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

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

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(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)

The kind of Leaders this Continent needs

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A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?’ “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.

I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.

Excerpt from the Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

‘I often meet the real leaders of Africa (Youth) searching for external transformational leadership. Essentially they are looking for themselves.’ – Brian Tamuka Kagoro

Of art, sports, serenades and youth empowerment #Senegal

Beautiful does not begin to describe Dakar, Senegal’s capital city.  I feel like the word beautiful actually does it some injustice; perhaps magnificently beautiful is more befitting. When the flight captain went on to tell us that we were 10 minutes away from descending into Leopold Sedar Senghor airport, I let out a not so quiet shrill “I know!” Excitement had clearly overtaken me. The view of the waves, the peninsula, the swaying palm trees and the clean coastline were all breathtaking to say the least.

After an 11 hour flight transiting through Benin and Mali, we had finally arrived in Dakar.

Reason for being in this magnificent city was the Third High level dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance that was being convened by the Africa Governance Architecture platform within the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission.

Fast forward to when we were leaving the airport; some of us, me included, began to comment on the beauty of the Senegalese, not to mention their lean body sizes. “Hmmm… interesting,” I thought to myself.

As we drove into the city, I couldn’t help but notice and feel the vibe of the place. The place is bustling and yet despite the high temperatures in the late afternoon, several people were jogging by the road, others trading in the market squares and others seemingly enjoying after work catch up conversations.

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The most astounding thing crossed my field of vision; young children were wrestling in a sandy pitch alongside the road, with several others cheering on in excitement. I am not quite sure on why this struck me, but allow me to carry on.

The children’s smiles and laughter are still so vivid and next to them was a football pitch with what looked like slightly older boys playing. It’s safe to say that all were deeply engrossed in their games oblivious to their surroundings.

Continuing with the bus ride to our destinations, it dawned on me that we had past neither 2 nor 3 football/wrestling pitches but an estimated 7. “Phenomenal,” I thought to myself. The Senegalese government had made a conscious effort to allocate spaces for sports activities.

To be honest, I couldn’t keep track of the number of runners that we had passed. Some were in groups, others by themselves. Across the city, they could easily have been in the hundreds. “Goodness, does everyone run here?” asked one of my colleagues. Her question had indeed confirmed my train of thought.                           IMAG5376_1

Allow me to fast forward again to my first morning in Dakar. This is the view that I had. Beautiful isn’t it?

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But another thing aside from this had struck me; I could see dozens of people in the ocean doing some sort of exercise.

“This people really do like to work out,” I thought to myself again and brushed off.

At the end of the two day meeting, colleagues and I decided to enjoy a good meal out in the town, it being a Friday night and all. I am in fact grateful to one of them for insisting that we do so by the beach. We had somewhat accustomed to the place and it was no surprise seeing some people running by the beach while others lifting weights at 9 pm in the night.

Having enjoyed our beautifully cooked meal and being burnt out from fatigue, I left my colleagues to catch a good night cap.

What happened after is what I’d like to call the true meaning of missing out. My colleague and good friend Nerima narrated to me on how they had been serenaded as they took a stroll by the beach. Her narration is as follows.

“So this guy snuck up on us and started beating his drum which of course startled us, I think I actually jumped. At first I was thinking…hmm what is this? Then it started to dawn on us on what he was doing and we started clapping and supporting him. It made me smile, I was so happy.”

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Be it in Goree island, which is known for its rich history dating back to the slave trade era; or the very streets of Dakar; one is bound to see both the young and the old carrying their Koras (traditional string instruments) around with them or strumming away either in solitude or to an indulged crowd.

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(A young man playing his kora by the pier in Goree Island)

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(A young man crossing a street in Dakar, holding in hand his Kora)

As we drove to the port to catch a ferry to Goree Island, once again, one could not help but notice all the high quality sports amenities that had been set up along the coastline. Be it basketball courts, hockey pitches or soccer pitches. It was remarkable.

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(The basketball courts)

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(Children’s play area)

This then begs the question; is it any wonder that Senegal is one of the most stable countries in Africa?

The AU high level dialogue that had been convened was a forum whose aim was to escalate actions being taken to silence the guns that are ravaging and hampering progress on our continent. These are wars whose main perpetrators and victims are the youth. I can’t think of a better place to illustrate the magnitude of what good investments in young people’s energy and passion can do. Whether jobless or otherwise, there is something about sports that allows one, especially the young, to release frustrations, be good managers of their time, build a culture of teamwork as well as be peaceful ambassadors.

