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NIAS Africa Weekly
IN FOCUS | Into the Sixth Decade of African Unity

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #13 & 14, Vol. 1, No. 13 &14
31 May 2022

Into the sixth decade of African Unity: Three questions
The AU continues to stay relevant in bringing forth common concerns of Africans on to the global platforms. However, the AU’s current functioning is not driven by the strong pan-Africanist sentiment that the movement had in the 1960s prior to and during the OAU’s establishment. 
Apoorva Sudhakar

On 25 May, Africans celebrated Africa Day commemorating the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 by 32 independent African countries. The day also marked the 20th anniversary of the African Union (AU) which evolved from and succeeded the OAU in 2002; today, the AU has 55 members. 

The AU outlined “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent” as the theme for 2022. The theme has been decided amidst increasing food insecurity and risk of malnourishment across the Horn of Africa, parts of the Sahel region and other countries in parts of central and southern parts of Africa. According to the Global Hunger Report released in January 2022, 16 of the 20 hunger hotspots across the world are in Africa. 

Marking Africa Day and outlining the importance of the theme, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Africa as a “home for hope” and said: “On this year’s Africa Day, the world must join together in solidarity with all Africans to strengthen food security, and put nutrition within reach of every person.”

What do the OAU and the AU stand for? 
The OAU charter envisioned unity among African countries, independence from colonial powers, political cooperation and economic prosperity. The Guardian quotes Ghana’s first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, from his speech in 1963: “We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common defence system with African high command to ensure the stability and security of Africa … We will be mocking the hopes of our people if we show the slightest hesitation or delay in tackling realistically this question of African unity.”

The above remained as the core values of the idea of African unity but the immediate goals of the OAU changed as Africa witnessed civil wars, genocides, regional conflicts and other instabilities in its post-colonial period. Human Rights Watch explains that these changes paved the way for the AU’s establishment, focussing on peace, security, good governance, and regional integration. The AU lays out its goals to promote unity and solidarity among African people, instil democratic values, accelerate socio-economic and political integration in Africa and so on. 

On 27 May, former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, said establishing the AU in 2022 marked the end of colonialism and apartheid oppression in Africa. Mbeki outlined the vision behind the AU as a drive to achieve integration and prosperity across Africa, championed by African citizens. 

OAU to AU: What are the achievements? 
As 2022 marks the beginning of six decades of the idea of African unity, whether the AU has achieved the above goals arises. Some significant achievements of the AU are:

First, an African economic zone. In 1963, Nkrumah had called for an African monetary zone and a central bank. The AU has been able to achieve a similar target and framed the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in 2018. The AfCFTA came into force in 2019 and trading started in 2021, with an aim to create a continental free market for Africa’s economic integration and development through the movement of goods, services and people. 

Second, the Agenda 2063 framework. To reignite the pan-African vision, the AU framed Agenda 2063 which “aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.” The framework was signed in 2013 to mark 50 years of the OAU, focussing on sustainable development and inclusive growth. 

Third, a mechanism to manage conflicts. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) plays an appreciable role in conflict prevention, management and resolution. The AU has previously been criticised for defending leaders suspected to be guilty of crimes against humanity and failing to hold leaders accountable for violating presidential terms. In such cases, the PSC has criticised the AU’s silence on unconstitutional changes in governments and human rights violations. 

OAU to AU: What are the failures? 
The AU has also borne its share of failures. 

First, the precedence of regional institutions within the AU. Today, regional groupings within the AU have larger precedence over the body’s functioning. For example, the East African Community, Southern African Development Cooperation, and Economic Community of West African States have significant roles in the respective regions and have an operational upper hand over the AU. For example, the ECOWAS has been proactive in disapproving the backsliding of democracy and is looking to enforce measures like two-term limits on presidential positions, while the AU has failed to address the issue. Therefore, the regional institutions appear to undertake the AU’s duties and there is an overlapping of responsibilities. 

Second, the divide among the members. The AU’s posturing on the global front betrays the sentiment within the continent. For example, the AU condemned the war in Ukraine, expressed disappointment over the world’s attitude towards African refugees and called for the safety of African students. However, in the vote to condemn Russian actions and to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, several African countries abstained or were absent from the vote.  The above implies that the AU has failed to frame a common ideology and a common political will among the members. 

