‘A democratic Africa is imperative to bring about lasting peace’ – Bankole Adeoye

The PSC Report spoke to AU Political Affairs, Peace and Security Commissioner Bankole Adeoye and asked what has been the biggest achievement of the African Union Commission (AUC) Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department (PAPS) to date?

Much has been achieved in the nine months since we took office. Singling out one achievement would be a disservice to the work we do. Based on the visionary five-pillar, 100-day to first one-year Priority Action Plan, we have rejigged the African Union (AU) Election Observer Mission (AUEOM) to reflect gender and youth balance. We have set up the Advisory Panel on Governance and Elections.

We have also introduced a new dimension to our election monitoring missions. This focuses on mediation and preventive diplomacy for elections, with early warning signs of political violence or instability and potential disputed acceptance of electoral outcomes.

The scale of security and governance-related challenges on the continent remains an unavoidable reality

We have successfully established i-RECKE – a continental platform for AUC and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) to share knowledge and lessons learnt on early warning and conflict prevention.

Another achievement is the African platform on Children Affected by Armed Conflict (AP-CAAC). Working relations have improved between PAPS and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on prompt response to peace challenges in Africa. 

A PAPS knowledge management system has been created. There is regular interface with Special Representatives of the AUC Chairperson (SRCCs) and partners on situations in conflict zones. AU technical support has been prioritised to member states in political transition and post-conflict situations, especially regarding Island States and maritime security. The AU Centre on Post-conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) in Cairo was launched and the first PCRD awareness week commemorated.

How did implementation of the PAPS priority action plan progress during 2021?

The 100-day to first one-year Priority Action Plan, with which we assumed office, is very much on course. My team and I are executing the five-pillar action areas and significant progress has been made to deliver on the plan. The plan facilitates a coordinated approach in the implementation and delivery of the PAPS mandate.

Given the scope of the proposed one-year action plan, implementation will continue beyond the first year. However, implementation and prioritisation will continue, in order to reflect the emerging issues across the continent. On the one-year anniversary in March 2022, we will present a full account of our stewardship towards the realisation of a more peaceful, secure and democratic Africa.

What challenges have you faced as the first PAPS commissioner following the merger of the political affairs and peace and security departments?

As I have emphasised in the past, I see more opportunities than challenges. There is an opportunity for an integrated approach and synergy, premised on implementing both the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) to build a peaceful, secure and more democratic Africa. The merger envisaged by our leaders, in the AU institutional reform context, emphasises the nexus between good governance, and conflict prevention, management and resolution for a more relevant AU.

Change is not easy. In institutional development, we have embraced a change management approach to promote greater interconnection and synergies between the two new PAPS directorates, i.e. Governance & Conflict Prevention and Conflict Management. Under the leadership of the AUC chairperson and deputy chairperson, the recruitment of senior technical staff has begun in earnest.

In 2022, we hope to see more traction on the new PAPS structure. Accordingly, we are poised to channel all efforts into surmounting hurdles posed by external and internal processes to combat the scourges of terrorism, undemocratic political changes, insurgency and violent extremism.

What are the major priorities for PAPS in 2022?

We will remain focused on the goal of silencing the guns for a conflict-free Africa. The primary objective is to build the integrated capacity of the AU system to counter the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in the five regions of the continent. Thus, we will collaborate with AU member states, organs and partners to address security in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, Libya, the Horn of Africa and Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.

In addition, PAPS will devote attention to:

  • Strengthening the AGA-APSA joint mandate
  • Greater support for good governance and human rights, particularly promoting the nexus between peace, security and development
  • Training and capacity building for PAPS staff in critical areas of peace support operations, data and analytics for peace
  • Setting up the AU network of Think-Tanks for Peace and WiseYouth as conflict prevention mechanisms
  • Promotion of Women, Peace and Security, and of youth and child protection
  • Matching early warning with early response and action
  • Heightening strategic support to AU member states in political transition and post-conflict situations
  • Piloting implementation of the AU Peace Fund and the African Consensus on Financing AU Peace Operations
  • Full implementation of the African Standby Force and joint naval training

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a resurgence of military coups and there are fears of more. How does the AU intend to deal with this problem?

The African democratic landscape is not all gloomy. We still have some positives, with a number of elections successfully held in 2021 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly, the democratic trajectory for the continent is increasingly inclusive and more participatory.

Yes, the resurgence of military coups in a few African countries is worrying. But one thing is clear – the AU continues to maintain its stance on zero tolerance for unconstitutional changes of government based on the Constitutive Act and Lomé Declaration. We are proud of the courage and political will being displayed by the AU PSC in its role as decision-making Organ in this regard.

There is an opportunity to integrate AGA and APSA to build a peaceful, secure and more democratic Africa

We are fully aware that democracy is a process, not an event and that a fully democratic Africa is possible and imperative to bring about lasting peace. Therefore, we will renew the goal of full manifestation of governance with best practices of knowledge gained and lessons learnt for consolidation of Africa’s democracy and political unity. To do so, we will leverage on the platforms of the African Peer Review Mechanism, youth, women, civil society organisations, academia, parliaments and professional groups.

The AU will also steadfastly and actively support democracy in its full manifestation through upholding the constitution and rule of law, strengthening the justice/legal system and ensuring the independence of member state electoral bodies. Continent-wide ratification and implementation of policy instruments, AU guiding principles and fundamental doctrines by member states will be crucial.

How will the AU upscale its responses to the political crises, conflicts, violent extremism and terrorism plaguing the continent?

A conflict-free Africa demands that the AU invests in its tools of preventive diplomacy, using a pragmatic approach to address new, emerging and existing threats. The pivotal roles of the PSC, Panel of the Wise and AUC Mediation and Dialogue Division cannot be downplayed.

Nor can collaboration with RECs and RMs such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Lake Chad Basin Commission etc. Through these, and the involvement of the AU chairperson and the AUC, we will constantly engage role-players to avoid situations degenerating into violent conflicts.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the work of the PAPS Commission and how will you address this in 2022?

You will recall that we assumed office when the world was grappling with the far-reaching impact of the pandemic. The new normal – e-working and hybrid working – have undoubtedly affected the operational activities of the department.

The redirection of funding to address the pandemic also affected the finances of the department. While this reassignment is understandable, the number and scale of peace, security and governance-related challenges on the continent remain an unavoidable reality. PAPS leadership will continue to closely collaborate with relevant departments, AU member states, partners and stakeholders to coordinate the department’s much-needed response, leveraging on the various institutional advantages.

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