From the young man who serenaded my colleagues on the beach due to the freedom of expression, or the freedom to just authentically be; to the young boys wrestling in the sandy pitches, it is evident that all have been brought together by a cultural thread of oneness be it in sport or art. This underscores the importance of creating a positive identity among ones people. The Senegalese know not which ethnic tribe they are playing a sport with nor serenading to. All they know is that they do enjoy doing this with their friends in a healthy manner. This reminds me so much of the Ubuntu philosophy which states that I am because we are. Let us all try and emulate the noble example that is  Senegal.

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(Dakar sunrise)

Video series: Experiences and Lessons from the field on Silencing the Guns in Africa: Strengthening Democratic Governance

What are experiences and lessons if they do not evoke an emotion out of you to do better?

This session was moderated by the eloquent, graceful and beautiful Ms. Belinda Moses, Co-founder and COO, San Media.

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In beginning this discussion, Ms. Moses raised the pertinent aspect of embracing media to showcase, complement and enhance the discussions being held.The video below depicts the atrocities of war and undoubtedly does have some graphic images but all the more reason to watch it to the end.

Prof. Ndioro Ndiaye, former minister for Women and Children, Republic of Senegal, a panelist in the session reiterated the need for promotion of good governance from the ground up and not in the reverse. Her point of view was expounded further by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Former Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Nigeria, who emphasized the need for creating social safety nets for young people to implement the same. “We must turn around corrupt and unaccountable governments in Africa by strengthening democratic governance institutions,” he stated.

“We have a diverse youth in Africa and unfortunately there is a segment of the youth becoming poorer, we need to cater to them,” reiterated his counterpart H.E Mme Maya Sahli, Fadel Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Dr. Vasu Gounden, Executive Director ACCORD took us down memory lane as he recollected the sobering misdeeds that were undertaken in 1994 when South Africa avoided a massive blood bath. This is when the right wing movement attempted to curtail all progress made on democracy. This included 50,000 armed men who had been thoroughly trained to kill and destroy during the country’s first elections. How the country was able to surmount this challenge is a miracle. Kindly watch below:

Dr. Gounden informed the audience of the consequences brought about by profound socio-economic inequality. Today, South Africa has one of the highest numbers of social protest and it comes as no surprise. “We need to close the gap in development and education. When people enter politics because they have no other alternative to close their own personal gaps, then we are in trouble,” he stated.

Ibraheem Sanusi  rightly put it when he stated that we should strive to not only want a continent not at war, but one that respects and upholds human rights and builds peace together.

Here’s a video that sums it up. #DGTrends

Final Outcome statement: Third High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa #DGTrends

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3rd ANNUAL HIGH LEVEL DIALOGUE ON DEMOCRACY,

HUMAN RIGHTS AND GOVERNANCE IN AFRICA:

TRENDS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

 

DAKAR, SENEGAL

30 – 31 OCTOBER 2014

OUTCOME STATEMENT

DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

INTRODUCTION

 

  1. The 3rd Annual High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in Africa: Trends, Challenges, Prospects and Opportunities was held in Dakar, Senegal, on 30 to 31 October, 2014. The theme of the Dialogue was “Silencing the Guns – Strengthening Governance to Prevent, Manage and Resolve Conflicts in Africa.” It was attended by representatives from African Union (AU) Member States (Permanent Representatives Committee), African Governance Architecture Platform Members (AU Organs, Institutions and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), United Nations Agencies, Development Partners, Think Tanks, Civil Society, including women groups and youth organisations, Eminent African Personalities and Academia.
  1. The 50th Solemn Declaration committed Africa leaders to ending wars and violent conflicts by 2020. The overall objective of the Dialogue was to explore strategies for ending violent conflicts in Africa, and to propose policy recommendations for implementation at both African Union and Member States levels. The Dialogue reiterated the need for articulating perspectives and strategies for silencing Guns by 2020 through strengthening democratic governance as articulated in the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration.
  1. This ‘Outcome Statement’ is a summary of the key issues and recommendations made at the High Level Dialogue towards “Silencing the Guns” in Africa by 2020.

