) policy framework, and the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI). The African Solidarity Initiative was launched by AU Ministers of Foreign Affairs/External Relations on 13th July 2012 with the view to mobilising support from within Africa for post-conflict reconstruction and development in those countries emerging from protracted violent conflict. The main objective of the ASI is to promote African solidarity, mutual assistance and regional integration, and propel the continent to a higher level of development and self-confidence, driven by the motto: ‘Africa helping Africa’.

A more comprehensive approach tested in Central African Republic

(Pic courtesy of aljazeera.com)

One concrete example of collaboration between the AGA and APSA is the initiative in Central African Republic (CAR) where the Department of Political Affairs  and the Department of Peace and Security work together to assist the country in implementing a post-conflict reconstruction and development programme. This intervention is guided by the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy Framework.

The initiative focuses, partly, on rebuilding CAR’s governance system. Specifically, the initiative prioritised the following areas of governance reforms in CAR:

  • The drafting of a new Constitution
  • The electoral process
  • The public sector reform
  • Inclusion and management of the diversity

The long-term plan is to replicate PCRD interventions in CAR in other countries. Resources permitting, we aim to do so in the seven other pilot countries of the African Solidarity Initiative, namely Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South sudan, as well as Mali and Madagascar.

Annual High Level Dialogue which focuses on the nexus between governance and conflict

facebook_1414735167059 (1)

(Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director for Political Affairs at the Department of Political Affairs at the 2014 High Level Dialogue in Dakar, Senegal)

Finally, a good opportunity for further strengthening the synergy between the AGA and APSA can be found in the Annual High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, which is one of the key flagship initiatives of the AGA that started in 2012. This forum is one of the knowledge generation and dialogue series which has proved extremely useful in providing a frank, open and inclusive platform for Member States, AU Organs and Institutions, RECs, African citizens, think tanks, civil society, media, private sector, philanthropists, and development actors to engage and share comparable experiences and lessons on how to improve governance, consolidate democracy and foster effective realisation of human and peoples’ rights on the continent.

The 2014 High Level Dialogue had its theme as ‘Silencing the Guns: Improving Governance for Preventing, Managing and Resolving Conflicts in Africa’. This provided a platform for exploration of how democratic and participatory governance could be leveraged to silence Africa’s blazing guns in line with the agenda of the Peace and Security Council. A pre-forum to interrogate issues around the contribution of young Africans to building a culture of democracy and peace in Africa was held in Nairobi on 15-17thSeptember 2014, while the Nairobi Forum focused on the role of youth in this process of ending wars on our continent, on 7-10th October 2014, another forum aimed at exploring the specific role for women in this drive towards inculcating a culture of peace and democracy. The outcomes of these preparatory meetings were fed into the High Level Dialogue on 30-31 October 2014 in Dakar, Senegal. This provided another impetus to further strengthen the synergies between AGA and APSA.

Operational elements of the APSA

The operational elements of the APSA are:

  • The Continental Early Warning System
  • Peace and Security Council
  • Panel of the Wise
  • African Standby Force
  • African Union Commission
  • Regional Economic Communities

In addition, The AU’s work to support post-conflict transition processes is guided by the:

  • Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy (PCRD)

Footnote

[1] AGA Framework Document, June 2014.

Interviewee:Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director for Political Affairs at the Department of Political Affairs, African Union Commission conducted by Faten Aggad, Head of Africa’s Change Dynamics Programme at ECDPM.

This article was published in GREAT insights Volume 4, Issue 1 (December 2014/January 2015)

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: