Drama filled 37th African Union summit triggering question if it is an institution reforming or deforming

Drama filled 37th African Union summit triggering question if it is an institution reforming or deforming

Date | 24 February 2024

Tefesehet Hailu
Researcher, Amani Africa

Tsion Hagos
Program Director, Amani Africa

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

As the dust of the 37th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Assembly that ended on 19 February 2024 at the headquarters of the AU, in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa settles, questions abound about what the dramatic scenes witnessed during the summit highlight about the state of the Union.

This Assembly came at a critical moment when the leadership and collective action of the membership of the AU to address the plethora of political, socio-economic and security challenges facing Africa are in huge demand. The opening speech of the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, made this clear when he rightly asked, for example, ‘[h]ow should we stop watching terrorism ravage some of our countries without doing anything?’.

Regrettably, the summit did not fit the bill in terms of delving into and adopting meaningful policy action for addressing the pressing issues of this ‘heroic and glorious time’, as Faki dubbed it. However, it is not because, as one report erroneously put it, the summit ignored the ‘continent’s conflicts and political crises’. Indeed, from Faki’s clarion call for collective action through the various high-level meetings, these issues were not ignored.

“The summit did not fit the bill not because, as one report erroneously put it, it ignored ‘the continent’s conflicts and political crises.’”

A mini-summit was convened on the escalating conflict in Eastern DRC. The AU ad-hoc committee of five on South Sudan held a ministerial meeting. The Horn of Africa’s regional body the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Chairperson, Djibouti’s President, also initiated steps for the convening of an IGAD meeting on Somalia and Sudan, although this plan collapsed in the face of the drama that followed an incident involving Somalia’s President.

Apart from such high-level meetings on these conflict situations on the margins of the summit, the AU Assembly considered and deliberated on a report of the high-level committee on the situation in Libya. The summit also deliberated on all these and a range of other conflict situations as part of its consideration of the Report of the Peace and Security Council on its activities and the state of peace and security.

Rather than lack of attention, what this summit could be faulted for is the inability of the conveners and participants of the summit to marshal consensus and adopt concrete measures for at least mitigating, if not effectively managing, the escalating tensions, crises and conflicts. Considering the global policy process for reform of the multilateral system, particularly within the framework of the Summit of the Future which is of strategic interest for Africa, this summit was also a missed opportunity for outlining an African common position as we argued here.

“Rather than lack of attention, what this summit could be faulted for is the inability of the conveners and participants of the summit to marshal consensus and adopt concrete measures for at least mitigating, if not effectively managing, the escalating tensions, crises and conflicts.”

Apart from the solid work done around AU’s priorities and modalities for the activation of its permanent membership in the G20 and the timely engagement on the reform of the global financial architecture, it is not evident what the AU can show for in finishing the summit at dawn on 19 February rather than as initially planned on 18 February.

“It is not evident what the AU can show for in finishing the summit at dawn on 19 February rather than as initially planned on 18 February.”

Beyond failing to deliver on the pressing issues facing the continent, as some including delegations of member states observed, this year’s summit was also unlike earlier summits in other respects. It was filled with dramatic events that highlighted lack of decorum, dwindling regard for AU processes and a complete absence of amity between governments of some countries.

“It was filled with dramatic events that highlighted lack of decorum, dwindling regard for AU processes and a complete absence of amity between governments of some countries.”

During the opening session of the heads of state and government meeting, about a dozen people staged a protest on the conflict in Eastern DRC from the press and observer gallery of Mandela Hall. The incident, involving shouting of slogans and displaying banners and physical signs, briefly disrupted the proceedings.

Before the start of the main summit, a mini-summit bringing together key regional states was held on the escalating conflict in Eastern DRC. Rather than serving as a platform for bridging the divide between the two countries, the mini-summit became a site for trading of accusations between the two countries.

Nothing came out of the mini-summit. Even more worryingly, the bitter exchanges between the leaders of DRC and Rwanda might have hardened the positions of the two countries, hence worsening the situation further.

Another dramatic event involved the protocol dispute concerning the President of Somalia. Apart from the bitter exchanges that were on display both in the closed-closed segment of the summit and persisted during the summit, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia insinuated that Ethiopian authorities tried to sabotage his participation in the AU summit. Rather than the use of institutional and diplomatic channels of the AU and perhaps signifying a lack of confidence in such channels, the President convened a press conference on the incidents that almost overshadowed the coverage of other aspects of the summit. In opting for taking the matter to the wider public and litigating it in the court of public opinion, it is far from clear that, beyond galvanizing Somalia’s public opinion, President Mohamud’s approach has actually earned the sympathy and support of the wider AU membership.

In respect of both the escalating tension between DRC and Rwanda and that of Somalia and Ethiopia, what is problematic is not simply the resort to grandstanding and its deleterious consequences on the AU and its processes. Perhaps more damaging for the AU is the failure of the conveners and the wider AU membership to prevail over the representatives of these countries and provide leadership for helping establish appropriate channels and mechanisms, at the very least, for helping ease the escalating tensions.

It was not any less dramatic to observe the AU Commission Chairperson lamenting that the ‘rampant tendency to make decisions without real political will to apply them has grown to such an extent that it has become devastating to our individual and collective credibility,’ noting that 93% of the decisions adopted during the past three years have not been implemented. As a statement of one delegation delivered during the summit that we have seen rightly pointed out, this implementation deficit is also due to ‘the continued proliferation of decisions, emanating from the plethora of items on the Assembly’s agenda,’ contrary to the aim of the AU reform to focus on strategic priorities of continental scope by rationalizing the agenda of the summit, addressing the decision-to-implementation gap and streamlining the working methods.

All of these highlight that the AU’s standing and credibility are under tremendous strain. It is no surprise that there are increasing questions, in view of the foregoing dynamics, about whether the AU is an institution in deforming rather than reforming. Indeed, the deeper issues these incidents signify and the breakdown of trust between the AU Commission and member States and among States themselves, the critical intangible ingredient for the effective functioning of international public service institution like the AU, suggest that nothing short of the very soul of the AU is at stake.

There is no single actor to blame for this state of affairs of our Union. All those with direct role in agenda-setting and decision-making on the part of the AU Commission, organs and member states bear responsibility. It is incumbent on each of them to assume their respective responsibilities for restoring decorum and spirit of cooperation to avoid the risk of a complete collapse of the credibility and legitimacy of this institution as a locomotive of collective pan-African action. A corollary to this is also reversing the underlying crises of ideas and leadership that Faki aptly described in terms of ‘a real decline in the beautiful spirit of African solidarity and Pan-Africanism, the soul of our renaissance.’

“There is no single actor to blame for this state of affairs of our Union. All those with direct role in agenda-setting and decision-making on the part of the AU Commission, organs and member states bear responsibility.”

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

How Africa organizes itself will make or break AU’s G21 membership

As part of covering some of the major themes on the agenda of the AU summit, this Ideas Indaba presents analysis on preparations for and modalities of organizing AU’s participation in G21.

How Africa organizes itself will make or break AU’s G21 membership

Date | 2 February 2024

Faten Aggad
Member of the Namibia-Amani Africa High-Level Panel

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

The decision of the India G20 summit last September admitting the African Union (AU) as a permanent member has been hailed as a historic development both continentally and globally.

While it is not true that the benefit of AU membership to the global body is insignificant, there is merit to the view that the potential benefits of AU’s membership for Africa are significant. AU’s G21 membership can transform Africa’s position from being a passive receiver (object) into an active contributor (agent) of global financial and economic policy-making. This could be consequential particularly when such policy-making affects Africa’s social and economic interests directly or substantially.

Host of the G20 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging AU’s Chairperson Azali Assoumani

Needless to say, the mere fact of AU’s membership in the G21 will not be enough to harness the opportunities that membership in G21 presents for Africa. Seizing these opportunities depends mainly on AU’s effective participation and exertion of influence in shaping both agenda setting and negotiation of policies in the group.