KEY ISSUES

  1. Since independence, African states have made remarkable progress to build sturdy institutions of statehood and nationhood for managing diversity, encouraging participation, promoting equitable development, and encouraging regional integration. Furthermore, Africa has made profound strides to establish systems of democratic governance that have broadened competitive politics, improved democratic leadership changes, invigorated and enthused civic action, and resuscitated economies for growth and development.
  1. Yet some parts of Africa remain saddled by violent conflicts and instabilities that are linked to competition over power and resources and the mismanagement of diversity. Conflicts in Africa are driven by governance and development deficits that reflect the challenges faced by institutions and mechanisms that seek to address the strains and pressures of pluralism and poverty. Widespread state fragility and national fragmentation combined with socioeconomic inequities continue to fuel violence and social discontent in many African countries. Democratization in the face of ethnic, sectarian, and religious fissures has exacerbated conflicts that have further strained efforts aimed at building effective, legitimate, and representative states.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The High Level Dialogue reiterated the fact that ending wars and silencing the guns should be a collective responsibility of African citizens, AU Member States, the African Union, Regional Economic Communities, Civil Society Organizations, the Private Sector, Faith-Based Organizations, the Academia, and the international community. Participants noted, with a sense of optimism that AU Shared Values instruments, including the Constitutive Act of the African Union, African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the ProtocolRelating to the Establishment of the Peace. and Security Council of the African Union, the African Peer Review Mechanism and the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa all aim to strengthen democratic and participatory governance as well as peace and security in Africa. Democratic and participatory governance is both a pre-condition and outcome of durable peace, inclusive, equitable and people-centred development.

Re-Invigorating the Spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance

  1. Transformational regional integration requires that the processes of establishing inclusive and sustainable development are anchored on effective, efficient and accountable governance. Such democratic developmental governance dictates that African citizens are enabled to become drivers and owners of their own development and not just recipients of development projects and programmes without their effective participation. The AU Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on the post-2015 development Agenda calls on African leaders and citizens to embrace the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance anchored on both people-to-people as well as institutional integration.
  1. The operationalization of Agenda 2063 requires specific programmes and actions at national, regional and continental levels. The aim is to deepen a shared African identity, unity, integration, solidarity, self-confidence, collective self-reliance and self-respect all of which are integral parts of ending violent conflict on the continent. AU, RECs, Member States and the global pan-African community have to make a concerted effort to revive the Pan-Africanist Movement and support the convening of the 8th Pan-African Congress in Accra, Ghana in 2015.
  1. The solidarity and unity of all Africans and Afro-descendants is critical to the achievement of the Agenda 2063. To ensure sustainable implementation of agenda 2063, Africa’s wealth and the resources it generates domestically should be deliberately applied through agreed mechanisms to finance and sustain the operationalization of Agenda 2063 and the common Africa position on post-2015 development agenda.

From Norm-Setting to Norm Implementation

  1. The AU and RECs already have an expansive and robust set of normative frameworks for promoting democratic and participatory governance for peace and development. However, a huge gap exists between norm-setting and implementation of agreed norms and policies at national level. In some instances, AU Member States have limited human, material and financial resources to effectively domesticate and implement agreed continental policies and standards. This gap needs to be addressed by the AU, RECs and Member States as a matter of urgency. As a first step the Conference called for the establishment of time-bound implementation frameworks that have dedicated budgets as well as systems, competencies and capacities for monitoring, evaluation, reporting and follow up.
  1. The conference called upon all AU Member States to ratify, domesticate and implement key AU Shared Values Instruments by the year 2020. They called upon the African Union Commission to ensure synergy and harmonization of the internal coordination, resourcing, capacity development and evaluation systems.
  1. In particular, the Conference recommended stronger synergy and complementarity between the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). It was recommended that a joint working group of the AU Permanent Representative Committee, Peace and Security Council and AU Commission should be established and tasked with ensuring that APSA and AGA structures, processes and work plans are harmonized before the next High Level Dialogue in 2015.

Investing in Conflict Prevention, Early Warning and Early Recovery

  1. The Conference noted that the AU, RECs and Member States have various forms of early warning and disaster response systems that operate with varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness. It called for increased investment of time, energy and resources in preventive diplomacy, strengthening early warning and early recovery of conflict-affected countries.
  1. This requires robust systems of detection of crisis signals, preventive diplomatic entry in volatile situations and candid analysis and reporting of conflict situations. Where such systems already exists, Member States, AU Organs and Institutions, Regional Economic Communities as well as civil society and the international community should share real and timely intelligence and pool the requisite resources and expertise for timely preventive responses before the eruption of full blown conflict as is the situation in Burkina Faso.

