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The AU Summit and Battling Shattered Dreams

siphamandlazondi large 108x144Though the theme of the AU Summit in Johannesburg this week is women empowerment and the future plans towards Vision 2063, the range of issues that it is dealing with is much larger and diverse.

This is the function of the fact that Summits are by nature the culmination of discussions that start at lower levels, ascend through ministerial committees and ultimately require the approval of heads of state at the summit of the African multilateral framework.

As a result, apart from the decisions that must be taken regarding the theme, which would have long been discussed by member states at ambassadorial and senior officials levels, the AU Summit makes decisions on the reports by a variety of committees of heads of state mandated to ventilate views on specific matters that previous summits could not exhaust. Among these is the report of the Committee of Ten on UN Reform chaired by Kenya, which shows that there has not been visible progress in global discussions about the reform of the UNSecurity Council so that it reflects the realities of today rather than the results of so-called Second World War. Discussions taking place in the UN system have seen very little progress as Kenya reported to ministers earlier. Reform requires that those who unjustifiably hold disproportionate decision-making power must humble themselves and allow the sharing of this power with emerging regions that have been subordinated for 70 years of the UN's existence. But it is hard to give up power and privilege on the part of the powerful 5 states that hold veto-power in the council. The African position demanding two permanent seats in the Council and several non-permanent seats has been criticised as a spoiler in discussions that have seen many compromises being suggested, many of which seek to avoid forcing the powerful to share their unfair power, thus avoid reform of any serious nature. Africa will surely have to consider a compromise like one permanent seat instead of two when the powerful show that they commit to the democracy and justice they demand from others every now and then by accepting the idea of a seat per region of the world.

The report by a committee chaired by Liberia on post-2015 development agenda grapples with how Africa and the rest of the developing world ensure that what will follow the Millennium Development Goals will go farther than these goals in ensuring that global prosperity is shared and that mankind lives harmoniously with their natural environment. This requires that Africa's agenda in the form of concrete proposals on new development goals and targets is in harmony with that of the rest of the south, and that it persuades the developed world to join in this purpose of a world for all in place of a world without others, a world where a billion people live in poverty. The UN negotiations in September 2015 will afford Africa under President Ellen Johnsson-Sirleaf an opportunity to build this global consensus for social justice.

The Peace and Security Council focuses the Summit on the on-going task to build strong collective security in Africa in order to respond to challenges of intra-state conflict including rebellions, piracy and other maritime troubles, cross-border crime and terrorism. Conflicts arising from weak state institutions as a result of internal neocolonial misrule and external imperial designs since independence manifest on Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, and so forth. Tensions of competitive politics that boomerang into violent conflict often around elections, which have become a zero sum game, are becoming a permanent item on the agenda.

The recent shenanigans in Burundi have been handled by the East African Community, which has got the Burundi parties to agree a new electoral calendar while they decide how they will participate in it. The calls for the incumbent president, Pierre Nkurunzinza, to be stopped from running for elections does not seem to have garnered much support internationally, leaving the opposition with one democratic option: to defeat him by virtue of a popular vote. Without a credible and unifying candidate, riddled with internal divisions though, the opposition will almost certainly loose against Nkurunzinza in an election set for anytime this year. That is why they have banked on having him excluded from elections, which the Burundian constitutional court could not find reasons to do.

The AU long agreed on the peace architecture including the early warming mechanism, standby forces for rapid response to conflict and peace building, but this just does not happen. This is partly because African countries have not put resources where their mouths are. Much of the work relies therefore on the "kindness" of former colonial powers that have their own national interests to further and other donors. Though rich in many ways, African countries have failed to invest in their own independence and freedom, allowing billions to leave the contingent illicitly and allowing some leaders to become billionaires without establishing businesses. The Summit is expected to discuss this resource mobilization issue that the AU Commission has raised so many times.

In the absence of a change in strategy demonstrating existence of collective will to pull Africa out of its predicament as the epicenter of poverty, underdevelopment, disease, dependency, state fragility and so forth, the Summit will come and go, Africans will continue to encounter shattered dreams and illusions of freedom.

Vision 2063 requires firm and decisive action by Africans now and the big African states like Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa have an added responsibility to underwrite the renaissance of Africa in practical ways and for this they must be willing to make sacrifices in bold steps towards a better Africa.

Siphamandla Zondi
Institute for Global Dialogue and Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at Unisa.

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