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Reform reaches AU

Reform reaches AU

Though it has only been seven months since he assumed power, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) pace in reforming in the country – including foreign relations – has grabbed the attention of the nation with many applauding the change and some wary of it.

With moves that shook the overall political fabric to its core, Abiy made swift reforms pledging to put in place a more inclusive and democratic structure. The question, however, still remains as to how long he needs to restore the stability of the nation fully.

On the continental front, Abiy, for the first time since his coming to power, represented Ethiopia at the African Union summit where he met with leaders of several African countries at the union’s headquarters.

The 11th extraordinary session of the African Union Summit, which was concluded on November 18th, was held here in Addis Ababa. The summit’s agenda focused on the administrative and institutional reform of the AU with attendees agreeing on equal distribution of posts among all regions of the continent, adopting a number of key reforms which could potentially boost the efficiency of the organization.

The assembly decided that beginning 2021, the structure of the AU Commission will be trimmed down to eight members from the current 10. It will include a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and six Commissioners with the resolution to be implemented at the end of the current commission’s tenure in 2021.

The commissions were readjusted to address new key concerns while those with similar tasks were merged.

The two-day summit issued several resolutions most notably that of the composition of the six commissions: Agriculture and Rural Development; Trade, Mining, and Industry; Education, Innovation and Technology; Infrastructure and Energy; Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development; and Politics, Peace and Security.

The AU’s General Assembly opted to pick senior officials in the commission based on equality between the regions of the continent (north, west, central, east and south), and fair post distribution between men and women. Rotation will be based on the English alphabetical order of country names in each commission.

The Commission’s chairperson and deputy will be a male and a female from different regions. Commission leaders will be evenly distributed among men and women selected from the three other regions that are not those of the chairperson’s or deputy’s region. Furthermore, representatives from the regions of the chairperson and deputy cannot choose the six commissioners.

Similarly, funds of the union to be covered by member states contribution was tabled and later adopted by the Union’s Heads of State and Government as one of the high agenda which is said to be a key component of the reform.

The current chairperson of the AU, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, said on the opening day of the two-day session that the reform is not the last straw. "The reform is not an end in itself. What counts is how we use it to secure a prosperous and peaceful future for our continent. I, therefore, urge the Commission and the Member States to put these decisions into effect as quickly as we can.”

“The purpose of this extraordinary summit is to advance the institutional reform of our Union. Events on our continent and across the world continue to confirm the urgency and necessity of this project,” the Rwandan President said adding, these decisions were part of an overhaul that began in the previous round in 2017 which chose him as chairman.

Abiy on his version of reform

Speaking at the opening of the summit, PM Abiy on his part highlighted that the Union’s wide reforms were necessary not for the sake of initiating reforms, but because it is a must.

Drawing on the Pan-African vision, he asked leaders at the AU to stand together to survive changing global dynamics instead of acting solitarily, and emphasized that it is the leaders of African states that need to set the right expectations and pace.

Having noted the importance of togetherness through economic cooperation and integration, Abiy cited the ongoing reforms taking place in the country, particularly highlighting the opening-up of the political space, the release of prisoners, the lifting of bans on media and blocked websites, and most importantly the measures taken to crack down on corruption through a strengthened judicial system.

Furthermore, he also shared how the strengthening of relationships with Eritrea is contributing to stability in the Horn of Africa by shifting the war narrative to mutual cooperation.

Noting that African Union reforms require great work in a journey requiring a maximum effort; the PM concluded his address calling upon African leaders to work hard towards making the reforms come to fruition.

The Commission also created a senior committee composed of five African figures representing the five regions that will oversee the nominations for senior positions.

The chairperson and deputy will be elected in a secret ballot by the one third of AU members that are eligible to vote. The decision, which amended Article 38 of the AU Statute, stipulates that they must have a qualifying track record in government, parliament, civil society or the private sector.

The Supreme Committee will be in charge of evaluating the credentials of candidates to the eight positions assisted by an independent African firm.

The General Assembly, furthermore, assigned the AU to draft a plan to attract and retain African talents that are lured to work outside the continent.