Third, resistance to reform. In 2017, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame presented a report after he was asked to lead institutional reforms for the AU. The report highlighted that the AU had too many focus areas, limited managerial capacity because of its complicated structure, was financially dependent, and lacked coordination with the regional bodies. Few reforms to rectify the issues were implemented but reforms that would affect the power of heads of States failed to garner support. 

What next? 
To conclude, the AU continues to stay relevant in bringing forth common concerns of Africans on the global platforms - for example, the shortage of vaccines in the continent, the differential treatment of refugees and so on. However, the AU’s current functioning is not driven by the strong pan-Africanist sentiment that the movement had in the 1960s prior to and during the OAU’s establishment. Institutional reforms and the establishment of a common political outlook would help revive the same. 

18 April-31 April
By Apoorva Sudhakar, Mohamad Aseel Ummer and Anu Maria Joseph

President issues a decree to hold referendum on new Constitution 
On 25 May, president Kais Saeed issued a new decree to hold a referendum on 25 July on drafting a new constitution for Tunisia, a move that was overwhelmingly opposed by the opposition. Earlier in May, Saeed had appointed an advisory committee with law professor Sadok Beliad as the head along with academicians from various disciplines for the drafting a constitution for the “new republic.” The constitution of the committee was met with severe criticisms as political parties were not made parties to the body; this urged the opposition to announce that the ‘unilateral restructuring of the constitution’ will be collectively boycotted by all major political parties in the country. The UGTT labour union has announced to hold national strikes in the coming days in the public firms and state services. Many prominent academicians of the country who had been invited to be part of the advisory committee has rejected, prompting Beliad to the announce that the panel shall stay committed to the task of reconstituting the constitution for a new republic as envisioned by the president. On 27 May, major opposition leaders such as Rached Gannouchi, the chief of the Ennahda party were banned from traveling. (Tarek Amara, “Tunisian president decrees a referendum for new constitution,” Reuters, 25 May 2022; “Tunisian Judge issues travel ban against Ennahda Party leader,” Reuters, 27 May 2022)

TPLF to release prisoners on amnesty
On 20 May, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said 4,208 prisoners, including 401 women, would be released on amnesty. The prisoners’ centre’s coordinator said most prisoners had previously been captured outside Tigray “and others joined the fight in a forced conscription.” The coordinator said priority would be given to prisoners with illnesses, disabilities and women who delivered babies in detention. The development came after military commanders from the federal government and Tigray held talks. (“Ethiopia’s Tigray forces announce release of thousands of POWs,” Al Jazeera, 20 May 2022)

Rights body call for the release of media detainees
On 26 May, the state-appointed human rights commission demanded the release of 16 media persons and journalists who were arrested recently in the capital Addis Ababa and the Amhara region. The Abiy Ahmed administration has come under mounting criticism from rights groups and media watchdogs against the newly implemented media laws and is accused of meddling with media freedom and for the imposition of strict regulations. The commission head commented: “No claim about the alleged offence committed through media justifies violation of the newly adopted media law which clearly prohibits pre-trial detention of persons charged with committing an offence through the media." In response, the government informed that the government shall continue to take “irreversible legal measure” against individuals who attempt to create havoc and incite discord in society. (“Ethiopian rights body seeks release of 16 detained journalists,” Reuters, 26 May 2022)

Capital city flooded with armed forces to secure the Presidential Palace from anti-military protesters
On 26 May, Khartoum witnessed one of the largest anti-military demonstrations as protests against the military administration entered their eighth month. The protesters were reportedly met with large swathes of armed security officials, both police and central reserve forces which are under US sanctions for alleged human rights violations. The country is under immense internal pressure since the military takeover in October 2020 that overthrew the transitional civil-military government on the pretext of political infighting. UN-endorsed African Union peace talks have not yielded any results, and it is estimated that nearly 96 people have lost their lives during the various protests since the coup. International aid and financial assistance to the country has been stalled citing the various human rights violation by the military Junta under Abdul Fatah Al-Burhan, the commander in chief of the armed forces of the country and the self-appointed leader of Sudan. (“Security forces descend on capital as Sudanese protests enter the eighth month,” Reuters, 26 May 2022)

