Date: Tuesday, 01 August 2017
Addressing his first African Union (AU) summit as Chairperson of its secretariat, Moussa Faki Mahamat spoke some home truths about the state of the continent.
After five months in office, he said he had arrived at five important conclusions:
Faki’s reflections resonated for all who attended the AU summit from 27 June to 4 July, amid fundamental global uncertainty and new levels of geopolitical unpredictability. Traditional partners in Europe and the US are narrowing the definition of some of their interests, and upcoming actors like the Gulf states, Turkey, China and Japan are seeking greater influence.
How the AU is able to adapt will determine its relevance as well as its potential. Though challenging, current global strategic evolution does present the opportunity to develop a stronger, fit-for-purpose multilateralism on the continent. To maintain credibility and relevance, the AU must both deal head on with the five realities Faki pointed out and also seek ways to adjust to external pressures. This will not be easy, since change depends on member states. But getting both right is vital.
The continent’s most debilitating constraint is conflict. The AU set 2020 as the year to achieve its “Silencing the guns” agenda, which has two strands – early warning and action and conflict management. That means peace enforcement, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction and development.
The union’s early warning and action track record has been poor, despite prevention being at the heart of the AU founders’ work. The AU’s main challenge remains pushing its disparate members to pursue peace, consolidate democracy and abide by constitutionalism. Its early years’ efforts to create continental norms, promote transparency and a respect for process were promising, but the principle task of democratisation “remains unfinished business”, as a former AU Commissioner recently put it to Crisis Group – a fact that leaves the continent more vulnerable to all manner of insecurity..........................