AU summit: Review of outcomes on pressing peace and security issues

The recently concluded African Union (AU) summit, from 23 to 26 January 2015, which concluded with the adoption of Agenda 2063 – the continent’s blueprint for development – once again gave African leaders and international role players an opportunity to engage on pressing issues affecting the continent.

While the theme of the summit was ‘Women’s empowerment and development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063’, peace and security unsurprisingly dominated both the agenda and the high-level sideline meetings, with mixed results.

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) held its first summit-level meeting for 2015 on 29 January, where it took a decision on action against Boko Haram and deferred the tabling of a crucial report on South Sudan (See Addis Insight 9 February 2015: The PSC Summit: deferred promises and raised expectations).

Divisions undermine the International Contact Group on Libya

Libya has been a major concern for the AU due to the deteriorating security situation and deepening political divisions in the country. The second meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya (ICG-L) took place on the sidelines of the summit. The meeting, which was held at ministerial level, was co-chaired by AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui and Special Envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General to the AU Haile Menkerios.

Libya has been a major concern for the AU due to the deteriorating security situation and deepening political divisions in the country

Chergui noted that despite recent positive developments, including the start of the UN-led talks in Geneva, the situation in Libya remained ‘generally bleak’. Menkerios emphasised that without an inclusive process, the recent gains would remain fragile.

Regional and global rivalries – both ideological and strategic – continue to affect efforts to resolve the Libyan conflict. These divisions had a direct impact on the meeting, held behind closed doors in Addis Ababa. First the meeting was interrupted due to an objection from the internationally recognised Libyan government about who should be included in the ICG-L. Libya's Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Dairi then walked out of the meeting because he was against the invitation extended to Doha and Ankara – two governments which he accused of supporting terrorist groups in Libya. In addition, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was notably absent from the opening session and Egypt was represented at a lower level in the later sessions. The AU, however, stood its ground on the participation of Qatar and Turkey in order to ensure a cohesive international effort involving everyone with influence over the various Libyan actors.

The latest meeting was also divided over the idea of an international military intervention to resolve the Libyan crisis. Algeria is strongly opposed to the idea, while two unidentified countries are said to favour military intervention to prevent a regional crisis.

Africa to cover 25% of AU’s peace budget

One of the crucial issues discussed at the summit was the AU’s request for member states to increase their contributions, and the consideration of the report on alternative sources of funding for the AU. Although the report did not receive the required support of member states when considered at the ambassadorial level, consensus had been reached by the time the report reached the Assembly. The adoption of the report by heads of state was considered one of the successful outcomes of the summit, contrary to early expectations.

A proposal made by AU finance ministers, led by Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to increase member states’ contributions to the AU’s operational budget to 100%, its programme budget to 75% and its peacekeeping budget to 25%, was accepted. This is to be phased in within five years from 2016.

The finance ministers are giving countries an option to pay from their treasury or consider other proposed sources, such as a US$10 levy on tickets for international flights originating in Africa; a US$2 hospitality levy; or an SMS levy.

Applying the principle of fairness and solidarity, countries’ contributions to the AU budget have been reassessed

‘Applying the principle of fairness and solidarity’, countries’ contributions have been reassessed, and they have been grouped into three tiers: 60% of the budget is to be covered equally by countries with shares of gross domestic product (GDP) above 4% of the total of the continent; 25% of the budget equally covered by countries with shares of GDP between 1% and 4%; and 15% of the budget equally shared among countries with shares of GDP lower than 1%. Six countries (Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa) are in the first tier; the next 12 (Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo [DRC], Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia) are in the second tier; and the remaining 36 member states make up the third tier.

Disarming the FDLR

Efforts to disarm the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern DRC, which is believed to have between 1 500 and 2 000 soldiers, also attracted particular attention on the sidelines of the summit. Shortly after the start of the summit, the DRC government announced that it was launching a military campaign against the FDLR after the deadline for the group to disarm expired on 2 January. In a statement issued on 30 January, after a meeting held on the sidelines of the summit, the Southern African Development Community again expressed its concern about the failure of the FDLR to disarm voluntarily.

In its decisions, the Assembly reiterated the AU’s support for the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement on the DRC and the Region. It also emphasised the crucial importance of the initiative for the neutralisation of the FDLR and other armed groups in eastern DRC.