A critical pre-requisite for such participation and influence is the establishment of politically legitimate, technically equipped and operationally dynamic institutional arrangement and processes. Now that it secured a seat at the table, it is time for the AU to properly address the question of such institutional arrangement and processes that facilitate the effective planning and active participation of the AU in the G21 processes.

While the discussion on how to go about AU’s membership in the G21 picked pace only few months after the India presidency summit in September, this discussion in the AU reveals both a clear recognition of the weight of the responsibility and commitment for crafting the institutional arrangement and processes necessary for AU’s meaningful use of its membership in the G21.

Thus, following the meeting of the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) on 8 December, a PRC Sub-Committee on the Working Group on Modalities and Participation of the AU in G20, headed by Emilia Ndinlao MKusa Namibia’s Permanent Representative to the AU, was tasked to work with Albert Muchanga, the AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals to develop options on how to organize AU’s role as member of the G21. For its part, the AU Commission constituted a high-level taskforce co-chaired by the Commission’s Director General and Muchanga. Following the meeting of the PRC Sub-committee Working Group on 12 January, a report outlining options on modalities and priorities on AU participation in the G21 and draft decisions for adoption by 37th AU summit to be held during 14-18 February 2024 have been prepared.

As commendable as this recognition and commitment of the AU as well as the work accomplished this far are, what matters the most is the choices that the AU makes on both the structures/entities that represent the AU, present and defend its policy position at the various levels of G21 negotiations and the internal processes for preparing, negotiating and adopting AU’s policy positions. Thus Muchanga rightly observed during the 12 January PRC meeting that ‘effective collaboration between the AUC and Member States is critical to facilitate coordination and ensure that Africa speaks with one voice.’ A major dilemma that the AU faces and the policy discussions thus far reveal is the balance that should be struck between political legitimacy and institutional and technical competency that are key for effectiveness of AU’s membership.

It is, therefore, important to ensure that the AU membership is supported by adequate, mandated preparatory processes and politically astute and technically robust representation in both the G20 Tracks (see Visual 1) as well as the thematic priorities of each G20 Presidency.

Visual 1: Overview of G21 tracks

More specifically, the following points provide recommended inputs for a possible roadmap currently being proposed for AU summit to ensure an effective engagement of Africa in the G21:

1.The AU representation at G20 summit: Unlike other regional representation at the G20 (i.e. the EU), the AU (Union Chair and Commission) does not have delegated authority to act on behalf of AU member states on most issues covered by a typical G21 agenda. Therefore, the working methods are key to define the scope of engagement while ensuring that the AU reaps maximum benefits from its G21 membership.

In formulating the working methods, member states will need to strike a balance between, on the one hand, the imperative of inclusivity through adequate consultations of AU Membership, and, on the other hand, speed considering the pace of G21 processes.

In this respect, the AU could consider adopting an approach whereby, based on the incoming G21 Presidency announced priorities, the AU Chair, supported by the AU Commission, presents its detailed engagement proposal for consideration by the AU decision making structures during the annual AU Summit. Such engagement mandate would be subject to debate and refinement after which it could be adopted as guidance to the AU Presidency in its engagement.

2.Coordination at Assembly level in between AU summits: the AU can consider and use two avenues for this. First, the experience thus far including best practice following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic shows the role that the Bureau of the AU Assembly could play for coordination in between AU summits. This has allowed a degree of continuity in the AU agenda and shall provide an excellent basis for the continent’s engagement in the G20 through close coordination between presidencies. The G20 should therefore be included in the coordination efforts of the Bureau and should be a standing item in their meetings. Second and as proposed in the conclusion of the 12 January PRC meeting is for the AU Executive Council to deal with G20 matters during its mid-year meeting on the basis of delegated authority from the AU Assembly.

3.Clarifying representation beyond the leaders’ summit: while the 2023 AU Summit Decision is clear about who represents the Union at G20 Summit, the G20 also meets at the level of Foreign Ministers. The upcoming AU summit needs to decide on AU’s participation at this level. This can be guided by the model of representation at the summit level and may as such assign the Chairperson of the Executive Council of the AU, assisted by the AU Commission, to represent the AU in the G20 Ministers of Foreign Affairs Meeting

It is worth noting that the heavy lifting of G20 meetings is done by the Sherpas, supported by the sous-Sherpas. During the 12 January meeting the PRC discussed the two options of designating the AU Sherpa to the G20: a) from the country Chairing the Union that year and the Sous-Sherpa from the AU Commission and b) from the AU Commission, preferably the Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals and the Sous-Sherpa from the country chairing the AU.

The proposal on the table is to have the Sherpa from the country chairing the AU and the Sous-Sherpa from the AU Commission. This has the advantage of balancing political legitimacy and institutional and technical responsibility. It also aligns representation where much of the heavy lifting is done with the summit decision on AU representation at G20 summit.

In order to address the issue of continuity at the level of the Sherpa, the AU may also wish to consider a consultation framework involving the Sherpa and the incoming Sherpa. The implication of this is that the incoming chairperson of the AU would designate the person who would serve as the incoming Sherpa.

Furthermore, the G20 Finance Track is led by the finance ministers and central bank governors. Unlike the EU, the AU does not have an African Central Bank. It is critical for the AU to tap into the role of Specialized and Technical Committees that have mandates relevant to the sectoral ministerial meetings of the G20. Here, as with the approach with respect to the Sherpa and Sous-Sherpa, important to have a balance between political representation and accountability and institutional and technical responsibility. In this respect, it is essential to draw on the role of both the relevant AU Commission department specifically the directorate responsible for finance and that of the association of African Central Bank Governors.

4.Consultation of the wider AU membership in the formulation of the AU common position on G20 matters: the effective representation of AU in the G20 depends on the support and buy in of the wider AU membership considering that neither the AU Chairperson nor the AU Commission have delegated sovereign authority. This is where the role of the Permanent Representatives Committee and its relevant sub-committee/s become crucial. At this level, the relevant sub-committee, namely that of Economic and Trade matters, can be assigned with the role of anchoring the G20 file at the level of the PRC.

Beyond this participatory consultation framework, the formulation of common position necessitates that there is deeper and more enhanced harmonization of economic, financial and trade policies of African states. It is thus critical that as part of the effort to enhance AU’s effective membership priority is given to speeding up the operationalisation of relevant AU bodies such as financial institutions that could facilitate this process of harmonization of policies.

5.Technical support: with its considerable number of annual meetings, the G21 process is time-consuming and technically demanding. While creating important opportunities, the G21 engagement will require significant investments from the AU system.  It is therefore important to put in place adequate support structure for the AU’s role in the G21. This could take the form of a hybrid technical team that is composed of a team of technical advisors from the member state chairing the Union, the Commission, the Bureau, AU specialised agencies (AUCDC, AMDC, AFREC, ARC, ACBF, etc), partner institutions (UNECA, AFRIXEMBANK, AfDB, etc.) and African specialists drawn from relevant think tanks. This standing technical unit could be hosted under the office of the Chairperson of the AU Commission or under AU AUDA and should be strictly financed from the AU Budget.

6.Ensure coordination between African G21 members – apart from South Africa, which is a permanent member of the G21, individual African member states are also invited to attend the G20 summit by the G20 presidency. This necessitates that there is close coordination between the AU Chairperson, South Africa and the other African states that get invited into the G20 summit. Such coordination is a prerequisite for ensuring that Africa speaks with one voice.

7.Clarify the financing source. The independence of the African agenda in the G21 is of paramount importance due to its direct implications on African countries’ economies and finances. The current global geopolitical context makes it even more critical. Therefore, as much as possible, the AU engagement in the G21 should be financed through the AU budget and sources mobilized from within the continent and pan-African institutions.

