Sunday January 21 2018

30th AU Summit to discuss corruption

Harold Acemah

Harold Acemah  

By Harold Acemah

The 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union will convene this week at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The opening ceremony will be addressed, inter alia, by the UN Secretary General and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
The theme of the 30th AU Summit is: “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation.” It is an appropriate and timely theme which will embarrass and put Africa’s corrupt, greedy and autocratic leaders in the dock for embezzling public funds and plundering national resources of their respective countries with impunity.
I hope president Ian Khama of Botswana, one of the few principled, incorruptible and respected African leaders, will expose the tragedy and magnitude of the damage which his fellow presidents have done to the people of Africa. Thousands of Africans have been forced to flee and migrate to Europe as a result of corruption, misrule and misallocation of resources by ruling cliques.
It is amazing, mindboggling and regrettable that the future of the African Union, many African countries and millions of Africans is in the hands of a few dishonest, mediocre and myopic men who will assemble in Addis Ababa this week.
At a similar gathering of African leaders in 1986, a self-styled freedom fighter and revolutionary delivered a speech in which he posed and answered a burning question which continues to haunt Africans and cause ideological disorientation in Africa. The question the freedom fighter posed was: “What is Africa’s problem?”
The revolutionary answered correctly that Africa’s number one problem is leaders who overstay in power and who refuse to hand over power peacefully. The leader got a standing ovation. Well, time has come for him and African leaders to walk the talk and practise what he preached in 1986.
A 282-page book titled, What is Africa’s Problem published in 1992 has been gathering dust on my bookshelf for years until a Canadian friend borrowed it recently. After reading the book, my friend was stunned to learn that 30 years down the road, the author has made an about turn and is now saying that overstaying in power is good, especially for a man who bragged last year that he is not anybody’s servant and has all along been fighting for himself!
The 30th AU summit will be preceded by two preparatory meetings, the 35th ordinary session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee from January 22 to 23 and the 32nd ordinary session of the Executive Council from January 25 to 26 which is at ministerial level. The 30th Summit takes place from January 28 to 29 under the chairmanship of president Paul Kagame of Rwanda.
Two issues will feature prominently at the forthcoming summit. First, the implementation of reforms proposed by president Kagame last year; second, the adoption of a Common Free Trade Area and a Protocol of Free Movement of People to facilitate integration of Africa.
The chairperson of the AU Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat has already established a Reform Implementation Unit led by former foreign minister of Cameroon, Mr Pierre Mbonjo, to coordinate efforts to implement the reforms, many of which are long overdue.
With regard to the adoption of a protocol on free movement of people, negotiations took place on the matter during 2017 in Accra, Kigali and Mauritius which has led to the emergence of consensus on a phased application of the right to entry by 2023.
At the 30th AU Summit African presidents are expected to approve implementation of the rights to entry and residency using the Ecowas model. Unless the protocol is binding on all member states of the AU, it will serve no useful purpose.
So far only four countries have expressed support for a binding protocol on free movement, namely, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Rwanda. As one of only two countries which supported Kwame Nkrumah’s clarion call for a continental government for Africa in 1963, Uganda must immediately join this nucleus group around which the protocol will take shape.
Down with corruption! Down with dictators! Africa Oyee!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.