Sudan lifts emergency laws; several political prisoners freed
On 29 May, Abdel Fatah-Al Burhan issued a decree on lifting the emergency law imposed since the military takeover in October. The Transitional Sovereign Council commented that the decision was taken to achieve, "a fruitful and meaningful dialogue that achieves stability during the transitional period.” On 30 May, several political detainees were released; among the released, 24 were from the anti-military protests in Port of Sudan and 39 from the capital Khartoum. A large number of detainees continue to remain imprisoned. (“Sudan’s military lifts state of emergency,” Reuters, 29 May 2022)

Around 100 miners killed in clashes near the Libyan border
On 30 May, BBC reported the government's claim that nearly 100 people had been killed and 40 injured in clashes between informal gold miners in the Kouri Bougoudi district near the border with Libya. The exact dates and casualties are unclear; the defence minister said the violence began after a minor dispute between two people escalated. The minister further said the clashes were between miners from Libya and Mauritania and that calm had been restored after a military contingent was sent to the area. However, the head of Chad's National Human Rights Commission estimated the death toll as around 200 and said the troops sent to restore calm had fired upon the people. (“Clashes between Chad gold miners leave 100 dead,” BBC, 31 May 2022)

Workers have announced indefinite strike over the detention of opposition leaders 
On 25 May, the workers announced to observe nationwide strikes with minimal services indefinitely demanding the release of protesters arrested during anti-French protests. The federation of trade unions in the country has informed that this can indiscriminately affect both the private and public sectors of the country. The anti-French protest that had happened earlier in May was led by a loose coalition of civil society groups and opposition parties that came into the wake of the military takeover after the death of the former leader Idris Deby. The coalition is identified in the country as ‘Wakt Tama’, which is translated as ‘Time’s up.’ The protesters were demanding the boycott of French products and for the severance of the French ties that the current Junta maintains. (Barron’s, “Chad Trades Union call for opposition arrests,” AFP, 25 May 2021)

President’s allies call for the removal presidential term 
On 27 May, president Faustin-Archange Touadare’s allies proposed amendments in the constitution to remove the presidential tenure which will allow Touadare to continue in office. If voted in favour, the move will keep the controversial 65-year-old president in office indefinitely; this has prompted the opposition to call for resistance and protests. The current constitution allows a president to be elected twice, and Touadare who has been in power since 2016 is nearing the end of his tenure. His backers claim that the decision is proposed to ensure stability in the country, the tabled proposal will require majority approval in the legislation. The current administration Touadare has been accused of meddling with the Russian mercenary group, the Wagner group. (“Allies of Central African Republic president proposes removing of term limits,” Reuters, 27 May 2022)

Government ready to persecute former President Jammeh
On 24 May, Representatives of the Adamma Barrow government responded to a report submitted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the government will persecute former president Yahya Jammeh on charges of what the report calls the “myriad of crimes.” Jammeh came to power in 1977 through a military takeover and retained his position for nearly 3 decades until 2017 after being defeated in the election. He governed the Gambia with a heavy hand. The report holds him responsible for various human rights violations, murders of political opponents and forced disappearance. He is currently residing in Equatorial Guinea, and according to news sources, the Gambia does not hold any extradition treaties with Equatorial Guinea. (Pap Saine, “Gambian government says it will prosecute exiled ex-president Jammeh,” Reuters, 25 May 2022)

21 confirmed cases of monkeypox: Nigeria CDC
On 30 May, Al Jazeera reported that the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said that 21 confirmed cases of monkeypox with one death had been reported in the country in 2022. On 29 May, a statement released by NCDC said: "Among the 21 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus, nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence).” The statement said that the confirmed cases were reported in nine states, including the capital Abuja. Six cases were confirmed in May alone. Though monkeypox is endemic in African countries namely Nigeria, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the recent reports of more than 200 suspected and confirmed cases in over 19 countries has sparked global concern. ("Nigeria CDC confirms 21 cases of monkeypox in 2022," Al Jazeera, 30 May 2022)

Health minister fired after eleven babies die in hospital fire
On 27 May, BBC reported that health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr had been fired after eleven newborn infants were killed in a fire at a hospital in Tivaouane city. The city mayor said a short circuit led to the fire. The news report quoted AFP which referred to local media reports saying the hospital was newly-inaugurated. Meanwhile, president Macky Sall declared a three-day mourning period in the country. The incident comes a year after four infants were killed in a hospital fire in 2021 in Linguere town, due to an electric fault. (Nicolas Négoce, “Senegal hospital fire: Eleven new-born babies die in Tivaouane,” BBC, 27 May 2022)

