Cameroon-led May meetings spotlight crucial continental themes

Outcomes of the country’s role as PSC chair set the tone for discussions at the upcoming Malabo summit.

PSC Report spoke to His Excellency Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Cameroon’s Permanent Representative to the African Union and PSC chairperson for May 2022.

Cameroon is chairing the Peace and Security Council (PSC) for the seventh time. What is different now, and what are the priorities?

The choice of issues for discussion is determined jointly by the PSC Secretariat, the African Union (AU) Commission’s Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and the chair of the month.

The 10 substantive meetings for May were informed by Cameroon’s foreign policy objectives and national interests, against the context of the month’s priorities. Our objectives of promoting international solidarity through humanitarian actions dictated the theme of the 4 May 2022 meeting.

The PSC has been a platform for Cameroon to express this objective, as seen in the meetings of 17 August and 24 August 2021. These discussed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) humanitarian activities in Africa and the implementation of the African Humanitarian Agency.

Fighting terrorism in Cameroon and Central Africa determined the theme of the 6 May meeting on transnational organised crime. It also decided the topics for 18 May – arms control – and 31 May on the Lake Chad Basin (LCB), where Cameroon has been active militarily and politically. Nation-building and commemoration of 50 years of Cameroon’s National Unity Day on 20 May 2022 determined the theme ‘Living together in peace’ for 17 May 2022 and civil-military relations for 18 May.

Humanitarian actions, unconstitutional changes of government and terrorism will be tabled in Malabo

Cameroon’s Pan-African vision of collective security through the African Standby Force, of which the Douala-based AU Continental Logistics Base is a pillar, determined the theme for 19 May on the initiation of this structure. This vision motivated the open session on food security, the AU’s theme for 2022.

As alluded to above, May 2022 marks special commemorations, which also include the 30th anniversaries of ICRC-AU cooperation and the United Nations Consultative Committee on Security in Central Africa. Also celebrated are the 20th anniversary of the AU and the 59th anniversary of Africa Day.

Finally, Cameroon’s chairship is set against the extraordinary summit in Malabo on 27 and 28 May, devoted to humanitarian actions, pledging, unconstitutional changes of government and terrorism. Almost all the meetings for the month are related to these themes.

What outcomes do you expect from the Malabo summit?

As a PSC member from the Central Africa region and the vice-president of the AU Sub-committee on Humanitarian Affairs, Cameroon has a double responsibility to ensure the summit's success in its sister-nation. Previously, the AU Commission and the PSC organised several Pan-African conferences and high-level meetings to aggregate their interests in line with the chosen themes.

There was the ninth Humanitarian Symposium in Nairobi of November 2021 and the Accra Conference on Unconstitutional Change of Government of March 2022. The Lomé Conference on Political Transitions and the Fight against Terrorism in the Sahel and the Yaoundé Conference on the Humanitarian Situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) followed in April 2022. The meeting conclusions, which will be presented at the Malabo conference, encapsulate the aspirations, positions and expectations of the AU and the continent’s citizens.

AU and Africa will assess their capability to harness finance for humanitarian work on the continent

Cameroon will definitely play an important role in preparations for Malabo, as it will examine these conclusions and the chairperson’s reports to be presented. More importantly, Cameroon’s President  Paul Biya is expected to address the Assembly as chairperson of the PSC at the level of heads of state and as a leader of a country affected by humanitarian crises and terrorism.

The summit will also be a platform to discuss African Governance  Architecture (AGA) issues such as unconstitutional changes of government. African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) matters such as humanitarian actions and terrorism, will also be tabled.

Finally, it will be an opportunity for the AU and Africa to assess their capability and commitment to harnessing financial resources to address the continent’s humanitarian crises. In Malabo, Africa’s need for more than US$14 billion against available funds of US$991.7 million will be examined, and pledges will be made to fill the gap of US$13 billion. 

The Horn of Africa and LCB are on the PSC’S agenda for May. What are the major issues?

