The African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has terminated the Director of the AU Legal Counsel and director of Legal Affairs just one year into his tenure.
According to an internal memo obtained by The Reporter, Guy Fleury-Ntwari has been ordered to “cease work and vacate his post effective immediately” following allegations that he did not meet the minimum qualifications for the role.
Sources familiar with the matter indicated that soon after Fleury-Ntwari’s appointment in August 2022, concerned officials raised red flags about his background. A petition launched by “prominent professionals” called on the Chairman to investigate, arguing Fleury-Ntwari fell short of the job requirements.
The vacancy published in April 2022 had stipulated candidates must possess masters of law degrees and 15 years of postgraduate experience, including eight years at a managerial level. Fleury-Ntwari, a Burundian, was said to lack an advanced legal qualification and the required experience. His appointment also surprised experts given he had no diplomatic experience contrasting with his predecessor, Egyptian diplomat Dr Namira Negm.
Titled “Request to Review the Appointment of Legal Counsel,” the petition was submitted to AUC Chairperson on September 9th, 2022 – just one month after Fleury’s appointment. Sources confirmed the petitioners included respected figures like Dire D. Tiladi, professor of International Law at the UN International Law Commission, Thato Ramoseme, head of legal counsel at the Central Bank of Lesotho, and Paulos Weldesellasie, secretary of the AU Administrative Tribunal.
In their filing, the petitioners declared they had conducted a preliminary investigation which found Fleury had allegedly submitted “falsified documentation” in order to satisfy the position’s requirements.
Responding to the allegations, Mahamat convened a tribunal to investigate the recruitment process. After examining evidence, the tribunal ordered that “the decision of the chairperson in appointing Guy Fleury Ntwari as Legal Counsel of the AUC, is unlawful, null, and void ab initio- it is reviewed and set aside,” reads the memo.
Mahamat stated that “I have, therefore, decided to give administrative effect to the judgment by ensuring the immediate end of your relationship with the commission,” stated the memo addressed to Fleury.
The screening for the post was conducted by Ernst & Young. While some faulted the firm for a lacking vetting process, analysts lay more blame on AUC Deputy Chairperson Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa.
Sources indicate Nsanzabaganwa, who oversees AU’s administrative matters, pushed to override standards and install Fleury.
As a former senior Rwandan official, some perceive Nsanzabaganwa as an ally of President Paul Kagame, who has taken a keen interest in expanding Rwanda’s influence within the AU, including pushing to relocate the body’s headquarters to Kigali.
By parachuting in Fleury without proper scrutiny, observers theorize Nsanzabaganwa hoped to gain a loyal ally in the legal counsel office to help smooth her path to someday assume the AUC’s top job.
However, this move has seemingly backfired on those plans.
An AU political analyst explained that the role holds immense responsibility, as the occupant “decides over all legal issues pertaining to AU, passes or drops legislations and agreements, decides over AU aid agreements, among others.”
Given the global spotlight and importance of the position, the source reiterated it is not one meant for an “ordinary person” but rather requires “the most proven merit.”
Meanwhile, confirmation from Burundi embassy officials in Addis Ababa validated the veracity of Faki’s termination memo to Fleury.
However, in their validation, the embassy representatives avoided stating whether the Burundian government planned any response to Mahmat’s decision to dismiss their citizen from the high-profile AU post.