Global Policy Forum

The AU Summit and Africa's Trials and Tribulations

At the recent Summit in Kampala, the African Union committed itself to addressing poverty, poor health conditions, and peace and security concerns in the region.  But the UN 2010 Millennium Development Report suggests that poverty is deepening in the continent and donor support for social and economic development is waning. Is it realistic to expect that AU member states will be willing and able to commit the necessary resources-as much as 15% of national budgets-for integrated programs?


By Mwesiga Baregu

August 3, 2010


The just-ended African Union Summit in Kampala could not have taken place at a more difficult time and in a more complex environment. Apart from the fact that, hardly two weeks earlier, two bomb attacks had been carried out targeting Kampala, the venue of the meeting, Africa is facing a host of other human and public security related problems.

The AU faces formidable, though not insurmountable, challenges. These call for prudent judgement, focussed commitment and visionary leadership. To what extent do the decisions and resolutions made by the summit meet these criteria?

Among the many problems before the summit were and are: widespread and deepening poverty and desperation among the people; a new and growing wave of military coups attesting to a crisis of legitimacy of the African state; the persistent and deepening crisis in Somalia with the failure of the Transitional Federal Government; the growing regional threat of piracy, terrorism and destabilization; the deteriorating situation in Darfur; the protracted conflict in Madagascar; the fragile and volatile situation in the eastern DRC, and many others. Let us briefly examine some of the key issues.  

The main theme of the Summit: "Maternal, infant and child Health and Development in Africa" was overshadowed by immediate concerns for peace and security. Nevertheless, the Summit adopted actions to be undertaken in various Member State, in particular, those aimed at attaining the MDGs 4 (reducing child mortality), 5 (improving maternal health) and 6 (combating HIV/aids, tuberculosis and other diseases), including the launching of the Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).

The key question here is: considering that African countries have already fallen considerably behind other regions in attaining these goals is it realistic to expect the mobilisation of adequate resources of up to 15% of national budgets for integrated health programmes, in the next five years? The answer is no! This is particularly because the UN 2010 Millenium Development Report shows that poverty is deepening and donor sources of funding are drying up.  

On the question of Somalia, the Assembly reaffirmed its full support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, and strongly condemned the attacks and other acts of violence perpetrated by Al Shabab and other terrorist groups against the TFG, the Somali people and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Summit therefore, mandated the Commission to initiate the planning for the new phases of the deployment of AMISOM, supported by the African Standby Force (ASF), once operationalized. No reference is made to the possibility of re-examining peace initiatives.

The three major implications of this move are first, to expand AMISOM; second, to transform it into a UN mission and third, to change its mandate from peacekeeping to peace enforcement. This militaristic approach bears dire consequences for Somalia and the region. First of all it may not be possible to mobilise more forces on the continent, leave alone international forces when the US and Europe are bogged down and probably losing the war in Afghanistan.

Secondly, the revision of the mission's mandate into a combat mission may have the unintended consequence of mobilising and galvanising nationalist sentiments in Somalia and among the Somali diaspora and rallying them behind Al Shabab. This would quickly regionalise the conflict sucking neighbouring countries into the Somali black-hole.

On the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Assembly, reiterated its commitment to fight impunity in conformity with the provisions of Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union and reiterated its decision that AU Member States shall not cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and surrender of President El-Bashir of The Sudan. The Assembly decided to reject for now the request by ICC to open a Liaison Office to the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and instructed the Commission to inform the ICC accordingly.

The indictment of El-Bashir has been a controversial and divisive question on the continent. So are questions of the mandate, legitimacy, jurisprudence and mode of operation of the ICC. This has made it difficult for the AU to obtain a consensus on the liability of El-Bashir before the ICC jurisdiction particularly since Sudan, like the US, is not a party to the Rome Statute. That is why the AU has demanded a postponement of the arrest. The issue is the timing!

Moreover, the recent election in Sudan, seem to have renewed El-Bashir's mandate and thus his legitimacy. In the circumstances it is impossible to arrest him without triggering popular resistance against the move. Add to this, the impending referendum in the south under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and you have a perfect recipe for a new crisis in the country, region and beyond.


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