The resolution places accountability and transparency as principle characteristics of leaders, who will be selected based on competence and qualifications.

The new look

The new portfolio of the commission includes: Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment; Economic Development, Trade and Industry and Mining; Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. The others are: Infrastructure and Energy; Political Affairs, Peace and Security and Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development.

The Peace and Security docket was merged with Political Affairs while Economic Development was merged with Trade and Industry.

The readjustment also takes into account continental priorities such as Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.

The Assembly decided that going forward; commissioners’ selection will be under the guise of parity, equitable representation and the like, with merit-based selection. Hence, the assembly as a result established a Panel of Eminent Africans which has the role of overseeing the pre-selection of candidatures of the senior leadership of the Commission.

According to the final resolution issued by the AU communication department, the panel will, among other things, conduct skills and competency assessment as well as shortlist candidates to generate a pool of qualified candidates for the various commission roles.

From sanction to total suspension

The summit also endorsed performance enhancement mechanisms such as sanctions for non-payment of contributions, termination of appointment of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC and performance evaluation of senior leadership.

On what sounds to be a strong decision, AUC Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said that the continent’s Heads of State and Government have also adopted a sequence of sanctions to impose on member states that are non-compliant to the 0.2 percent levy.

The sanction goes up to total suspension of member states from the African Union, Faki Mahamat indicated.

Briefing journalists on the closing day of the session, Faki Mahamat said that though Africa had “the sanction regime,” it was not effective so far.

Stating that the contributions of member states stand at 50 percent, Faki Mahamat asked “how we expected the commission to implement its annual program when you have contributions only amounting to 50 percent.”

According to the Chairperson, the total suspension forbids member countries from participating in the AU summit.

“The first responsibility of member states is to pay their contributions,” he said adding, “for relying on others have out lived its time.” Furthermore, he said that strengthening the sanction regime on non-compliant countries will ensure the sustainability and predictability of the financial contribution.

Peace Fund reborn

The African Union Peace Fund aimed at developing a mechanism to self-finance Africa’s peace and security activities, has been officially launched.

On the occasion, President Kagame explained more in details of the revitalized AU Peace Fund. Highlighting its beginning in 2015, within the framework of AU Assembly’s decision to enhance overall financial autonomy; he pointed out that the Assembly decided to finance 25 percent of the AU’s operational Peace and Security activities.

“In 2016, the AU assembly translated the 25 percent commitment into a decision to establish a USD 400 million Member State endowment. The revitalized Peace Fund is the instrument through which these funds will be managed,” Kagame told leaders of the pan-African group.

According to him, since 2017, member States have contributed USD 60 million to the Peace Fund. “We expect to arrive at the full endowment level in 2021,” Kagame added.

Chairperson Faki Mahamat said that in line with the framework of the reforms underway; an important step has been taken which can help the continent to be self-reliant in funding its own peace activities. He also said that the measure is very timely.

During the launching ceremony, it was said that the Fund will have a board of directors and a manager starting with a budget of USD 100 million.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ambassador Ismael Chergui, on his behalf said that the fund will be functional to conflict avoidance, peace support and post conflict reconstruction tasks.

With the role of the Board of Trustees being to ensure strategic coherence and enhanced governance, financial and administrative oversight of the Peace Fund; Faki Mahamat appointed the following Board of Trustees representing the five regions of the continent. Ethiopia was elected and is represented by Eleni Mekonnen. Eleni has worked in various senior advisory levels with the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The rest four members include: Zainab Ahmed (Nigeria), Kamel Morjane (Tunisia), Tito Mboweni (South Africa) and Anicet Dologuele (CAR).

Graduating NEPAD as African UNDP

The other important decision of the assembly was the endorsement to reform NEPAD. Accordingly, the reform will see the transformation of NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA). This transformation will bring NEPAD to a more advanced level that may be seen as AU’s version of UNDP.

The newly created AUDA is now tasked to coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration, strengthen capacity of African Union Member States and regional bodies as well as advancing knowledge-based advisory support.

The body's mandate includes undertaking the full range of resource mobilization, and serve as the continent's technical interface with all of Africa's development stakeholders and development partners.

South Africa was selected as the permanent host country to the new body.