Now that Africa has a seat at table, we hope that the ideas in this brief complement the ongoing work in the AU to ensure that Africa uses its seat to shape the making of the menu as well.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

A landmark UN resolution on the financing of AU-Led Peace Support Operations (PSOs) faces uncertain reception in Addis Ababa

A landmark UN resolution on the financing of AU-Led Peace Support Operations (PSOs) faces uncertain reception in Addis Ababa 

Date | 22 December 2023

Tsion Hagos
Senior Researcher, Amani Africa

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

On Thursday 21 December 2023, the United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC) adopted the landmark resolution 2719 (2023) on the financing of African Union (AU) Peace Support Operations (PSOs).

While understandably much of the attention in New York has been on the long dragged and protracted negotiation over the Gaza resolution, the adoption of resolution 2719(2023) constitutes a major milestone in AU-UN partnership on peace and security.

Indeed, the resolution has been hailed as a major breakthrough by many members of the UNSC, seizing the new momentum that arose in 2023. The AU Commission Chairperson, who supported the proposed amendment by the US, welcomed ‘the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2719(2023)’ calling it ‘a historic development’ in his X platform.

Yet, there may not be as much enthusiastic reception from AU’s standing decision-making body, the Peace and Security Council (PSC).

The draft that was put in blue for voting by the UNSC was drafted by the African three elected members of the UNSC (A3), under the coordination of Ghana. However, the final version of the resolution adopted on Thursday included an amendment that was introduced by the US on burden sharing. While the A3 abstained from the proposed amendment by the US, the amendment capping access to UN assessed contribution to 75% garnered the number of positive votes required for its inclusion in the final draft. It was thus interesting that the final amended resolution received unanimous support, including from the A3 who initially did not vote affirmatively for the amendment.

As reported ahead of the adoption of the resolution, the negotiations leading up to 21 December were ‘long and apparently contentious.’ It was in November that the A3 shared the initial draft with other members of the UNSC. Following input from members of the UNSC, the A3 made significant changes to the initial draft.

The negotiation on the resolution started after the decision of PSC authorizing the A3 to restart the negotiation on the resolution in a 12 May 2023 communique. Not surprisingly, there was expectation that the A3 would keep the PSC in the loop during the course of the negotiation.

After the A3 initiated the draft and started engaging the other members of the UNSC, members of the PSC had the first opportunity to engage in the process only in early December. When the draft was shared and discussed on 7 December, members of the PSC indicated that they were not clear on how far they could go in commenting on and proposing amendments to the draft given that the document was circulated to other members of the UNSC for their input before the PSC engaged in the document.

The next time members of the PSC were engaged was during the Oran process of the high-level ministerial seminar on peace and security in Africa on 18 December 2023. A major aspect of the engagement was on the issue of burden sharing and the US proposal capping access to UN assessed contributions to 75% with the remaining balance to be mobilized from various sources in addition to the AU. PSC members were told that the Chairperson of the Commission supports the proposed amendment.

Considering the misgiving of many members of the PSC about the process and their concern about the various policy and practical implications of specifying the percentage of access to UN assessed contributions, it came as no surprise for some keen observers that the majority of members of the PSC did not support the proposed amendment during the Oran meeting. Instead, they decided to refer the matter to the AU Assembly scheduled to be held in February 2024.

Despite this position by the PSC, the plan for considering the resolution for adoption remained unchanged. It was reported that the AU Commission Chairperson made last minute attempt to secure support from the PSC by trying to convene a summit level PSC meeting, although he failed to secure the convening of the meeting.

On the day the draft resolution was scheduled to be considered for a vote by the UNSC, the PSC was not brought on board. The resolution was adopted, supported by the A3, with the amendment by the US.

The sense of lack of adequate engagement of the PSC during the negotiation on the draft and most importantly how the process unfolded at the end in the face of a clear PSC position, is certain to sour relations between the PSC and the A3, and even between the PSC and the AU Commission. One can foresee that this would also affect the PSC’s consideration of the manual on coordination between the AU PSC and the A3 endorsed with amendments during the Oran meeting for adoption by the PSC. Apart from its possible emergence as a major issue during the next Oran meeting in December 2024, how this would affect other engagements will be seen in the coming months and during 2024.

Despite the unfortunate and possibly avoidable procedural glitches that damped the mood and the reception of the adoption of the resolution, there is little doubt that the significance of this resolution remains profound.

Certainly, what this resolution means in practical terms would become clear in the months to come. Yet, no doubt that it stands to transform the nature of the AU-UN partnership on peace and security in substantial ways.

First, it is anticipated that access to UN assessed contributions would no longer be as ad hoc as it used to be. While access to UN-assessed contributions would be decided on a case-by-case basis, once the UNSC authorises the deployment of an AU mission under Chapter 7, that mission would benefit for the duration of the mandate set by the UNSC from UN-assessed contribution.

Second and perhaps beyond the financial dimension of the issue, this resolution stands to change the way the AU and the UN interact prior to, during and after a decision on deployment of UNSC authorized AU-led PSO is adopted. This would necessitate enhancement of the institutional arrangements and the level, frequency and nature of interactions between the AU and the UN.

Strategically speaking, this resolution would also transform the nature of the UN’s engagement on the continent including in terms of the use of peacekeeping. In expanding the tools at the disposal of the UN, it avails an opportunity for navigating the current challenging geopolitical environment both globally and in Africa. However, it is doubtful that this would mark the end of UN peacekeeping in Africa as some fear considering that the current circumstances unfavourable to UN peacekeeping could change in the future.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

How Africa is using the A3 as a de facto permanent power block in global peace and security decision-making

How Africa is using the A3 as a de facto permanent power block in global peace and security decision-making

Date | 21 December 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

On 17-18 December, the African Union (AU) held the 10th high-level seminar on peace and security in Africa, also known as the Oran Process. As someone who participates in a variety of high-level policy meetings, a question that focused my mind when I travelled to Oran, Algeria was whether and how this seminar matters.

It was in 2013 that the high-level seminar was inaugurated. Since then, it became a statutory meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) convened at the level of ministers. From all other similar policy meetings of the AU, this is unique and special in the strategic importance of its core focus – the role of the African three members of the UN Security Council (A3) as a mechanism for projecting Africa’s influence in UNSC decision-making.

Foreign Minister of Algeria during the opening session of the Oran Ministerial Meeting

It was during the signature segment of this year’s seminar that it became evident to me why and how this seminar matters. The making of the African three members of the UNSC into the collective A3 and its transformation over the years into a power block in the UNSC are closely linked to this seminar.

Angola’s Foreign Minister, Tete Antonio, who was the Permanent Representative of the AU to the UN in 2013, told attendees that the trigger for the Seminar and the making of the A3 into such power block was the opposing policy position advanced by the PSC and the African 3 members of the UNSC on the situation on Libya in 2011. While the PSC in a session of 10 March 2011 adopted a roadmap for the resolution of the crisis in Libya which rejected the use of force, the African members of the UNSC at the time voted in favour of Resolution 1973 that authorized the enforcement of a no-fly zone on Libya.

As the mandate of civilian protection under Resolution 1973 quickly turned into a campaign for regime change, the overthrow of Ghaddafi facilitated by NATO air campaign pushed Libya into chaos, unleashing dire consequences for the Sahel and beyond which continues to reverberate to this day. Former US President Barack Obama admitted the Libya debacle as the worst mistake of his tenure.

AU officials at the time came to recognize this experience as emblematic of the peril that divergent policy positions by the PSC and the African three members of the UNSC entails. A decision was taken for avoiding a repeat of it. The PSC, meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government, at its 397th meeting, called for ‘greater consultations between the PSC and the African members of the UN Security Council, to ensure that decisions adopted by the Council are effectively promoted and defended in the UN Security Council’.