Building Capable, Effective and Legitimate States

  1. The African State is central to developmental democratic governance, policy formulation and implementation, post-conflict recovery, building national cohesion, guaranteeing human and State security, decentralization and local economic development, enforcement of human rights and the social contract.
  1. The conference called for redoubling of efforts to build institutional and administrative capacity of the African States. Capable, responsive, accountable and democratic States engender a culture of values and performance-based leadership and institutions. Such States have the requisite legitimacy and authority which leaves little room for social upheavals and rebellion born out of discontent, marginalization and exclusion. Effective state capacity is crucial for efficient service delivery and the fight against impunity, corruption and abuse of public office. State capacity is crucial for regulating illicit financial and capital outflows that are driven by vested internal and external interests and actors.
  1. Capable democratic developmental African states stand a greater chance to silence the guns. The Conference called for capacity needs assessment in African countries that may require technical support especially those emerging from conflict. The AU, RECs and Member States through the existing governance, peace and security architectures should improve coordination and share comparable practices, lessons as well as human and financial resources to countries that require rebuilding and re-establishment of norms and institutions of democratic governance, peace and security.

Constructive Management of Diversity

  1. The Conference called upon AU, RECs and Member States to harness African socio-cultural and intergenerational diversity for sustainable development anchored on the spirit of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance. Africa’s diversity should not be a curse, it should impel the continent towards greater unification and organic integration. Constructive management of diversity, including through: youth engagement and empowerment, specific language policies; proportional representation in electoral systems; political tolerance; local economic development, decentralization of power and resources as well as federal systems of governance should be strengthened by AU Member States as a tools of diversity management.
  1. The African Union in partnership with African CSOs, youth and women formations, the Academia, and Media should create communities of practice for African countries to share lessons learnt, innovations and effective practices as a way of entrenching a culture of constructive management of diversity on the continent.

Preventing Electoral Violence

  1. The conference noted that some elections in Africa have promoted democratization and peace-building. However, others have reversed the development and democratic gains made in the recent past and ignited bloodshed. Some aspects of electoral violence have resulted from electoral cycle factors such as inefficient management of elections, while others have structural root causes deeply hidden within socio-economic malaise such as unemployment, poverty and inequality.
  1. The Conference recommended that in addressing and redressing electoral violence, AU, RECs and Member States should deal with both the electoral cycle related and structural causal factors so that policy responses go beyond mere symptoms of the problem. Member States, AU, RECs and civil society should thus make greater investment in long term pre-election assessments that integrate mediation, preventive diplomacy and effective management of potential electoral processes disputes.
  1. The Conference noted a growing tendency to pressure countries emerging out of serious crises and conflicts into immediately holding elections as an ill-conceived policy option. African countries emerging from violent conflict should consider seriously the timing of post-conflict elections to ensure that they are premised upon solid foundations of peace, stability and political legitimacy. There is need to ensure that elections held soon after episodes of violent conflict or social upheaval have no potential of plunging countries back into cycle of political violence.

Demilitarising Politics

  1. After decades of limited or absent coup d’etats, Africa has witnessed a resurgence of militarization of politics as an undemocratic phenomenon. The conference reiterated that demilitarization of politics is a crucial step in silencing the guns. It called for an end to the politicization of the security establishment and securitization of politics characterized by the politicization of formal security agencies or instances where political elites establish and control militias that work parallel to formal security agencies. In order to reverse this trend, the conference called upon African countries to recommit to professional security establishments accountable to civilian authority through parliament.
  1. Formal security agencies should not compete for space with informal militias. African states should invest more resources in managing, regulating and controlling private security companies, which operate in national settings and across borders. The conference called upon the African Union Commission to propose a code of standards and practice for private security companies that operate at a regional level or in multi-country settings as well as mechanisms for ensuring their regional/continental accountability by December 2015.

Expanding the Frontiers of Human and Peoples’ Rights

  1. In silencing the guns, Africa needs to do much more in the area of expanding the frontiers of a human rights culture. Human rights, especially the rights of women and girls must be protected and promoted. It is largely deficiencies in embracing a culture of human rights that has led to some of the tragic cases of mass atrocities and genocide in Africa.
  1. Silencing guns in Africa entails committing to eradicating conditions that lead to international crimes, such as genocide and impunity, among others. African transitional justice mechanism should be embedded in the continent’s human rights architecture. This is where Africa-specific methodologies and culturally embedded strategies for transitional justice and conflict transformation, such as the Gacaca courts in Rwanda, the Ubuntu system in South Africa and Mot Oput in Northern Uganda become extremely useful and these should be strengthened and reinforced.
  1. In support of the declaration by the African Union that 2015 is the Year for Women’s Empowerment in the Context of Agenda 2063 and 2016 as the Year for Human Rights, with special reference to the Rights of Women, the conference called for the theme of the 2015 High Level Dialogue to focus on women empowerment and leadership.