The council expects a briefing on the Horn of Africa by the AU regional high representative and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo on developments and AU mediation efforts in flashpoints. It will also hear about the humanitarian situation, at a time when drought and conflicts have created a complex emergency, with an increasing number of people facing forced displacement. Finally, the session might bring perspectives from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) secretariat and member states.

The LCB briefing will focus on the military and political fight against Boko Haram terrorism. The Multinational Joint Task Force commander will deliver a briefing, which is significant to Cameroon as a troop-contributing country. The LCB secretary-general will discuss the implementation of the AU’s Regional Stabilisation Strategy and cooperation with partners such as the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme. Cameroon will present outcomes from the LCB Governor’s Forum in Yaoundé, which it hosted on 4 October 2021.

Meetings on thematic issues are becoming a trend. What about ongoing country-specific situations in Africa?

As indicated, the monthly programme is a joint decision. During its chairship of August 2021, Cameroon examined country-specific situations in its 3 August and 5 August meetings. These covered Chad, CAR, the Gambia, Libya, Lesotho and Somalia. Cameroon’s earlier chairships addressed specific conflicts, notably Darfur and Cote d’Ivoire (2006), Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros and Kenya (2008) and Egypt, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mali, Togo and Sudan/South Sudan (2013).

Through briefings on hotspots such as the Horn of Africa and the LCB, our 2022 chairship will also examine the security and humanitarian situations in some 10 countries in the regions. Whether programmed or not, we cannot avoid discussing emerging conflicts if they erupt during our chairship. For instance, on 4 May 2022, although it was not on Cameroon’s agenda, the PSC discussed Somalia following al-Shabaab’s attack on AU Transition Mission in Somalia forces the day before.

In Africa, challenges to living together include tribalism, marginalisation, fake news and hate speech

Cameroon’s predecessor, Burundi, examined five-country situations in its meeting of 14 April 2022. If Cameroon had continued these discussions, there would have been repetition and duplication. Themes do not preclude country-specific analysis because, during both open and closed sessions, PSC members share their experiences of the themes under review.

The PSC has an open session on ‘Living together in peace’. What will it entail?

The session will focus on diversity management and the promotion of a culture of peace through tolerance, non-violence, inclusion, unity and solidarity. The theme is also a peacebuilding strategy to promote nation-building through national unity, reconciliation, integration and dialogue among communities.

The issue gained international prominence as a peacebuilding concept when, on 8 December 2017, UN Resolution 72/130, co-sponsored by Algeria, designated 16 May as UN Living Together in Peace Day. Among other things, the day promotes ‘the desire to live together and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable harmony.’        

Internationally, it denotes respect for religious and cultural diversity, as identity-generated conflicts proliferate and Samuel P Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisations’ is gaining credence as a new world order. In Africa, with its countries’ artificial borders and identity conflicts, challenges to nation-building and living together include tribalism, marginalisation, exclusion, fake news, hate speech and inequitable distribution of national resources.

Living Together in Peace Day was adopted in December 2017 and the PSC devoted its meetings of 5 November 2019 and 27 May 2020 to the theme. Under Angola’s chairship, the council also highlighted the topic in the December 2019 ministerial meeting in Luanda on national reconciliation, restoration of peace and rebuilding of national cohesion. In 2020, Morocco hosted the UN Global Forum for Alliance of Civilizations, which also added value to the theme.

The theme is also of national interest to Cameroon and its National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (NCPBM), created on 23 January 2017, predates the UN initiative. On 11 April 2019, eight months before the first PSC meeting on the subject, the NCPBM held a one-day brainstorming conference in Yaoundé on living together.

Cameroon also organised a major national dialogue in October 2019, which addressed the issue. Finally, the 17 May PSC meeting on the theme will be staged against the backdrop of the 50th anniversary of its National Unity Day on 20 May 2022. This will be a fitting testament to its commitment to living together in peace.

Image: © Amb. Bankole Adeoye/Twitter

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