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A critique: The state of Peace, Democracy and Good Governance in Africa

A critique: The state of Peace, Democracy and Good Governance in Africa}

Most inter-governmental organizations often have factors that militate against their agendas and the national interests of their member states. They advance “Reservation” to enable states to participate in treaties despite unacceptable provision(s) that may not conform to their domestic laws (due to political, cultural or social reasons). The AU is not an exception, the United Nations as well as the European Union suffer the same problem. The AU has some good attributes, but has been constrained since its inception. It aims to promote political and economic unity among its members, and the promotion of good governance and democracy within the union is enshrined in AU Constitutive Act. All African States are part of this organization except for Morocco, which recently pulled out of the Union because the union backs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s freedom, and the Central African Republic, which was suspended because of civil war.

AU Achievement in Continental Integration and Peace Development in Africa: In terms of peace and security issues across Africa, there have been considerable achievements from the AU, though with challenges. For example, its mission in Somalia which helped a lot in bringing relative peace to the areas the troops were deployed. Besides, the Union has shown that it has a voice when it comes to world issues. Under the leadership of the AU, African leaders agreed on Agenda 2063, a fifty-year roadmap towards a more peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa; and they approved the common African position on climate change, which ensures that Africa has a voice at international climate talks. Many people believe that Africa is better with such a Pan African organization like the AU. However, if the AU managed to lay down a common strategy for Africa economically, and help to strengthen the democracy in African states, it could help the development of Africa and become a huge global player in the future.

AU key objectives are to:

  • Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
  • Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance; and
  • Promote and protect human and people’s rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.

But the AU has often failed in achieving these objectives given its non-intervention during obvious signs of rigged elections in countries. The AU failed to promptly respond to the crises in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, including in Libya where French military opted to intervene. Perhaps AU intervention is impossible due to a general lack of military muscle.

Massive financial constraints limit AU scope of operation: As recent as 2014, the AU was $308 million as compared to the United Nations with an estimated budget of $5.2 billion. In the context of the challenges that the AU is supposed to address, this amount is wholly inadequate. Just like the United States and its contribution to the United Nations, AU member states are supposed to contribute to the AU. However, while countries such as South Africa and Nigeria pay more than their fair share, many struggles to meet their financial commitments. For example, during the recent Ebola crisis that engulfed Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in West Africa, the United Nations estimated that $600 million was necessary to contain the spread of Ebola. The AU was only able to contribute $1 million from its humanitarian fund.

AU Membership Challenge: Some inter-governmental organizations carefully consider a series of factors before inviting a party to join them. A typical example is the European Union (EU) where membership is by invitation only and countries must meet certain economic criteria. Countries like Turkey had tough times joining the union due to certain factors, which included the integration of a large, Muslim nation of 80 million people into the EU as it raised economic and cultural concern for France, Germany and Austria. Contrarily, in the AU, all African countries, except for Morocco, are members, have an equal vote and voice regardless of their political, economic or human rights background. This makes it difficult for the AU to execute a progressive mandate.

The AU Constitutive Act: It aims to foster democracy, peace and good governance in Africa, but the greatest challenge for African Leaders to match the lip-service they pay to the ideals of democracy with the formulation policies founded on democratic principles. So far, South Africa and Mozambique are among the few true African democracies. Mozambique is the only country where more people perceived government economic policies positively than negatively, and the democratic process continues to thrive on very shallow grounds. By April 2013, 17 out of the 41 signatory countries ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Yet there is no practical action by the AU addressing poor governance, unconstitutional change of government as well as mismanagement of electoral processes, human rights abuses and inadequate citizen participation.

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM): Being a major institution of the AU, APRM places a high premium on democracy and good political governance, which is its first thematic area. The three others being economic governance and management, corporate governance, and socio-economic development. The mandate of APRM is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic, and corporate governance values, codes, and standards. Its primary purpose is to encourage and build responsible leadership through a self-assessment process and constructive peer-dialogue, to foster the adoption of policies, standards, and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through sharing of experiences, and the reinforcement of successful and best practices, including deficiencies and assessing the capacity-building needs of participating countries. APRM lies at the heart of the AU drive for a broad vision of African rejuvenation and renewal that seeks to generate more goodwill from foreign trade partners and donors by proving good political and economic governance and accountability. The rules and regulations governing the process are loose. Later documents contradict earlier ones, without revoking or revising them. The wide-ranging flexibility afforded to countries in developing their national APRM structures — particularly their national governing council or national commission and local APRM secretariat — has spawned a variety of different institutional models. This permissive approach has mollified some nations apprehensive about the process, but it has also undermined the ability of the system to establish governance norms or bring about genuinely improved dialogue around governance reform.

Youth Role: Young vibrant Africans have a role to work in various governments to strengthen the African States in almost every aspect that improves governance and better serve the people. African countries need strong states, not overburdened states, dictatorship or bloated bureaucracy, but one that has power to act on behalf of the people in accordance with their wishes. A state that can intervene in a market economy on behalf of the weak.

By Emmanuel Macpherson– Researcher, Attorney and Human Rights Activist (Sierra Leone)

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