Dealing with Ebola

The threat of Ebola and the AU’s efforts to deal with the disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone was visible at the summit in Addis Ababa. Delegates to the summit were routinely checked as they entered the AU conference centre and warnings about Ebola were widely distributed.

The AU Assembly welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta late last year

The AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) has mobilised over 800 health workers so far, according to Social Affairs Commissioner Dr Mustapha Sidiki. Representatives of the three affected countries told the AU that the situation in their countries was encouraging and thanked the AU for its support. However, a lot still needs to be done to rid these countries of the disease and to mitigate the after-effects of the epidemic.

AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma pointed out that many lessons had been learnt from the Ebola epidemic. The AU, for example, decided to set up an African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015. UN Economic Commission for Africa executive secretary Carlos Lopez also called for the debt of Ebola-affected countries to be scrapped, to help them overcome the devastating socioeconomic effects of the disease. Currently these countries’ debt totals US$3 billion and earnings from exports are falling below the payments they have to make to service their debt.

ICC again under fire

One of the items that were proposed for inclusion, at the request of the East Africa block, as agenda items of the summit during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee was the implementation of previous AU decisions on Africa and international criminal justice. After reviewing the issue, the AU Assembly welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta late last year. It reiterated previous calls to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to withdraw the case against Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir and Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, and it called for follow-up on previous decisions concerning the revision of the Rome Statute to give immunity to heads of state and government.

Additionally, the AU also urged member states to sign the Malabo Protocol on the criminal jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights so that it could come into operation and try international crimes in Africa. The Malabo Protocol guarantees immunity from prosecution for current heads of state and government, as well as senior officials.  

In an apparent attempt to address the problem of funding the court, the Assembly called for the establishment of a special fund and the convening of a resource mobilisation conference to raise funds for this purpose. Speaking at the Summit, Kenyatta announced that his country was donating US$1 million to the African Court.

Zimbabwean chair to focus on Western Sahara

The Western Sahara conflict, one of the longest running issues on the continent, was also on the agenda of the summit and included in the report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to the Executive Council. The Commission expressed ‘grave concern’ over the continued ‘illegal occupation of the territories of Western Sahara’ and recommended that the AU organise some of its activities in the liberated territories of Western Sahara to show solidarity with the struggle for an independent Saharawi Republic.

The chair of the Council, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, also announced that Western Sahara would be one of the priorities of Zimbabwe’s AU presidency for 2015.

Ban said that the changing nature of security and conflict forced the UN to change peacekeeping principles

In his first speech as the new chairperson of the AU Assembly, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe stressed that ‘Africa’s failure to decolonise Western Sahara would be a negation [of the] African ideals and principles’ of the founding fathers of the continental organisation. Mugabe, who was applauded for the above statement, also called for the implementation of all relevant UN resolutions requiring that the Saharawi people hold a referendum on self-determination and emphasised that Africa would not be completely free ‘as long as our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara remain under Moroccan occupation’.

African contributions invaluable to UN Peace Support Operations Review

In his address at the opening of the AU Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN was reviewing its peace support operations. While urging AU member states to operationalise the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis, he emphasised that Africa’s contribution to this review was invaluable, as Africa formed the backbone of the UN’s peacekeeping capacity. During a press conference on the sidelines of the summit, Ban also said that the changing nature of security and conflict forced the UN to change peacekeeping principles. Responding to a question on doctrinal differences between the AU and the UN on when and how to deploy peacekeeping missions, Ban hinted at a shift in UN policy, saying, ‘Because of the changes of the situations these days, peacekeepers are now being deployed in difficult conditions … we have to deploy peacekeepers where there is no peace to keep.’

The 17-member UN Review Panel, chaired by Jose Ramos-Horta, will consider issues facing peace operations, including ‘the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peacebuilding challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians’. Ban said a report of the panel was expected later this year. The report of the PSC to the Assembly on its activities and the state of peace and security in Africa anticipated that the AU Commission and the PSC would facilitate a successful interaction with the UN Panel during its visit to Addis Ababa, which is scheduled for 9–13 February 2015. To this end, the report also envisaged that a common African position on the matter would be developed and adopted by the PSC to feed into the review.

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