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Stability, security, alternative sources of financing, the AU and Post MDG debate are high up in the Agenda but are the few

Kalkidan Yibeltal

The 24th Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and Government opened this morning at the African Union Commission (AUC) Head Quarters here in Addis Abeba.

By the looks of things, however, this is no ordinary meeting. When Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha said a few days ago that the summit will be held at “turning point”, he meant a lot. The AU is presenting its Agenda 2063, a decade long plan to ensure an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa. This also links to the much wider debate in the development community on the next sustainable development goals (SDGs) which will be agreed upon in September this year. But there are a few agendas that make this summit like no other.

The theme this year is “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063.” But there are other themes that clearly take the lion’s share of attention from the 30 something heads of state and government that gathered in the diplomatic city of Africa. Here are a few:

Stability: A year of high risk elections

Between 2015 and 2016, millions of Africans from 20 member states will go to the ballot box. Of the 20, 12 need the immediate attention of the continental body; these include the two most populous countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia, which are expected to hold elections in February and May 2015 respectively. As the threat from Boko Haram, embodying militant radicalism, is very much apparent in the Western part of the continent, security is the major topic discussed during the summit.

Opening of the AU summit
Other member states of the AU going to go to the polls this year include Burundi, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Lesotho, Sudan, Tanzania and Togo. Warnings from the International Crisis Group cautioned tensions within and among major political parties in these countries might incite violence.

Speaking at the opening of the summit Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the AUC said, “The large number of elections in the coming year is an opportunity to present our people and countries with a vision for a different tomorrow. We must continue to conduct our elections peacefully, freely and fairly, with respect for the will of the people.”

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had a clear message to the assembly. He expressed his concern about leaders who refuse to leave office when their terms end and urged all leaders to “listen to your people.” Civilized leaders, he says, “cannot afford to ignore the wishes of the people they represent. Undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes should never be used to cling to power,” he said.

Security: The challenge of Boko Haram

According to inside information obtained by Addis Standard, one of the topics the Heads of State and Government discuss at the summit was the possibility of deploying a Multinational Joint Task Force in order to coordinate an all-AU response to Boko Haram’s insurgency. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission have, on their part, expressed support to the establishment of a regional force. “Terrorism, in particular the brutality of Boko Haram against our people … and the contagion effect on the whole region, including Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon requires a response that is collective, effective and decisive to achieve the desired effect,” said Dr. Zuma.
Alternative sources of financing for the AU

A sticking point since Dr. Dlamini took office, the AU receives the vast majority of its operational funding (as much as 97% by some estimates) from outside sources. This was felt nowhere but in the manner by which the AU handled the Ebola crisis, which highlighted the inadequate funding of the African Union and the need to set levels of members’ contribution and enforce compliance. Finding ways to mobilize funds from within Africa, Domestic Resource Mobilization, keeps being highlighted as a critical success factor.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his high level panel on alternative sources of funding recommended, during the 50th Anniversary Summit, for the establishment of an African Union Foundation, which was on the agenda to be launched today.
The post 2015 debate

Africa is much better placed to take part in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) debate than it was 15 years ago, when the original Millennium Development Goals were agreed. The AU has already set the scene for productive post-2015 discussions, and has made it clear they should be aligned with the Common African Position (CAP). “We are in the final stretch to the target date of the MDG, which have achieved so much in this continent,” maintained Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. “At the same time, we will adopt a post 2015 development agenda, including a set of Sustainable Development Goals that will chart a path for the next generation of development.”
As usual, the lead theme, “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063,” it is pushed aside for women issues advocates and activists.

Cover Photo: Group picture of African heads of state and government

Photo: Mahlet Fasil/Addis Standard

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