Subsequently, the AU Assembly in Decision Assembly/ AU/Dec.598 (XXVI) adopted in January 2016 explicitly inscribed the A3’s ‘special responsibility to ensure that the decisions of the PSC are well reflected in the decision-making process of the UNSC on peace and security issues of concern to Africa.’ Observing the significance of this, Ahmed Attaf, Algeria’s Foreign Minister, said it is quite an achievement that we are the only region that can instruct and require its members in the UN Security Council to work as collective representing Africa and on behalf of the collective interest of Africa.

I learned from exchanges with officials present during the inaugural seminar how the A3 was coined to operate as a collective mirroring the major blocks in the UNSC such as the P5 and the P3. However, it was in the subsequent years that the A3 evolved into a power block with influence in UNSC decision-making.

Indeed, over the years the operation of the A3 as a collective body substantially enhanced. As Nabil Ammari, Tunisia’s Foreign Minister who shared Tunisia’s experience as a member of the A3 pointed out, the A3 speak with one voice in the UNSC by delivering a joint statement. For example, in 2022, the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) delivered joint statements ‘at 63 formal meetings, primarily on country-specific agenda items focusing on the African region.’ This is a marked increase from the 35 joint statements they delivered in 2020 as highlighted in our research report. The A3 also negotiate as a block on the various outcome documents or products of the UNSC.

From the presentation by Fatima Kyari Mohamed, AU Permanent Representative to the UN, it is also clear that increasingly expanding systems and processes are instituted for enhancing A3 common position and the leverage of the block in the UNSC. These include the institutionalization of the quarterly rotating coordinator of the A3 from members of the group, the convening of a retreat of the A3 by the Permanent Mission of the AU to the UN and quarterly reporting to and exchange with the Africa Group.

The operation of the A3 as a unified body representing the collective voice of Africa as expressed through the PSC has far exceeded the initial motivation of avoiding the pursuit of divergent positions by the PSC and the A3. It has since transformed in to an instrument for negotiating power and projecting influence in UNSC decision-making.

As the current coordinator of the A3, Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Harold Agyeman, gave the example of how the A3 by ‘the persuasive power of our common action and the sheer force of our common determination’ secured the easing or removal of sanctions imposed on the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

As the representative of Namibia in his intervention during the signature segment of the seminar pointed out, echoing a framing first used in Amani Africa’s work, the influence of the collective action of the A3 can go as far as operating as a de facto veto power. Indeed, with the institutionalization of the A3 as a collective body backed up by robust institutional memory and support by the AU mission and enhanced and systematic coordination between the A3 and the PSC, the A3’s potential to operate as a de facto veto power and permanently representing Africa’s collective interest is as yet to be fully tapped.

Pending the reform of the UNSC, the A3 is the instrument on which African countries need to invest in for consolidating Africa’s agency in peace and security decision-making in the UN system. Apart from historical affinity, it is the leverage that the operation of the A3 as a collective that attracts elected members of the UNSC from the Caribbean to join the A3 in the A3+1 group. Guyana, which participated in the seminar in Oran, is the second country to be part of the A3+1 since the constitution of this enlarged body when Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was a member of the UNSC.

Permanent Representative of Guyana to the UN, addressing the Oran Ministerial Meeting

While acknowledging the significance of the transformation of the A3 into such a power collective entity in the UNSC, participants of the seminar displayed their awareness that consolidating the A3 and exercising their influence as a collective would not be easy, particularly in the current global geopolitical environment. More importantly, the influence of the A3 needs to be exercised for securing the human security needs of the peoples of the continent rather than being used to shield authorities engaged in mass atrocities from international scrutiny. In this regard, the test of the role of the A3 today is whether they exercise their collective voice for mobilizing effective action in the UNSC for saving Sudanese from mass atrocities, displacement and starvation and the Sudanese state from the imminent threat of collapse.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

Establishment of a high-level panel an opportunity for reinvigorating AU's role on Sudan

Establishment of a high-level panel an opportunity for reinvigorating AU's role on Sudan

Date | 5 December 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

The ministerial meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), AU’s standing peace and security decision-making body, decided for the establishment of an AU dedicated mechanism for peace in Sudan. The communiqué of the session tasked the Chairperson of the AU Commission ‘to set up a High-Level Ad hoc Panel on Sudan, that will work with all the Sudanese stakeholders including women and the youth, to ensure an all-inclusive process towards…civilian-led political transition’.

Such a dedicated mechanism, initially proposed by President Yoweri Museveni during the heads of state and government session of the PSC on 27 May, will replace the existing arrangement that failed to facilitate the effective role of the AU in the search for ending the war in Sudan. Provided that the panel is constituted promptly and with members that have the gravitas and credibility, it will enable the AU to take its rightful place in dealing with this brutal war.

This decision also comes at a time when some encouraging developments are emerging in the diplomatic scene with respect to the peace effort in Sudan. Major among these is the appointment by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, of Ramtane Lamamra as his Envoy for Sudan. The regional body, Inter-Governmental Authority on Sudan (IGAD), also seemed to have overcome a major factor that stalled its role, the rejection by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) (the internationally recognized authority of Sudan) of Kenya’s role as Chairperson of the IGAD Quartet constituted to facilitate the peace process in Sudan.

Following a meeting held in Nairobi Kenya on 13 November, Kenya’s President, William Ruto and SAF’s chief and the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel-Fattah Al Burhan, agreed on the need to speed up the Jeddah talks on ceasefire and to this end convene an IGAD summit.This summit is now scheduled to be held on 9 December 2023.

The urgency of an effective architecture for giving the peace-making effort in Sudan a fighting chance for success cannot be overemphasized. As the brutal war between the SAF and the paramilitary, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), that broke out on 15 April 2023 fast approaches its eighth month, every passing day brings the grim prospect of this brutal war becoming protracted, hence more difficult for speedy resolution.

Its geographic spread continues to expand. The pattern of mobilization of support and deployment of violence is aggravating the ethnic profile of the war. The damage being inflicted on the social, institutional and physical infrastructure of the state and the economy shows no abating.

The disregard of conflict parties to the rules of war and their resort to indiscriminate use of violence have rendered Sudan to be the world’s fast growing humanitarian crisis. A statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that children are bearing the ‘heaviest brunt of the violence’ with a recorded 3 million children fleeing the violence in search of safety, food, shelter and health care. According to the UN agency, this figure makes Sudan the largest child displacement crisis in the world. UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, warned that War and hunger could destroy Sudan. In a statement he issued on 25 August 2023, Griffiths put the world on notice that the ‘war in Sudan is fuelling a humanitarian emergency of epic proportions’ and ‘now threatens to consume the entire country.’

With RSF deepening its grip in Darfur and Khartoum and the SAF establishing its seat in Port Sudan, the fragmentation of the country similar to what Libya experienced is no longer a future scenario. All of these conditions stand to deepen the involvement of various state and non-state actors in the region and beyond. This entrenching downward spiral entails huge peril for not just Sudan itself but for international peace and security in the wider region as well.

What is most shocking about this war is not simply the geographic space where it is taking place and its implication for Sudan and the region. Nor are the scale of the violence, the mass atrocities and the humanitarian emergency ensuing from it. Indeed, some of these features of this war echoes the atrocious Darfur conflict of two decades earlier.

What is most shocking more than anything else is the absence of the kind of robust regional and international diplomatic mobilization that was on full display during the earlier Darfur war. While not unique to Sudan, today’s brutal war in Sudan epitomizes the colossal consequences of the current breakdown of peace and security diplomacy both continentally and at the international levels.