Managing Africa’s Natural Resources for Sustainable Development

  1. Africa has normative frameworks at the Continental, RECs and national levels to govern the extractive sectors and natural resources generally. The intricate linkage between security and natural resource rent abuse or usage is a key factor to silencing the guns. The conference reiterated that Africa requires optimum and transparent extraction and beneficiation of its resources in order to sustainably combat insecurity and achieve sustainable development and peace.
  1. It noted that the mismanagement of Africa’s natural resources has resulted in massive corruption that has left the African economy bleeding as clearly demonstrated by the Thabo Mbeki Panel Report and the Kofi Anan Africa Progress Report on illicit resource outflows and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources respectively. The conference noted that a growing number of Africa’s violent conflicts are over distribution of rents and benefits from these natural resources. Resource based conflicts often find virulent expression in religious and ethnic sectarianism and radicalisation.
  1. The AU, RECs and Member States have to ensure effective governance, distribution and redistribution of Africa’s natural resources to address issues of corruption as well as illicit financial and capital outflows as envisaged by the African Mining Vision.

Addressing the Special Circumstances of Marginalized Social Groups

  1. African nation-States are constituted by heterogeneous nation groups that sometimes are bounded by spatial, economic, social and political inequalities. These inequalities and class differences are often exacerbated by uneven development within regions in the same nation States. In their efforts to silence the guns, AU, RECs and Member States will need to address the specific circumstances and situations of marginalized social groups including women, children, young people, minorities and people with disabilities.
  1. It is imperative that women and youth empowerment constitute part of the broader package for silencing guns. Interest of children, minorities and people with disabilities need to be taken into account during conflict situations, during processes of peace-building and development process in peace time. The consolidation and effective implementation of various national and continental women and youth engagement strategies by Member States, the African Union, RECs, and civil society formations is a critical component of efforts geared towards silencing the guns by 2020.
  1. The conference recommended that existing continental benchmarks and frameworks on empowerment of vulnerable and marginalized social groups should be made an integral part of AU democratic governance, peace building and conflict transformation processes. In order for this to be sustained, tools and mechanisms for mainstreaming the existing normative expectations should be developed and AU Mediators should be sensitized on how to use the same.

Addressing Forced Displacement Due to Violent Conflicts

  1. The Conference noted that the disproportionate impact of violent conflicts on the continent includes the massive forced displacement of communities leading to millions of internally displaced people, refugees, stateless people or irregular migrants. In most conflict zones such as the Horn, the Sahel, the Great Lakes regions and parts of North Africa especially Libya forced migration accounts for over 10 million refugees and equally high numbers of internally displaced persons. Data sources indicate that 43 000 young Africans have died since the year 2000 trying to cross the high seas to seek perceived better opportunities in Europe. While some of these are economic migrants, others are political refugees fleeing violence in their countries.
  1. The conference called upon the AU, RECs and Member States to find durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa due to wars and violent conflicts by strengthening early warning and response systems. But once wars erupt, remedial measures are needed to mitigate their adverse impact on civilian populations.
  1. The AU, RECs, Member States and international community should work closely to establish locally owned and led support systems for the affected communities and States. The AU, RECs and Member States need to work closely together on the Common African Position on Humanitarian Situation in Africa in readiness for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in June 2016.

Promoting Reconciliation, Social Healing and National Harmony

  1. The Conference noted that national and local systems and cultures of peace are linked to governance mechanisms and processes designed to guarantee justice, freedom and human rights. A key foundation to achieving national cohesion is national reconciliation and recovery processes. In pursuance of the Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.501 (XXII) declaring 2014-2024 as the Madiba Nelson Mandela Decade of Reconciliation in Africa, the AU, RECs and Member States should invest a lot more in efforts aimed at reconciliation and social harmony with a view to facilitating successful nation-building in Africa.
  1. In countries emerging from violent conflicts, a good mixture of social healing, justice and accountability mechanisms is required for sustainable peace and democracy building. The conference called upon AU, RECs and Member States to adopt and implement the AU Transitional Justice framework as a means to addressing issues of impunity, national reconciliation and recovery anchored upon the principles of justice, peace, and reconciliation as encapsulated in the AU Shared Values instruments.