11 soldiers killed in attack on army base
On 19 May, the armed forces communications unit said 11 soldiers were killed and 20 injured in an attack on a base in Madjoari in the east. The unit’s statement said shrapnel and projectiles were used in the attack; further, the statement said 15 militants attempting to escape were killed by the military air support and called on all units to be combat-ready to tackle enemies. (Lalla Sy, “Burkina Faso loses 11 soldiers in army base attack,” BBC, 20 May 2022)

Nearly 50 civilians killed in eastern Burkina Faso
On 26 May, an attack carried out by unidentified assailants against the people of Midjourie commune of the eastern region of Burkina Faso left nearly 50 civilians dead. The victims were travellers to nearby Pama bordering Benin and Togo. Burkina Faso is severely affected by the intensified militancy and the Sahel region is witnessing a significant spillover of attacks of similar nature in Togo and coastal countries like Benin. Burkina Faso is currently under military administration that had overthrown the former civilian leadership of the country citing its failure to curb the increased instability and secure peace. (“Armed assailants kill nearly 50 people in eastern Burkina Faso,” Reuters, 26 May 2022)
Monkeypox outbreak during COVID-19 were contained in Africa, says CDC
On 18 May, the acting director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Ahmed Ogwell Ouma said Africa had contained numerous outbreaks of monkeypox during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ouma’s remarks come as European countries and the US are reporting cases of the same and he termed the development concerning. Monkeypox cases are mostly recorded in western Africa and rarely spread to rest of the world; Ouma suggested that sharing knowledge would be useful to trace the source of the current outbreak. (“Africa contained monkeypox outbreaks during Covid-19 - Africa CDC,” Al Jazeera, 19 May 2022)

UN condemns attack by M23 on its troops; intense fighting with M23 causes massive displacement
On 23 May, the UN condemned attacks on its peacekeepers by M23 and called for ceasing hostilities. On 22 May, violence erupted in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory; the M23 spokesperson accused the UN mission of shelling their position and also accused the UN mission of assisting other militias. On 27 May, the UN said heavy fighting between the army and the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo had resulted in the displacement of around 72000 people; nearly 7000 fled to Uganda while the rest sought refuge in neighbouring city Goma. On May 28, the government summoned Rwanda's ambassador, and suspended flight from Rwanda, accusing Kigali of supporting the M23. Rwanda denied the allegations. On 29 May, Senegal’s president and chair of the African Union Macky Sall called for a dialogue between Congo and Rwanda to address the tensions. (Samba Cyuzuzo, “UN condemns M23 attacks on its forces in DR Congo,” BBC, 23 May 2022; “Resurgent east Congo violence displaces 72,000 in one weekReuters, 27 May 2022; “Congo suspends flights from Rwanda over Kigali's alleged support for rebels,” Reuters, 28 May 2022; “African Union chair calls for dialogue over rising Congo-Rwanda tensions,” Reuters, 29 May 2022)

Kenya: 70 elephants killed in one year in drought 
On 19 May, the tourism minister told BBC that the ongoing drought in East Africa had claimed 70 elephants’ lives in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. The minister said giraffes have also died in the drought and said the government is planning to create water pans using an old dam to prevent animal deaths. (Joice Etutu, “Drought killed 70 Kenyan elephants in one year,” BBC, 19 May 2022)

Somalia: President welcomes redeployment of US troops
On 18 May, BBC reported president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the US’ redeployment of troops in Somalia. The official Twitter account of Mohamud tweeted that the US had always been a reliable partner in Somalia’s “quest to stability and fight against terrorism.” The development comes after the Joe Biden administration approved the deployment of 600 US troops in Somalia on 16 May to participate in operations targeting al Shabaab. (“Somalia’s new president welcomes US redeployment,” BBC, 18 May 2022)

Legal challenges have not affected asylum plans, says UK; Rwanda expects migrants by end of May
On 19 May, Rwanda’s deputy government spokesperson said the first batch of migrants to be relocated from the UK is scheduled to arrive by the end of May. However, the spokesperson said only the British government knows how many migrants will be relocated and when. Meanwhile, the UK Home Office spokesperson said: “The first flights are expected to take place in the coming months, legal action has not yet had any impact on this.” (“Rwanda to get first batch of asylum seekers from UK this May,” Al Jazeera, 20 May 2022; “Rwanda asylum plan 'not delayed by legal challenges',” BBC, 20 May 2022)