 

By Yonas Abiye

Though it has only been seven months since he assumed power, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) pace in reforming in the country – including foreign relations – has grabbed the attention of the nation with many applauding the change and some wary of it.

With moves that shook the overall political fabric to its core, Abiy made swift reforms pledging to put in place a more inclusive and democratic structure. The question, however, still remains as to how long he needs to restore the stability of the nation fully.

On the continental front, Abiy, for the first time since his coming to power, represented Ethiopia at the African Union summit where he met with leaders of several African countries at the union’s headquarters.

The 11th extraordinary session of the African Union Summit, which was concluded on November 18th, was held here in Addis Ababa. The summit’s agenda focused on the administrative and institutional reform of the AU with attendees agreeing on equal distribution of posts among all regions of the continent, adopting a number of key reforms which could potentially boost the efficiency of the organization.

The assembly decided that beginning 2021, the structure of the AU Commission will be trimmed down to eight members from the current 10. It will include a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and six Commissioners with the resolution to be implemented at the end of the current commission’s tenure in 2021.

The commissions were readjusted to address new key concerns while those with similar tasks were merged.

The two-day summit issued several resolutions most notably that of the composition of the six commissions: Agriculture and Rural Development; Trade, Mining, and Industry; Education, Innovation and Technology; Infrastructure and Energy; Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development; and Politics, Peace and Security.

The AU’s General Assembly opted to pick senior officials in the commission based on equality between the regions of the continent (north, west, central, east and south), and fair post distribution between men and women. Rotation will be based on the English alphabetical order of country names in each commission.

The Commission’s chairperson and deputy will be a male and a female from different regions. Commission leaders will be evenly distributed among men and women selected from the three other regions that are not those of the chairperson’s or deputy’s region. Furthermore, representatives from the regions of the chairperson and deputy cannot choose the six commissioners.

Similarly, funds of the union to be covered by member states contribution was tabled and later adopted by the Union’s Heads of State and Government as one of the high agenda which is said to be a key component of the reform.

The current chairperson of the AU, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, said on the opening day of the two-day session that the reform is not the last straw. "The reform is not an end in itself. What counts is how we use it to secure a prosperous and peaceful future for our continent. I, therefore, urge the Commission and the Member States to put these decisions into effect as quickly as we can.”

“The purpose of this extraordinary summit is to advance the institutional reform of our Union. Events on our continent and across the world continue to confirm the urgency and necessity of this project,” the Rwandan President said adding, these decisions were part of an overhaul that began in the previous round in 2017 which chose him as chairman.

Abiy on his version of reform

Speaking at the opening of the summit, PM Abiy on his part highlighted that the Union’s wide reforms were necessary not for the sake of initiating reforms, but because it is a must.

Drawing on the Pan-African vision, he asked leaders at the AU to stand together to survive changing global dynamics instead of acting solitarily, and emphasized that it is the leaders of African states that need to set the right expectations and pace.

Having noted the importance of togetherness through economic cooperation and integration, Abiy cited the ongoing reforms taking place in the country, particularly highlighting the opening-up of the political space, the release of prisoners, the lifting of bans on media and blocked websites, and most importantly the measures taken to crack down on corruption through a strengthened judicial system.

Furthermore, he also shared how the strengthening of relationships with Eritrea is contributing to stability in the Horn of Africa by shifting the war narrative to mutual cooperation.

Noting that African Union reforms require great work in a journey requiring a maximum effort; the PM concluded his address calling upon African leaders to work hard towards making the reforms come to fruition.

The Commission also created a senior committee composed of five African figures representing the five regions that will oversee the nominations for senior positions.

The chairperson and deputy will be elected in a secret ballot by the one third of AU members that are eligible to vote. The decision, which amended Article 38 of the AU Statute, stipulates that they must have a qualifying track record in government, parliament, civil society or the private sector.

The Supreme Committee will be in charge of evaluating the credentials of candidates to the eight positions assisted by an independent African firm.

The General Assembly, furthermore, assigned the AU to draft a plan to attract and retain African talents that are lured to work outside the continent.

The resolution places accountability and transparency as principle characteristics of leaders, who will be selected based on competence and qualifications.

