As part of the Grand Debate on the Union Government, the Accra Summit in July 2007 took two important decisions, among others. Firstly the Assembly set up a Ministerial Committee of ten to look into the different aspects of a possible Union Government; and Secondly the Assembly requested an Audit of the African Union.
For this purpose, a High Level Panel of 13 Africans was appointed by the Chairperson of the African Union to conduct the Audit. Both the Committee and the Panel worked under severe time constraint. The Panel met four times between 10th September and 18th December 2007. The Audit Report was submitted to the President of the African Union President Kuofor of Ghana on 27th December after which copies were distributed to Heads of states and Governments. According to AU procedures, the Report was then put on the agenda of the Executive Council to meet on 29-30 January. The Council would then submit the Report with its recommendation/comments on the Report to the Assembly meeting on 31stJanuary and 1st February 2008.
After submission, the Audit Report (AR) became an instrument to be manipulated (opposed, delayed, supported etc) by different forces within the AU for their different agendas. The Panel had little or no say on the fate of the Report after its submission. The panel attended both the Executive Council as well as the Assembly Meetings. The chairperson of the Panel gave a lengthy briefing to the Foreign Ministers of the Executive Council. But the Council hardly discussed the AR on the grounds that they had no time to study it and, therefore, needed three months to study the report and then discuss it at an extraordinary meeting of the Council.
This recommendation to the Assembly of Heads States was discussed very briefly and, in its wisdom, the Assembly decided to refer the AR to a Committee of twelve Heads of States set up mainly to discuss the issue of the Union Government.
The Panel was rather disappointed at this outcome – its expectation was that the AR will be discussed seriously by both the Ministers and Heads of States and Governments and at least some of the recommendations for immediate implementations would be approved. However in the AU culture, being referred to a Committee, is not a positive message.
The Panel’s disappointment was deepened by two happenings
Firstly the AU Commission ( the Secretariat of the AU) issued an unexpected written reaction to the AR while the Report was still being distributed to Governments. It disagreed with some important aspects of the Panel’s analyses and recommendations. This document was disseminated to the Ambassadors and Foreign Ministers and thus encouraged a negative reaction to the AR. This was a reaction to the Panel’s overall finding with regard to the Commission that it is characterized by internal institutional incoherence and disarray, with a dysfunctional working and managerial culture at all levels. In fact 40% of almost 160 recommendations of the AR are on the AU Commission. They are designed to rationalize, strengthen and improve the Commission. Clearly any critique from the Panel however constructive was not taken kindly.
Secondly, an important recommendation of the Panel designed to avoid the kind of problems besetting the AU Commission at the cabinet level, was that the January Assembly should elect the next President and his/her Deputy only and that the Commissioners be appointed by the President in July on the bases of their qualifications. It seems that this important recommendation was not well received and the Commission as well as the Executive Council proceeded to put on the agenda of the Assembly the election of all Commissioners. The election took place and four of the Commissioners were re-elected as a result of intense lobbying at all levels. Was this a message that changes in the Commissioned are not welcomed?
The Audit Report
The AR is about 225 pages and contains 159 recommendations. I will not try to summarize or attempt to describe the Report. I will however highlight what the Report refers to as “accelerators”. And the suggested benchmarks. The Report suggests that if the accelerators are injected into the process of implementing the AR they will speed up and deepen the socio-economic and political transformation towards African Unity and eventual Union Government.
1. The accelerators are:
i. Free movement of people;
ii. Building inter regional and transcontinental infrastructures especially in the fields of transport, communications and energy;
iii. Promotion of African multinational private investment companies for financing integration projects including infrastructure, and;
iv. The early establishment of the financial institutions as provided for in the Constitutive Act.
“To assure progress, there is need for constant and regular monitoring. Accordingly, eight broad but measurable benchmarks have been proposed. It is on these that the project of African unity, integration and transformation will stand or fall over the long run. The benchmarks will, therefore, serve both as radars of hope and the barometers of progress towards a future Union Government and towards the United States of Africa”. The Benchmarks are. Institutional revamping so that the organs and institutions of the AU, particularly the Commission which has a central role, will accelerate the integration process, not only by prompting pro-pan-African policies, programmes and projects, but also in implementing them diligently and fully; Internalising the Values of Pan-Africanism by genuinely promoting pan-African consciousness through the values that are enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitutive Act; Engagement of the people by moving away from a unification and integration process that is driven from above by political leaders into one that is infused with energies from below and which is provided by the generality of the people – a kind of Public-Peoples-Partnership Paradigm; The free movement of the people.
The year 2010, which marks the golden jubilee of the independence of many of the countries of Africa, and the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Constitutive Act, will be the symbolic occasion to commemorate the dismantling of all the restrictions on the free movement of the African citizens on the continent; Rationalisation, strengthening and dynamising the RECs with a view to achieving synergy among the 8 AU recognised RECs and between them and AU Commission; Creation of the African Common Market and the establishment of the African Economic Community, through an effective harmonisation of the integration process throughout the continent using the instruments outlined in the Abuja Treaty; Acceleration of monetary and financial integration through the establishment of continental, financial and monetary institutions, and; The mobilisation of African entrepreneurs to become engaged in investing in transcontinental and inter-regional infrastructure and pan-African enterprises, by providing them with favourable and enabling environment, thus freeing Africa from the capital shortage illusion which cultivated a culture of dependence on foreign capital and foreign aid.
All the recommendations – 40 per cent of which are on the AU Commission – are intended to rationalise, strengthen and improve the functioning of all organs and institutions directly involved in the integration process in the continent. These recommendations, if approved and fully implemented, will enable the AU to provide a higher level of service and thus pave the way for the achievement of the political and economic integration in the shortest time possible. Many of the recommendations have far reaching implications both in the short and medium run. There are, however, recommendations that require the urgent attention and decision of the Assembly. They are identified in the Report. The Panel strongly believed that their adoption in a form of decision by the Assembly would contribute to releasing the potential of our continental organisation for a better service to the peoples of Africa, their governments and to the continent as a whole in its stand in the world community. But alas! So far no such decision has been taken by the Assembly!
As I have intimated earlier, I personally doubt if there are strong enough forces (representative of States) in the AU which are committed to support drastic changes in the AU – changes which are likely to speed up the process towards African Unity. Hence I believe that significant pressure for change must come from the African people and those CSOs which represent them and fight for them. Such pressure for the implementation of the AR recommendations can be exerted on national governments and through ECOSOC and PAP. More importantly the African people if mobilized on this issue, will become a significant force in exerting pressure for change. For the Audit itself is entitled “Audit of the African Union: Towards a People-Centered Political and Socio-Economic Integration and Transformation of Africa”.
I sincerely believe that these pressures – from the CSOs and the people - will help the small but committed force within the AU struggling to bring about change in the AU as a step towards African unity. Once again I urge all those who are committed Pan-Africanists and who are also interested in the process and movement towards African unity, to read this important document carefully – the whole Report. The Report is not perfect and there are several areas on which, in my personal view, the Report is weak or silent. Nevertheless, given the time constraint, the Report’s analyses, findings and extensive recommendations, makes it the best document available on the AU. Indeed some people believe that this is a historic document in that it did carry out a serious and objective audit of the AU.
*Abdalla Bujra is Executive Director DPMF Member of the Audit Panel.
**For the full audit report, please visit: "Towards a people- centered Political and Socio-economic Intergration and Transformation of Africa," in Fahamu’s AU Monitor at: www.pambazuka.org/aumonitor
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