Promoting equitable, inclusive and participatory socio-economic development

  1. Democratic and participatory governance and peace and security are key pre-conditions for sustainable human development, which is people-centered. Most of violent conflicts in Africa have their root causes in both development failure and governance deficits. In order to address the structural root causes of violent conflict, socio-economic challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality should be addressed effectively. The conference reiterated the need to ensure that economic policy is rationalized with social policy and adequate investment in the productive capacities of African States and peoples. In particular, the conference called for economic and social policies that evolve out of participatory processes and advance a culture of democracy and peace.
  1. The conference reaffirmed the imperative of greater engagement and participation of African citizens in state and continental affairs especially policy making and implementation towards silencing the guns. The conference commended the AU for improving its social media engagement strategy with African citizens and called for revamping and strengthening of the continental platform for engaging civil society and citizens – the Economic Social and Cultural Council – and the use of traditional media and other participatory processes such as people to people dialogues, information sharing and feedback with Member States in order to ensure continental and national policies are owned and driven by beneficiaries.

Promoting Knowledge Generation, Policy Analysis and Dissemination

  1. The AU, RECs and Member States should engage, partner and cooperate more with African think tanks, universities, research institutes and the media in generating and disseminating evidenced based knowledge, research and policy analysis on strengthening democratic governance, addressing violent conflicts with a view to sharpening their policy responses and interventions aimed at silencing guns on the continent.

Entoto, Ethiopia: Part I

Its 3 am in the morning in Addis, the rain is pounding hard, it’s pretty cold and I can’t sleep. My mind and thoughts are in Entoto, a relatively large mountainous region in the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

My mind is here for one reason only; the remarkable women that I had met a few days earlier; Aster, Alamnish and Abavechi.

“I wonder what Aster is up to,” I think to myself. Maybe she’s asleep? Or is she chatting with her 6 children this very moment? Or has she already left her house to head out into the mountains to pick firewood? I for one am freezing my brains off, are her and her loved ones warm enough up there?

“Nyagz, try and sleep your mind will explode,” I tell myself. But my brain was on overdrive till day break, I just couldn’t sleep.

Allow me to introduce you to Aster, Abavechi and Alamnish; very beautiful, strong and graceful women that I met on my final stop in Entoto; and final in the sense that the cab could not go any higher up the steep slope. The car engine coughed and sputtered and finally gave in. It was time to head back down.

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Just as we turned the car is when we saw the three ladies heading down the steep slope with what seemed as heaps upon heaps of wood. “Oh my goodness, “I exclaimed to my friend Hedego. “Is this for real?”

“It is my dear.”

Entoto is a mountainous region that is approximately 3,200 metres above sea level and was home to Menelik II when he founded Addis. This is an area densely populated with eucalyptus trees so maybe you can understand why on this rainy morning; my thoughts were with the ladies and their families.

I had been here about two years prior visiting some tourist sites, Menelik II’s palace and a religious church called Entoto Maryam church, both sites that are very rich in history and culture. (I highly recommend)

It was on this first visit to Entoto that I encountered the women in this area. Back then I was astounded just I was that very moment when I saw the ladies, only difference is that this time around I had come to interact with them.

“Salamnu,” I say. “Salamnu, they reply back.

That’s as far as my Amharic goes and so I ask my friend Hedego to ask them kindly if they could take some time to speak with me to which they agree.

“We need to rest anyway, so there’s no problem,” Aster says as she walks to the side of the road with the others following suit. They all put down their bundles of wood in unison and look me squarely in the eyes awaiting my questions. This caught me off guard I must admit as I wasn’t quite prepared for their quick cooperation.

I begin by introducing myself and explaining my reason for wanting to speak with them; which was to gain a little more insight into their lives (quite intrusive if you ask me) but thus far, this forward approach has worked for me.

I ask them if it would be okay to pay them something small for their time and this seems to tickle Aster. “Of course daughter, I will never say no to money, I’m not even sure I’d speak to you without you offering it.”

“Do you ladies know each other?” we begin, “No we do not, we introduce ourselves to each other in the morning as we head up into the forest or on our way back down. “We are usually there by 5 am and only make our way back after 10 hours; you are bound to make friends on the way,” Alamnish informs me.

“I have many friends,” Abavechi quips.

I come to learn that the women spend most of the day in the forest and sell their collection at the bottom of the slope for about 20-25 Birr ( $ 1-1.25 )

This load that I speak of is approximately 35-40 kgs or could be more. I could not fathom the weight on my back after lifting it with my hands (which I was still unable to) and so my friend Hedego tested it out. The poor guy could barely flinch let alone take a step. Alamnish had to help him.

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“This is out of this world,” he exclaims.

I also come to learn that both Abavechi and Alamnish have husbands who work in the textile industry and that it is they who chiseled tools for them to use in the forest. For Aster it was a different story, “Ah my ex husband is a nobody,” she says in between laughs. ”Ok not a nobody per se he sends me 1000 Birr ($ 50 ) from time to time for our 6 children.”