The new look

The new portfolio of the commission includes: Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment; Economic Development, Trade and Industry and Mining; Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. The others are: Infrastructure and Energy; Political Affairs, Peace and Security and Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development.

The Peace and Security docket was merged with Political Affairs while Economic Development was merged with Trade and Industry.

The readjustment also takes into account continental priorities such as Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.

The Assembly decided that going forward; commissioners’ selection will be under the guise of parity, equitable representation and the like, with merit-based selection. Hence, the assembly as a result established a Panel of Eminent Africans which has the role of overseeing the pre-selection of candidatures of the senior leadership of the Commission.

According to the final resolution issued by the AU communication department, the panel will, among other things, conduct skills and competency assessment as well as shortlist candidates to generate a pool of qualified candidates for the various commission roles.

From sanction to total suspension

The summit also endorsed performance enhancement mechanisms such as sanctions for non-payment of contributions, termination of appointment of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC and performance evaluation of senior leadership.

On what sounds to be a strong decision, AUC Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said that the continent’s Heads of State and Government have also adopted a sequence of sanctions to impose on member states that are non-compliant to the 0.2 percent levy.

The sanction goes up to total suspension of member states from the African Union, Faki Mahamat indicated.

Briefing journalists on the closing day of the session, Faki Mahamat said that though Africa had “the sanction regime,” it was not effective so far.

Stating that the contributions of member states stand at 50 percent, Faki Mahamat asked “how we expected the commission to implement its annual program when you have contributions only amounting to 50 percent.”

According to the Chairperson, the total suspension forbids member countries from participating in the AU summit.

“The first responsibility of member states is to pay their contributions,” he said adding, “for relying on others have out lived its time.” Furthermore, he said that strengthening the sanction regime on non-compliant countries will ensure the sustainability and predictability of the financial contribution.

Peace Fund reborn

The African Union Peace Fund aimed at developing a mechanism to self-finance Africa’s peace and security activities, has been officially launched.

On the occasion, President Kagame explained more in details of the revitalized AU Peace Fund. Highlighting its beginning in 2015, within the framework of AU Assembly’s decision to enhance overall financial autonomy; he pointed out that the Assembly decided to finance 25 percent of the AU’s operational Peace and Security activities.

“In 2016, the AU assembly translated the 25 percent commitment into a decision to establish a USD 400 million Member State endowment. The revitalized Peace Fund is the instrument through which these funds will be managed,” Kagame told leaders of the pan-African group.

According to him, since 2017, member States have contributed USD 60 million to the Peace Fund. “We expect to arrive at the full endowment level in 2021,” Kagame added.

Chairperson Faki Mahamat said that in line with the framework of the reforms underway; an important step has been taken which can help the continent to be self-reliant in funding its own peace activities. He also said that the measure is very timely.

During the launching ceremony, it was said that the Fund will have a board of directors and a manager starting with a budget of USD 100 million.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ambassador Ismael Chergui, on his behalf said that the fund will be functional to conflict avoidance, peace support and post conflict reconstruction tasks.

With the role of the Board of Trustees being to ensure strategic coherence and enhanced governance, financial and administrative oversight of the Peace Fund; Faki Mahamat appointed the following Board of Trustees representing the five regions of the continent. Ethiopia was elected and is represented by Eleni Mekonnen. Eleni has worked in various senior advisory levels with the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The rest four members include: Zainab Ahmed (Nigeria), Kamel Morjane (Tunisia), Tito Mboweni (South Africa) and Anicet Dologuele (CAR).

Graduating NEPAD as African UNDP

The other important decision of the assembly was the endorsement to reform NEPAD. Accordingly, the reform will see the transformation of NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA). This transformation will bring NEPAD to a more advanced level that may be seen as AU’s version of UNDP.

The newly created AUDA is now tasked to coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration, strengthen capacity of African Union Member States and regional bodies as well as advancing knowledge-based advisory support.

The body's mandate includes undertaking the full range of resource mobilization, and serve as the continent's technical interface with all of Africa's development stakeholders and development partners.

South Africa was selected as the permanent host country to the new body.