Egypt in Addis Ababa/Twitter

Egypt’s Ambassador reflects on ‘the miserable state of the state during transitions’ in Africa

Egypt rejoined the PSC in February, stepping into a gloomy peace and security picture for the continent and the globe.

PSC Report sought the views of His Excellency Mohamed Gad, Egypt’s Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union.

How would you assess peace and security on the continent?

We are concerned about the internal state of peace and security on the continent and the deteriorating global situation. When Egypt exited the Council at the end of March 2022, only two AU member states were suspended. Today six are suspended. It’s not only the numbers but the human cost. Eight million people have been displaced by the Sudan conflict. The human cost is equally obvious in crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. These realities are a reflection of the miserable state of the state during transitions and conflict in Africa.

One need look only at the standard of services provided by governments in countries witnessing conflict or transition, including security, healthcare, food security and access to basic commodities. In addition, states in the Sahel region are facing increasing counter-terrorism threats. For the first time in many years, all five regions of Africa are suffering the scourge of terrorism.

Egypt is perhaps the only African country whose neighbours are all in conflict. This is very worrying for us. Global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war have also diminished the strength and performance of African states. Food insecurity resulting from the war has increased food prices, with detrimental effects on AU member states. Israel’s war on Gaza has also had direct implications for Egypt as the only AU member state with land borders to another continent in a conflict zone.

Serving on the Peace and Security Council (PSC), what crises are you prioritising?

We have noticed an increasing trend in the Council towards discussing thematic issues at the expense of considering crises on our continent. The tabling of country situations should be prioritised, and appreciating that these crises ultimately involve thematic issues. Egypt will, therefore, focus on responses to the crises facing its neighbouring states namely Sudan, Libya and Somalia. Sudan is a more pressing case given its deterioration over the last two years.

The human cost of crises in Sudan and elsewhere reflects the miserable shape of the African state during transitions

The AU needs to engage the government of Sudan most urgently. From the time the events of October 2021 unfolded and until the eruption of conflict in April 2023, the AU had limited contact with Sudanese authorities. Had it intervened earlier and not suspended Sudan without following up on its transition, perhaps the status quo could have been avoided. The AU needs to act on its principles, but adopting and implementing texts without concerted follow-through holds consequences.

Since the conflict began, the PSC has been active and tried to increase its engagement on the Sudan file. The constitution of the AU High-level Panel on Sudan earlier this year was an important step that had been called for by the Council since June 2023. The AU needs to cater for different perspectives given that Sudan has close and established ties with countries in the region. Progress is being made and we were happy with the communique from the 1209th meeting (18 April 2024) expressing the AU’s desire to coordinate. Now we need an immediate ceasefire, and a strategy to protect Sudan’s state institutions.

Egypt will place on the PSC’s agenda humanitarian issues, food security and protection of state institutions as thematic issues. The ability to deliver subsidised food and establish law and order has dwindled and the withering of state institutions such as the ministries of health, defence and justice, unfortunately, prolongs and allows for relapse into conflict.

Apart from the need for country-case discussions, what are Egypt’s broader priorities?

We aim to enhance counter-terrorism responses to contribute to the good work Commissioner Bankole Adeoye has done in driving this initiative. In so doing, we will examine the nuanced differences between terrorism in Africa and that elsewhere.

Africa is the global epicentre of terrorism. Where in other parts attempts are made to instil terror ― a bomb in a market for example ― in Africa, violent extremist and terrorist groups seek to control territory. We need the correct architecture to deal with these groups. The Malabo summit in May 2022 was a good start, but not much implementation of outcomes has followed. The ministerial committee and the PSC sub-committee on terrorism should be set up with adequate resources and capacities.

Building bridges between continental and global counter-terrorism capacities and approaches is also important. Since Egypt currently co-chairs the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum with the European Union, it is in a prime position to help improve and coordinate responses.

Egypt will place the protection of state institutions on the PSC’s agenda

We will also pay closer attention to terrorism in Somalia. Post the drawdown and exit of the African Transitional Mission in Somalia, it is plausible that al Shabaab will increase its activity and a resurgence of maritime blockage will occur in the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal. Thus, we need to ensure the stability and territorial integrity of Somalia. We are concerned that rivalries in the Horn of Africa could have crucial impacts on this already fragile federal government. To impinge on that and rock its foundation further would be detrimental to all.

Returning to thematic discussions, Egypt recently inaugurated the Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) Centre in Cairo and together with the AU launched the PCRD strategy. Previous examples have not broken the continuous cycle of conflict despite this being one of the main objectives of PCRD.

As the PSC turns 20, what do you see as its biggest impact and challenge and how can it ensure future effectiveness?

Objectively, there are strong points and achievements but much is still to be desired. The Council has galvanised and developed tools to tackle the challenges of peace and security, for example the Silencing the Guns initiative. It has provided a space to discuss these initiatives and relay the common African position to the outside world. However, the Council’s working methods need to be reviewed.

Another challenge relates to the ownership of the PSC which needs to be examined in the coming review. The sitting PSC member states should examine to what extent they are drafting their documents and agendas; their outcomes and communiques. There has to be an honest discussion about the line between the role of the AU Commission and that of member states and, consequently, the extent to which the latter are driving the Council’s work.

Members have to acknowledge what is needed to succeed in achieving the AU’s collective will

Lastly, although African states are demanding the reform of the United Nations Security Council, they seem to be behind in the reform of their continental institution, including the PSC. Egypt would be happy to see a reform of the PSC, not only its working methods, but membership as well as a review of the PSC protocol.

Recent North African members of the PSC expressed concern about the region’s representation. How does Egypt view this?

Egypt has returned with a clean slate of support to represent the northern region. I salute the region for how well it has been represented and how it involves itself in security matters on the Council. There’s always consensus among North African member states, almost always having non-contested candidatures to the PSC. This shows the importance our countries place on the work of the PSC.

Egypt has been away from the Council for two years, and is wedded to the principle of equal rotation and representation, equitable representation being enshrined in the PSC Protocol. However, over time, injustice has occurred in the application of that principle.

Egypt, as with its fellow members in the region, is open to different approaches to revise PSC membership, including possible redistribution or increasing the number of seats. The PSC can also follow the example of the European Union or the Economic Community of West African States whose entire membership forms part of the Political and Security Committee and Mediation and Security Council respectively. Egypt is closely following the process and the decisions made at the last AU Summit that the Commission under the guidance of the Chair (Mauritania) undertakes consultations and provides recommendations regarding the issue.

The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) is undergoing seismic changes across all pillars. What should the reform and reconceptualisation of APSA look like?

This process will test the AU’s engagement on peace and security in the coming years. Currently, the architecture is not as strong as we would like it, in light of the challenges faced by the African Standby Force, for example. Member states have endowed the Peace Fund but we need to ensure sufficient and sustainable funds to contribute meaningfully to its objective. Mediation by the Panel of the Wise can also be strengthened and better used for conflict prevention.

The foremost issue in the implementation and reform of the architecture is to find a comfortable formula between sovereignty and collective security/action. The AU is an intergovernmental organisation, not yet supranational. While it’s imperative that it has frameworks and legal instruments to guide its decision-making, it’s equally important for these decisions and actions to translate on the ground and in communities.

This would require a fundamental rethink of the architecture and its application. Now that the AU has clocked up 20 years, member states will have to acknowledge what is needed to succeed in translating the collective will of its member states. Stronger commerce bonds, infrastructure and free movement of people and goods need to come naturally and not be decreed into existence.

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