US to provide emergency assistance of USD 215 million to Africa for food security
On 19 May, BBC reported that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had announced that the US would provide USD 215 million in emergency aid to ten African countries to tackle food insecurity. The beneficiary countries are Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mauritania. Blinken announced the aid when he met several African foreign ministers in New York during a global food security meet. (Emmanuel Iguanza, “US injects $215m into Africa food security,” BBC, 19 May 2022)

Journalists’ association condemns using Black people’s images to cover monkeypox in UK and US
On 21 May, the Foreign Press Association, Africa (FPAA) criticised media outlets for using Black people's images to report monkeypox cases in the US and UK. The FPAA said: “We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to other races.” The FPAA termed the action insensitive and called for the updating of their image policy. The FPAA said while the world is tackling racism and racial stereotypes, media should assist in propagating positive images and narratives. (“African journalists condemn media outlets for using images of Black people in coverage of US, UK monkeypox,” Business Insider US, 22 May 2022)

Germany’s chancellor visits Senegal, Niger and South Africa
On 22 May, Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz commenced his three-day Africa tour in Senegal; Scholz said Germany would try restarting the export of grains from Ukraine to Africa. Scholz emphasised the importance of the steady transfer of fertilisers and energy and suggested Germany’s interest in helping Senegal build a gas field off Africa’s west coast. Senegal’s President Macky Sall said they are “interested in supplying gas to the European market.” On 24 May, BBC reported Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum’s appreciation of the military cooperation with Germany after he met with Scholz in the capital Niamey on 23 May. Bazoum welcomed Germany’s decision to train Niger’s special forces tackling Islamist militants. On 24 May, Scholz ended his three-nation tour by meeting South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. Daily Maverick reported that Scholz and Ramaphosa discussed opposing views on the Ukraine war. Ramaphosa maintained that the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on Russia were impacting “bystanders” to the conflict. (“Olaf Scholz: Germany will work to restart Ukrainian grain exports to Africa,” Deutsche Welle, 22 May 2022; “Niger hails military ties with Germany on Scholz tour,” BBC, 24 May 2022; Peter Fabricius, “Ramaphosa and German Chancellor Scholz sharply disagree on Ukraine,” Daily Maverick, 24 May 2022)

US firms warned against conducting business in Sudan
On 23 May, the US Department of State, Treasury and Labor warned American businesses and individuals against conducting business with State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and military-controlled companies. The press release outlined a growing reputational risk and expressed concerns over human rights issues in Sudan. The concerns were attributed to the “recent actions undertaken by Sudan’s Sovereign Council and security forces under the military’s command.” The Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said: “These risks arise from, among other things, recent actions undertaken by Sudan’s Sovereign Council and security forces under the military’s command, including and especially serious human rights abuse against protesters.” (“U.S. Government Issues a Business Advisory for Sudan,” US Department of State, 23 May 2022; “US warns American firms against business in Sudan,” BBC, 24 May 2022)

UNSC extends sanctions on South Sudan; Foreign Ministry calls decision unproductive
On 26 May, the UN Security Council implemented a one-year extension on the sanctions regime on South Sudan. The sanctions include a travel ban, arms embargo, financial restrictions and freezing of assets of designated individuals. On 27 May, the South Sudan Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry's press release said the African Union had termed sanctions and arms embargo unproductive in February. The East African quoted from the statement which said the dismissal of the AU’s stance “shows an old hubris with no value for a world shaken by wars, including Africa and Europe.” (“Security Council Extends Sanctions on South Sudan, Adopting Resolution 2633 (2022) by 10 Votes in Favour, with 5 Abstentions,”  United Nations, 26 May 2022; “South Sudan slams UN over renewed arms embargo, sanctions,” The East African, 28 May 2022)

About the authors
Apoorva Sudhakar is a Project Associate at the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Mohamad Aseel Ummer is a postgraduate scholar in International Relations and Political Science at the Central University of Kerala. Anu Maria Joseph is a postgraduate scholar at the Department of Political Science in Madras Christian College, Chennai.

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