She seems to think about it for a split second and looks at me again, “Ah my dear, let’s call him a nobody.”

”One day when I went into the forest I returned home to find him gone.  Despite the aching back and long hours on this road, I was always on time to make food for him and the kids.”

What intrigued me most about Aster is that from the get go she kept eye contact with me the whole time yet my friend Hedego was the one translating our conversation. It felt like a woman to woman conversation.

I came to learn that Aster has 6 children, Abavechi one child and Alamnish 2; who are all in school. “You cannot undervalue education; not after the government has made this much an effort in providing it for our children. We can only play our part and that is by being responsible mothers. That is why we have to make ends meet by all means; our kids can only help us over the school holidays,” Aster says.

I commend them on this and can’t help but think of the words George Manblot once said. If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work, then every woman in Africa would be a millionaire; Alamnish, Aster and Abavechi being at the front line.

“Egzi’abher yibarkih” we say to each other, which means in Amharic, God bless you as we part ways.

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Own your space #DGTrends

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You’ve got a piece of the Congo in your pocket; Sexual Violence, Conflict and You #DGTrends

MDG : A mass rape victim and her son in the town of Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo

(Pic Courtesy of Pete Muller/AP)

‘Electronic gadgets’, ‘sexual violence’, ‘conflict’ and ‘you’; four words that sound extremely misaligned when put together yet surprisingly, are words whose correlation is tied to the current state of affairs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is no secret that sexual violence in conflict has escalated over the years and is being used as a strategic tool of war; not an inevitable side effect but a weapon in itself.

It is also no secret that every other day we are purchasing the latest phone, latest tablet, latest laptop, latest camera, latest video game, latest everything. We live in an era where electronic sales have skyrocketed and the development wave is sweeping through the African continent and globally.

It is this very wave of electronic development that has exacerbated sexual violence in the DRC. Surprised? Me too.

Our insatiable demand for electronics products is helping fuel waves of sexual violence committed on women and girls as young as six years of age.

It is reported that the Congo war has the highest rate of violence against women and girls in the world, and reports indicate that hundreds of thousands have been raped, making it the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or girl. One can only guess the exact number as large numbers of women opt not to report the crime given the stigma that goes with rape and the low probability that the perpetrators will actually be brought to justice.

It is also reported that revenue from the global consumer electronics industry is projected to reach a record-breaking 208 billion USD in 2014.  Furthermore, a closely-related business is also booming; in 2013 alone, armed rebels generated approximately 1 billion USD from minerals extracted and stolen from mines in conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As the consumer electronics market grows, so does the international demand for four minerals that are inextricably linked to sexual violence in conflict-affected regions; Gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin which power our cell phones, laptops, cameras, tablets and other consumer electronics.

Miltia groups in these war torn areas are strategically using rape and sexual violence as a tool to control populations and territory, to destroy families, decimate communities and lethally spread HIV/AIDS. This high level of instability contributes to the ongoing conflict, driving the demand for conflict minerals as well as the resulting proliferation of sexual violence.

I have profound respect for Apple and Intel, corporations who pioneered action in ethically sourcing for materials for their products. Once these two corporations realized that their products were linked to sexual violence, they worked diligently to begin eliminating conflict minerals from their supply chains and it is this commitment to human rights that has further enhanced the value of their brands.

These women and girls being subjected to sexual violence are our partners in commerce and development and we cannot advance the global development agenda without providing them with adequate safety and security.

As consumers, our purchasing decisions play a crucial part in protecting the lives of women and children in these conflict regions. We can consciously choose to purchase products from companies whose commitments to human rights are credible, clear and concise.

Not only this, we can also use our voices to amplify this dialogue. The African Union is cognizant that at the heart of Africa’s violent conflicts such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lies the problem of democratic governance deficits mainly manifested through poor social economic and political governance, inadequate democracy, poverty and growing inequality, poor service delivery and mismanagement of natural resources, lack of respect for the rule of law, abuse of human rights, corruption, and lack of space for popular political participation. This has greatly undermined Africa’s efforts to ensure long-term stability and economic progress for its peoples especially women and girls.

It is in this light that the organ is convening a Gender Pre-Forum consultation scheduled to take place from 6-7 October 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda. This forum will be an integral part of the High Level Dialogue to be held in late October and will focus on fostering a deeper understanding of the trends, challenges and opportunities for women in strengthening democratic governance towards silencing guns in Africa by 2020.

