Tough questions in wake of contest

The chairpersonship of the African Union (AU) Commission has been contested before without fanfare, so why such a hullabaloo now?

The answer lies between the lines of what happened in Africa last year, especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. An increasing number of countries are beginning to ask four key questions about the AU, particularly its Commission:

  • How relevant and effective is the Commission as the engine room of the AU?
  • How should the Commission account to AU member states, especially at moments of crisis when Africa’s interests are at stake?
  • How should Africa respond to the regime-change agenda of some external, non-African actors, including the increasing abuse of the principle of ‘responsibility to protect” in the international peace and security architecture?
  • How do we get Africa to focus on its priorities and challenges, not on what is externally determined?

Many speakers at the Addis Ababa summit expressed concern about the increasing incidents of ‘foreign interference” in Africa. The question is how the Commission has represented the AU in responding to this changing geopolitical reality.

The countries that wanted change at the helm of the Commission are clearly not happy with how it has played its role in this regard.

The outcome of this electoral contest is definitely set to transform the AU. Some aspects of the AU’s jurisprudence are likely to change as the committee established by the summit revisits the AU rules of procedure relating to the functioning and election of the Commission, among others.

Performance and accountability for Commission members is likely to come up, as well as how member states ensure that those they elect live up to their expectations.

How we strengthen the Commission and the entire AU is another important question. And how we relate to the external world as a continent will continue to dominate our debates, with a view to achieving our goal of a truly independent Africa.

This electoral contest has awakened a continent which nearly lost itself in the divisive debate regarding the ‘United States of Africa”. We are now more united on the big question: Africa, what now and beyond to claim the 21st century?


Eddy Maloka is special adviser to the minister of international relations and co-operation, but writes this in his personal capacity

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