Notwithstanding the continuing acts of violence being inflicted on the civilian population involving incidents of mass atrocities including acts amounting to those prohibited under Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, the PSC and the AU in general did not go beyond expression of concern and condemnation of breaches of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

That the AU has been unable to take tangible measures & a functional dedicated mediation structure are exposing it to legitimate charges of falling back to the old politics of indifference to mass atrocities that was characteristic of the now defunct its predecessor the Organization of African Unity. Sudanese and others are thus rightly asking whether the AU is betraying its founding commitment to the principle of non-indifference to the plight of people caught up in atrocious conflicts on the continent.

When the war broke out, the AU took a lead position. The PSC convened a day after the outbreak of the war. The Chairperson of the AU Commission mobilized an international ministerial meeting. AU also established an international platform involving all regional and international actors and a Core Group of major actors. AU’s lead role ended there. The multiplicity of role players, lack of clear leadership and the destruction from other multiple roles of those expected to mobilize sustained engagement hobbled AU’s engagement on this file.

Unable to bridge the widening gulf between peoples’ expectation of it and its actual delivery, AU run into a serious legitimacy crisis in its response to the raging war in Sudan. President Museveni’s proposal for the establishment of a dedicated mechanism taking the form of a high-level facilitator or panel of facilitators, during the PSC summit level meeting on Sudan held on27 May 2023, did not find its way into the outcome document. There was no convening of the Core Group since June. When the US-Saudi led Jeddah process reconvened in late October – early November with expanded participation, AU’s participation was delegated to the Executive Secretary of IGAD, who participated as co-facilitator on behalf also of the AU.

Coming against such a chequered background, the ministerial decision for the establishment of a high-level panel presents the AU with an opportunity to regain credibility and uphold its principle of non-indifference. It allows it to be equipped with a dedicated mechanism that operates on a full-time bases on the search for finding a solution to the war in Sudan. For this, speed in acting on the decision and the credibility, impartiality and gravitas of the members of the high-level panel are crucial. Not any less significant is the identification of members other than those who are not assigned other roles in the AU system and hence can put their full attention and effort on the situation in Sudan.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

Conflict and fragility turn climate induced extreme weather events into catastrophe: The lesson from the tragedy in Derna Libya for COP28

Conflict and fragility turn climate induced extreme weather events into catastrophe: The lesson from the tragedy in Derna Libya for COP28

Date | 29 November 2023

Tefesehet Hailu
Researcher, Amani Africa

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

On a fateful night of 11 September, the city of Derna, in eastern Libya, was hit by the deadliest flooding. The heavy rain from Tropical Storm Daniel, combined with the collapse of the two dams in the city of Derna led to flooding that wiped out various parts of the city.

This catastrophic event led to an unprecedented death and destruction of the city of Derna.

In recent years, the world has witnessed the devastating impact of climate change-related disasters. From extreme weather conditions such as flooding, drought and heat waves to desertification and the rise of sea levels, these events have caused immense suffering and destruction.

But what happens when these disasters occur in countries already affected by conflict? The story of the tragedy in Derna is emblematic of how conflicts, governance failures and fragilities turn extreme events into catastrophe.

The unprecedented heavy rainfall induced by tropical storm Daniel overwhelmed the two neglected dams in Derna, leading to their collapse and the release of an estimated 30 million cubic metres of water. The ensuing heavy flood resulted in loss of large number of lives and widespread damage to infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods.

The flooding has also caused the death of more than 5,000 people, with 8,500 reported missing, and has resulted in the displacement of more than 30,000 individuals.

The scale of this disaster is not merely a result of the climate change induced unprecedented levels of heavy rain. It is also significantly affected by the ongoing conflict in the country. The conflict and associated governance failures diverted attention and resources away from the maintenance of critical infrastructure and the provision of early warning to affected communities.

Conflict disrupts essential infrastructures and services, making communities more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Conflict also results in neglect of maintenance, leaving critical infrastructures vulnerable to be easily overwhelmed by climate induced extreme weather conditions. Additionally, conflict diverts resources and attention away from disaster preparedness and response efforts. This can hinder conflict-affected countries’ effectiveness in addressing potential threats and providing timely assistance.

That is what happened in Derna. Like many parts of Libya, the conflict that unravelled in 2011 following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi diverted resources and political attention away from services in the country including maintenance of critical infrastructure. This left essential systems ill-prepared to handle and respond to the sudden influx of Tropical Storm Daniel.

The situation in Derna highlighted the significant impact of conflict in aggravating climate change-related disasters. However, this incident in Derna is not an isolated case. Other African countries facing prolonged conflicts are also at a high risk of climate change-related disasters.

While the famine in Madagascar was reported as the first climate change induced famine, as an event that happens overtime, its occurrence would not have been possible without governance failure.

Similarly, the herder-farmer violence in parts of West Africa and the Sahel has become increasingly frequent and fatal due to governance failure and conflict. This is occasioned by climate change-induced conflict and the rising depletion of resources including pastureland.

The disaster that befallen Derna, along with other various cases, demonstrates how conflicts and governance failures can engender a lack of preparedness and effective response to climate change. This highlights that the climate-security nexus is not one-directional. Derna is a reminder that fragilities, governance failures and conflict are capable of transforming climate-induced extreme weather conditions into catastrophes.

These events highlight the imperative for inclusion in climate policy making the vulnerabilities that arise from conflict and fragility.  According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme, none of the global climate change instruments, such as the Paris Agreement or the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, address the issues of conflict, fragility, or peace and security.

The ‘Climate Response for Sustaining Peace’ initiative, spearheaded by the COP Presidency of Egypt in 2022 marks the first time that the issue of conflict and peace is brought to the discussion within the framework of COP.

One of the pillars of the ‘Climate Response for Sustaining Peace’ initiative is to enhance the connection between climate adaptation and peacebuilding. Not any less important and deserving of urgent attention is to address the fact that conflict-affected and fragile countries receive the least from global climate finance. While this is also linked to loss and damage (a major outcome of COP27 on which COP28 is expected to institute the fund), climate change as it relates to fragile and conflict-affected countries should not be subsumed under it. This thus underscores the need for close coordination in climate and peace and security policy making.

Over the past three years, African countries received only 16 billion US Dollars in climate finance, while the annual gap from 2020 to 2030 amounts to 1288 billion US Dollars. Fragile countries face even more challenges accessing climate finance compared to non-fragile contexts. Recent reports show that countries in fragile settings receive only 1/80th of per capita climate financing compared to non-fragile countries.

COP28 needs to take this agenda forward with a focus on fragile and conflict affected countries including on the question of how to ease access to climate funding. In the urgent battle against climate change, policy-makers must recognize that discussions like COP, devoid of conversations on peace and security, risk the exclusion of conflict-affected fragile regions, with unintended catastrophic consequences on the lives and livelihoods of people in those regions.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

Amani Africa's UN Security Council briefing points out the need to rectify the inadequate state of AU-UN partnership

Amani Africa's UN Security Council briefing points out the need to rectify the inadequate state of AU-UN partnership

Date | 12 October 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa


Thank you, Mr. President,

I would like to thank Brazil’s Presidency for the invitation extended to me to deliver this briefing on behalf of my organization Amani Africa Media and Research Services.

I would like to recognize with appreciation the previous briefers my dear brother SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Head of UN Office to the AU and H.E. Ambassador Fatima K. Mohammed, Permanent Representative of the AU permanent Observer Mission to the UN.

Amani Africa, a pan-African policy research, training and consulting think tank that works on multilateral policy processes of concern and interest for Africa, is the leading source of information and analysis on matters of the African Union (AU) in general and its Peace and Security Council (PSC) in particular, including AU’s strategic partnership with United Nations (UN).1

It is accordingly a particular honour for me to draw on our work for my briefing today.

Mr President,

At this historic moment,2 deepening the partnership between the UN and the AU is not a matter of choice nor is it just something nice to do. We believe that this is rather a pre-requisite for delivering on the peace and security and development objectives of the UN Charter.