This dialogue is aimed at identifying practical initiatives and strategies by the Africa Governance Architecture framework for enhancing women inclusion and engagement on peace building in Africa. I encourage you to be a part of this dialogue using the hash tag #DGTrends.

Change is brought about by concerted efforts to deal with a problem even in the minutest of ways. The link between sexual violence and conflict minerals is clear; let your conscience as well be clear as you purchase your gadgets and foster this dialogue.

Has the African Union done anything substantive for you? #DGTrends

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I took this screenshot as I was ‘googling’ the African Union; was seeking to find out the public’s views on the organ and their work.

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I aim to discuss the above specifically with regards to the dialogue that they intend to have in the near future on vulnerabilities and challenges of women in conflict and their role in building democratic governance in Africa. This dialogue will be an integral part of the Third Annul High Level Dialogue whose focus will be to explore ways on how democratic-developmental governance can be leveraged to silence Africa’s blazing guns by 2020.

Some of you may think that this topic is dis-interesting, and for others, simply none of your business. I would like to try and jog your memory.

A reminder on the emotions and thoughts that crossed your mind when you heard the news of the conflicts and heinous atrocities happening in CAR and Mali, when the girls from Chibok were abducted, when countless numbers of women were reported to have been raped and assaulted by AMISOM troops in Somalia, the stories within our borders of militia groups and troops raping and maiming our women and children. I would like you for a brief second to sit with those emotions and try and recollect the discomfort that sat at the pit of your stomach.

This brings us back to the question; has the AU done anything for you? Or can it do anything for you? “Definitely not,” most of us would say.

It is unfortunate that this is the same organ whose troops have been reported to rape and assault women and children during and post conflict; the very citizens it’s mandated to protect. With some reports reading as follows,

‘The AU soldiers, relying on Somali intermediaries,have used a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid,to coerce vulnerable women and girls into sexual activity, girls as young as 12.’

So how then do they intend to address this issue? One may ask.

Often times most people think that the AU is an old boys club whose members meet in Addis from time to time, sit, talk and watch clouds pass by. I for one, tended to think that up till the moment that I decided it was high time I clothed myself with some information.

This is the same body that supposedly plays a critical role in championing for my rights, heck I needed to know what they were up to. This is how I came to learn about the African Governance Architecture framework within the African Union Commission; a platform that aims to make the African Union a people driven organization vis-à-vis what it was before to many of us, an old boys club. To understand the AU better kindly have a look here

The AU established the African Governance Architecture (AGA) as the overall continental framework for promoting, nurturing, strengthening and consolidating democracy and governance in Africa. It seeks to achieve these objectives through among other initiatives facilitating constructive dialogue among Member States, African Union Organs, institutions, Regional Economic Communities, African citizens, civil society and other stakeholders on emerging trends, threats, challenges and opportunities on democratic governance and human rights in Africa.

To understand better the AU’s vision in achieving gender equality and participation of women in strengthening democracy and peace building in Africa, we need to familiarize ourselves somewhat with the legal and policy framework.

So… in an effort to provide durable solutions to the pngoing conflicts in Africa and ensure participation of women in building democratic governance and peace, the AU has adopted various norms, institutions and strategies. These include:

  • the African Shared Values instruments especially the Constitutive Act
  • the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  • the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
  • the Protocol to the  African  Charter  for  Human  and  Peoples’  Rights  on  the  Rights  of  Women  in Africa
  • The AU Gender Policy (2009)

Other specific strategies include the five year Gender Peace and Security Programme (GPSP) Strategy that is designed to serve as a framework for the work of the AUC in gender equality and women empowerment in the areas of prevention, participation, protection, capacity building and knowledge management.

Other relevant global instruments that guide the work of the AU in this regard include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which states in Article 7, that state parties are obliged to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in public life.

The Beijing Declaration on Women takes this further by linking women’s participation in political processes to transparency and accountability in governance and sustainable development.

In addition, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 addresses the inordinate impact of war on women, the pivotal role women should and do play in  conflict management, conflict resolution and sustainable peace.

These policy documents and instruments emphasize the need for enhanced women’s participation in governance and development processes to ensure strong democratic and governance institutions/systems. They further recognize that women’s equal participation is essential to bringing about peace, stability and development on the continent, which are at the core of the AU’s agenda.

I hope that this post has been a little informative in laying the foundation in understanding what the AU does with regards to women in democratization and the peace building process.

Let’s keep discussing these issues using the hash tag #dgtrends as we continue to stay abreast with the AU’s work whist at the same time making an informed decision on whether it does or does not work for us. Stay posted. . .

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