There is a pressing and growing need both for more crisis management and for enhanced effectiveness of crisis management more today than earlier times. No single actor can meet these pressing demands alone. The continued relevance of the UN and the AU in the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa depends on them pulling their comparative advantages together and systematically coordinating their actions across files and portfolios.

The UN Secretary-General’s ‘Our Common Agenda’ affirms that regional organizations ‘fill a critical gap in our global peace and security architecture’. His report on UN-AU partnership highlights that there is no other organization that better reflects these attributes than the AU.

Yet, the state of UN-AU partnership is far from adequate for the AU to effectively fill in this critical gap. As we pointed out in one of our recent work, one manifestation of this inadequacy is the lack of a systematic and institutionalized global arrangement for harnessing the full potential and role of the AU as part of the global collective security system anchored on the UN Charter.

Thus, despite the progress registered in UN-AU partnership, the mobilization of responses largely reflects ‘ad hoc and a case-by-case basis’ approach. They are unable to collaboratively institute ‘peace support operations that not only have stabilization and peace enforcement mandates and capabilities but also are willing and able to act on their peace enforcement mandates,’3 that the security conditions warrant.

Critical to elevating the AU-UN partnership in this context is to establish a systematic and institutionalized arrangement, affirming the peace and security tools of the AU as part of the toolkit of the global collective security system under the UN Charter. This echoes the Secretary-General’s proposal for this Council to break new ground through ‘a new generation of African Union-led, United Nations- supported peace operations on the African continent that blend the respective strength of both organizations in a manner that prioritizes political solutions and maximizes the impact of both uniformed and civilian capabilities.’ A corollary to and an essential part of this institutionalized arrangement is the shift that this Council also has to make, as the SG put it, from considering the use of UN assessed contributions for AU -led PSOs ‘as exceptional circumstances’ to one that must be ‘considered in a more systematic manner’.

Mr President,

Today, elevating UN-AU partnership to a higher level is also a strategic imperative for the effective functioning of multilateralism.

The deepening polarization in the world, particularly among major powers, is among the key factors for the increasing fracturing of the multilateral system. The AU, whose member state make up 28 % of the UN has unique reservoir of potential for playing a moderation role in the face of such polarization. Tapping into this moderating role of the AU (and Africa’s positionality as the future of multilateralism) through the UN-AU partnership is key not just for arresting the fracturing of the multilateral system but also for making it fit for purpose. Our recent work thus emphasizes the need to bring ‘regional multilateral organizations like the AU to the center of the global peace and security diplomacy in a systematic way rather than on an ad hoc basis.’

Finally, Mr President, the AU-UN partnership needs to enhance their focus on the socio-economic and development dimensions of the maintenance of international peace and security. It is now widely accepted that the SDGs and peace and security are deeply intertwined. Achieving the SDGs for member states of the AU is also directly tied to the reform of the multilateral financial system. Africa pays a 500% premium on borrowing from the market and a reform could save Africa as much as $56 billion, expanding access for much needed resources to meet the SDGs.

On addressing immediate concerns, we wish to draw the attention of this Council to the urgent need to put in place a mechanism for addressing the growing and catastrophic humanitarian crisis occasioned by the raging war in Sudan. The UN’s humanitarian chief sounded the alarm with the extraordinary warning that ‘war and hunger could destroy Sudan.’ The situation continues to deteriorate with devastating consequences to civilians. We welcome the call that the UNSC and PSC made in the communique of their 17th annual consultative meeting. Yet, pending the emergence of an effective ceasefire and broader peace process, the UN and the AU need to put in place a mechanism dedicated to ameliorating the humanitarian emergency and the plight of civilians along the lines that we outlined in our briefing to the Peace and Security Council on 29 September 2023.

Mr President, your excellencies members of the UN Security Council, I would like to express our appreciation for inviting us to brief you. Indeed, my briefing to you a testament to your willingness to leverage the perspectives of research organizations including those from the continent whose work is dedicated to the issues under your consideration, which I commend wholeheartedly.

I thank you for your kind attention!

1 Together with the Republic of Namibia, we are leading a high-level process on ‘Africa and the reform of the multilateral system’, see https://amaniafrica-et.org/events/africa-and-the-transformation-of-the-multilateral-system-side-event-at-unga-78/?occurrence=2023-09-26 and https://amaniafrica-et.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Press-Release-Namibia-and-Amani-Africa.pdf

2 Characterised by multipolarity and low level of trust among global powers, increasingly complex and deadlier conflicts and the growing to prominence of new and emerging threats to peace and security – See Amani Africa, Africa and Peace and Security Diplomacy in a time of the New Agenda for Peace, Policy Brief (June 2023) available on https://amaniafrica-et.org/africa-and-peace-and-security-diplomacy-in-a-time-of-the-new-agenda-for-peace/

3 Amani Africa, ‘Seizing the New Momentum for UNSC Resolution on UN funding of AU Peace Operations’ (May 2023), available on: https://bit.ly/433Xsp6

Amani Africa appeals to the Peace and Security Council to uphold the principle of non-indifference by taking concrete measures in the face of the worsening humanitarian crises including in Sudan

Amani Africa appeals to the Peace and Security Council to uphold the principle of non-indifference by taking concrete measures in the face of the worsening humanitarian crises including in Sudan

Date | 2 October 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa


Your excellency Ambassador Churchil Monono, Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council for the Month of September 2023

Your excellencies, members of the Peace and Security Council

We at Amani Africa Media and Research Services have the pleasure of addressing this premier peace and security decision-making body of our Union on this timely and pressing theme.

The Malabo Extraordinary Summit is a key milestone in Africa’s long journey towards putting in place mechanisms for effectively responding to and addressing humanitarian crises on the continent since the OAU’s 1969 Convention Governing Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problems in Africa.

With the establishment of the African Humanitarian Agency, the Summit enabled the AU to be equipped with the institutional arrangement that helps facilitate in the implementation of the Union’s normative and policy instruments from the 1969 Refugee Convention to the Kampala Convention on the Protection of IDPs.


One of the unique attributes of the AU is the fact that it is founded on the principle of non-indifference. As an expression of the African world view ‘I am because you are’, Ubuntu, this principle Commits the African Union to come to the protection of people who are caught up in humanitarian crises and not to stand by and watch as they endure massacre, forced displacement and starvation.

The outcomes of the Malabo Summit including the African Humanitarian Agency are critical to giving expression in practical terms to this AU’s founding principle of non-indifference. The implication of this is that the AU, including through the leadership of the PSC, will and should be the first to engage in mobilizing responses to the needs of people caught up in humanitarian crises.

While part of the provision of response to humanitarian needs involves contributing to the raising of the funds and mobilizing humanitarian assistance required to meet such needs on the continent, AU’s role including through the African Humanitarian Agency will not primarily be to become the main funder and provider of humanitarian assistance on the continent.

Considering the well-developed capacities and instruments at the disposal of various humanitarian actors including UN humanitarian agencies like the UNHCR or ICRC, AU’s comparative advantage, on account of its unique attributes, lies mobilizing solidarity, political action, coordination and diplomacy. AU’s role thus first relates to coordination of humanitarian action for which the AU, through the African Humanitarian Agency, needs to engage in the tracking of the humanitarian situation and the collection of data on trends in and dynamics of the humanitarian situation on the continent. This additionally entails the identification of the needs of and mobilization of support to countries and communities in their effort to mitigate and respond to humanitarian crises.

The Second concerns the creation of space and the provision of support for mobilization of public opinion and action on humanitarian needs and for the organization and effective functioning of local humanitarian actors. As part of giving recognition to the enormous burden that host communities and countries bear as first responders, this should not only tap into the role of African non-state actors but also support the development and organization of indigenous entities engaged in supporting humanitarian action.

Third and perhaps the most significant role and contribution that is particularly befitting to the attributes of the AU involves humanitarian diplomacy. Considering its diplomatic and political profile, the AU is best placed to use the African Humanitarian Agency as the vehicle for mobilizing and engaging in humanitarian diplomacy. With the Agency, the AU has come to have a much-needed tool, as part of its peace and security and humanitarian action toolbox, critical to effectively developing AU’s capacity in humanitarian diplomacy.

It is therefore Amani Africa’s submission that particular attention is given in the building AU’s role in humanitarian action to humanitarian diplomacy. AU’s humanitarian diplomacy is best mobilized and organized around, among others,

  1. advocating for the mobilization of support for people in humanitarian crisis and the recognition and support of national and local humanitarian actors in their effort to support those affected by humanitarian crises;
  2. the deployment of diplomatic missions for facilitating unhindered humanitarian access;
  3. securing guarantee from conflict parties for safe, free and voluntary passage for civilians in conflict settings to areas where they can access assistance; and
  4. promoting respect for and full cooperation by conflict parties with humanitarian actors;
  5. monitor and advocate for compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law standards as well as humanitarian principles;

Excellencies and distinguished participants,

When Africa faced major humanitarian crises as a result of conflicts and insecurity in the 1990s, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) pointed out in the Declaration Establishing the OAU mechanism on Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution that ‘conflicts have forced millions of our people, including women and children, into a drifting life as refugees and internally displaced persons, deprived of their means of livelihood, human dignity and hope’. These same powerful words are restated in the preamble to the PSC protocol.

In recent years, we have unfortunately experienced continuing deterioration in the humanitarian situation on the continent. The refugee and displacement crisis on our continent is currently at record high. As a result, today there are more people on our continent today than in the 1990s ‘who are forced into a drifting life as refugees and IDPs, deprived of their dignity and hope’.

The number of people forcibly displaced, mostly as a result of war and conflicts, have reached more than 40 million. This, your excellencies, is more than double the number of forcibly displaced people in 2016.

That such a staggering number of people on our continent are ‘forced to live a drifting life as refuges and IDPs deprived of their dignity and hope’ far more than in the 1990s is an indictment for all of us and particularly the AU and this august body.

In the light of the continually deteriorating humanitarian situation on the continent and in order to avail the PSC a mechanism for a more effective engagement in humanitarian action, it is therefore our submission that the PSC establishes an African platform on humanitarian action along the lines of the African Platform on Children Affected by Conflict – this platform on humanitarian action like the one on Children can be co-chaired by PSC member(s) that champion(s) this theme, interested members of the PSC, PAPS department and technical entities like UNHCR and research organizations like Amani Africa that provide the technical backstopping.

The urgency for humanitarian action in Sudan

Currently, the most heart wrenching manifestation of the gravity of the forced displacement crisis on the continent is the raging war in Sudan. The humanitarian situation has become so concerning so much so that the UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffith, who did not mince his words in stating that the war in Sudan is fuelling a humanitarian emergency of epic proportions, sounded the alarm with the extraordinary warning that ‘war and hunger could destroy Sudan.’


On the 15th day of this month, the war in Sudan marked its fifth months. During this period, nearly six million people have been forcibly displaced, with one million of them crossing into neighbouring countries as refugees and asylum seekers and the remaining displaced internally.

This means that this war forcibly displaced over a million people every month.

One of the world’s fast-growing displacement crises is also unfortunately accompanied by other no less severe humanitarian crisis including but not limited to

  • severe challenges to humanitarian access (humanitarian actors are able to reach only 19 percent of the 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance) and
  • other forms of humanitarian emergencies including complete breakdown of the health system in Sudan, with nearly 80 percent of health services not functioning as a result of the indiscriminate attacks that warring parties perpetrated on civilian infrastructure in the country and with more than 6 million including hundreds of thousands of children facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity.


As I conclude, I would like to state that the principle of non-indifference, which is the golden standard for the effective functioning of AU’s role in peace and security and humanitarian action, requires this august body not to be a bystander as Sudan faces the risk of not only humanitarian disaster but also collapse.

As Amani Africa we therefore submit that the PSC establishes a taskforce for monitoring, documenting and reporting on the humanitarian situation and protection of civilians in Sudan as well as for engaging in humanitarian diplomacy efforts focusing on

  • the mobilization of support from within the continent in expression of solidarity with the people of Sudan;
  • Ensuring that the conflict parties commit to and unconditionally stop indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure;
  • securing guarantee from conflict parties to ensure for safe, free and voluntary passage for civilians in conflict settings to areas where they can access assistance; and
  • promoting respect for and full cooperation by conflict parties with humanitarian actors
  • Ensuring compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law standards.

Thank you for your attention!

Why African Union’s membership in the G20 matters for both the G20 and Africa

Why African Union’s membership in the G20 matters for both the G20 and Africa

Date | 11 September 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso with contribution from Lea Mehari


On Saturday 9 2023, which coincides with the African Union (AU) Day marking the anniversary of the decision for its establishment, the G20 in its meeting in New Delhi, India announced its decision of welcoming the AU as its new member. This can be transformative in profound ways for both the AU and the G20.

Host of the G20 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging AU’s Chairperson Azali Assoumani

As with many key global governance multilateral platforms, Africa (despite its 55 AU member states, 1.3 billion people and resources on which developed and emerging economies depend for their economic growth) remained without seat at the G20, except the membership of South Africa.

The continent has thus largely remained receiver rather than shaper of decisions made at this global and major, but unrepresentative, forum of decision-making. With the entry of the AU, representing its 55 member states, into the G20 as a member, Africa is posed to change its status as an object of decision-making at the G20. On its part the global body enormously expanded its legitimacy and representativeness.

The G20 is a forum consisting of 19 of the most advanced and key economies plus, economically the largest regional organization, the European Union. The forum represents 75% of the world’s GDP, shaping global economic and political cooperation. Initially an informal platform to discuss international economic cooperation, it has evolved into a significant platform for global governance focusing on mobilizing policy responses to economic stability and global challenges.

By the nature of its composition, it is a body that gives the major powers and economies of the world heavy sway in global decision-making. At the same time, as a body deciding on major global economic and social issues, its role is not without consequences on the UN, as the most representative global forum for addressing global challenges. For Africa, which has the largest regional membership in the UN, the reduction of the role of the UN on account of the G20 becoming the major forum of decision-making on some of the most consequential global issues is not anything short of detrimental for its agency and representation in global economic and financial decision-making.

Without a voice at the table, Africa has thus far remained a passive receiver rather than an active contributor to discussions shaping its economic destiny. This has led to decisions that are not responsive to the needs of the countries of the region. Key initiatives, such as the G20’s Common Framework for Debt Treatment have fallen short in part due to the lack of African representation, rendering these decisions inefficient, slow, and ambiguous. Africa’s exclusion from the table also tilts the scales towards creditor nations, disproportionately affecting low-income countries within the continent.

These experiences are emblematic of how Africa’s exclusion is limiting the G20’s ability to formulate fully responsive policies even on matters of direct concern for Africa, thus limiting its capacity to devise inclusive and equitable solutions that are truly beneficial to the global community as a whole. AU’s active participation promises to ensure that G20’s policy decisions are fair for all stakeholders in the global economy: debtors and creditors.

For Africa as well, its representation through the AU would provide a platform for it to also put on the agenda of the G20 matters of concern that require international cooperation. For instance, consider the staggering illicit financial flows from Africa estimated at $88.6 billion, equivalent to 3.7 percent of Africa’s GDP, as per the United Nations estimates in 2020, encompassing revenues from unlawful activities, tax evasion, corruption, and more. This diversion of resources poses a significant impediment to economic development, hindering the progress towards both the UN’s 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  Measures that could be adopted on this scourge at the level of the G20 could contribute enormously in countering this scourge, thereby contributing to availing huge resources that contribute to Africa’s development and the global goals of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Similarly, AU’s membership can also help to achieve clear strategic recognition at global level on the enormous potential of Africa to contribute to the global challenge of climate change. This the AU may achieve through, among others, facilitating understanding and clear appreciation of Africa’s enormous potential to play leading role in powering the global green transition and for developing cooperation framework for realizing this potential on a win-win basis.

The membership of the AU also provides the opportunity to redress the void created by the reduced role of the UN on economic policy making as a result of the emergence of the G20 as the main locus of international economic and development decision-making. AU’s membership would enable Africa to make up for the loss from the diminished role of the UN. It also gives Africa the opportunity to bring its standing as the largest block in the UN to bear on the work of the G20 and through that to also elevate its influence in the international financial system.

G20 leaders welcoming the announcement of AU’s membership

For AU’s membership in the G20 to harvest the expected dividends, there is a need for the AU to put in place effective structures and processes. Effective participation and influence in the G20 depend on such structures and process. In terms of representation, the decision of the AU is for the rotating Chairperson of the Union to seat on the AU seat in the G20 assisted by the AU Commission Chairperson. This essentially reflects the current practice of AU’s participation in G20 based on invitation. Yet, for this arrangement to work for the benefit of all the members of the AU, it is essential that the policy positions that the Chairperson of the AU presents at G20 are positions negotiated and adopted as common policy positions of the Union.

Beyond the representation at the G20 summit level, securing the interest of the continent through AU’s membership in the club necessitates that the AU is effectively represented in the meetings of the ministers, central bank governors and the G20 Finance Track and Sherpa Track technical working groups. Both for the participation in these key technical working groups and for helping with the development of the common positions, the AU Commission plays a key role. The AU Department of Economic Development, Trade, Tourism Industry and Minerals, properly staffed and capacitated, is best placed to play the role of the technical focal point in the AU Commission. For purposes of developing and negotiating common African policy positions both on matters on the agenda of the G20 and those that Africa wishes to advance as part of its membership in the G20 such as its vision of the reform of the multilateral financial institutions, there is a need for having a dedicated sub-committee of the AU Permanent Representatives Committee.

Considering the large number of meetings involved in G20 (over 200 such meetings were held for the G20 held in New Delhi), it is imperative that AU policy makers appreciate how AU’s membership in G20 transforms its role in global governance. The AU needs to move fast in developing a strategy for making the most out of its membership. Considering the enormity of the demand for active role, the AU also needs to articulate the capacity requirements, both at the level of the AU Commission, member states and in its representation in G20 countries, for it to fully shoulder the new and heavy responsibility in global governance that its membership in the G20 brings with it. Beyond AU actors, the role of the UN Economic Community for Africa, the African Development Bank and policy research organizations also needs to be effectively harnessed.

In the current multipolar world, the G20 needs Africa just as much as, if not more than, Africa needs the G20. With Africa’s full engagement, the G20 can reinvent itself and prevent the risk of the emerging decline of its relevance, particularly in the face of the increasing significance of BRICS. AU’s membership would be of enormous strategic consequence for global governance not just in terms of representation of Africa but also its potential to contribute to repurposing the G20 to be the vehicle for building a fairer, more prosperous, and sustainable world by leveraging multilateral bodies including the UN.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’

The most pressing dilemma for the AU on Niger is to help find a path for a non-military resolution of the crisis

The most pressing dilemma for the AU on Niger is to help find a path for a non-military resolution of the crisis

Date | 13 August 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa


Following the latest extraordinary summit of the West African regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on the coup in Niger and its decision calling on the African Union (AU) to endorse all its decisions, the major preoccupation in diplomatic discussions in Addis Ababa is whether the AU’s principal decision-making body on matters of peace and security, the Peace and Security Council, would heed the call from ECOWAS and give its full blessing by rubber stamping the ECOWAS decision as a package. No doubt this is a major policy issue of immediate concern. However, there is a more pressing aspect of the policy challenge the AU faces from the ECOWAS request for a wholesale endorsement of its decisions.

As the junta entrenches itself and gets more radical in an attempt to defy the sanctions and threat of force, and, on its part, ECOWAS doubles down on its threat of force, the two are locking themselves on a dangerous path of escalation. If this is not reversed, it could degenerate into armed fighting. Such fighting is sure to frustrate the end state ECOWAS seeks to accomplish through its planed military intervention- reinstating the deposed President back to power, thereby reversing the coup and restoring constitutional order.

Yet, the failure of the military intervention to achieve its end state would be the least consequential outcome. Unfortunately, the fighting that this intervention stands to precipitate is sure to accelerate the dangerous set of conditions put in motion that could blow up Niger, triggering calamitous consequences for the entire region and reverberating across the continent.

First, after the warning by the two other central Sahelian countries under military rule, Burkina Faso and Mali, that military measure against Niger amounts to a declaration of war against them, ECOWAS military intervention in Niger risks to trigger regionalized war.

Second, with the announcement of the formation of a movement led by a former rebel leader aiming at reinstating President Bazoum back to power, Niger faced the danger of internal fighting and hence the acceleration of its fragility.

Third, any military intervention that targets and weakness Niger’s army also exposes Niger to the danger of collapse. With an army battered by a fight with forces from neighboring countries, Niger will easily be overrun by the armed terrorist groups operating in the Sahel.

Thus, the most pressing dilemma for the AU is to help ECOWAS find a path for a non-military and non-punitive (for Nigerien people) resolution of the constitutional crisis in Niger and the attendant democratic setback it represents for the region.

For the West Africa region, the coup in Niger represented the case with the most significant regional and geostrategic implementations. It is the sixth coup to take place in the region since August 2020. With Niger, nearly one in five countries in the region are now under military rule.

However, more than any of the earlier cases, the coup in Niger sent shockwaves for much of the governments of the region. As an attack on a ‘democratically elected’ government, it has triggered understandable concern for governments of the region that, if not reversed, no government in the West Africa and beyond could remain immune from becoming victim of coup.

For the regional body, ECOWAS, which has been in the forefront of fighting coups, the occurrence of the coup in Niger puts spotlight on the efficacy of how it handled the other coups.

It signals that the anti-coup posture and approach of ECOWAS has lost all its potency and credibility – under the weight of elections with questionable credibility, prolongation of power by incumbents through tampering with constitutional provisions on term limits, erosion of civic space and worsening bad governance.

Coming not long after the ascent of Nigeria’s new president to the helm of leading ECOWAS, the coup also came as a major foreign policy challenge for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who wishes to reaffirm the regional and continental leadership role of Nigeria.

When ECOWAS set its first extraordinary summit following the coup, the mood on the part of political elites in West Africa was to send a strong message against the putsch in Niger for drawing a line on coups in the region. Indicating that they should have been firm in how they responded to earlier coups, President of Senegal said ‘now that we are together on this, we should take action to make sure that it does not continue.’ Niger was thus slapped with the most severe regime sanctions that the regional body imposed ‘in the history of the region.’ It closed air and land borders. It suspended financial and economic transactions with Niger.

Not surprisingly, President Tinubu’s administration took a tougher stance against the coup. In addition to the ECOWAS sanctions, Nigeria cut power supply to Niger.

It is these measures that took centre stage in ECOWAS effort to reverse the coup. As a follow up to the one-week ultimatum and to add pressure on the junta, on 2-4 August the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defense staff met in Abuja to draw up a plan of military intervention.

With the space and the air sucked by the harshly punitive sanctions and the threat of military intervention, diplomacy ended up taking a very far secondary place. Indeed, the nature and scope of the sanctions and the ratchetting up of the threat of use of force, instead of facilitating diplomacy, raised the stakes for both Niger and ECOWAS. While the sanctions exact heavy price and the threat of use of force puts Niger’s survival in peril, for ECOWAS it is perceived, albeit wrongly, as a matter of its credibility per Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Outtara.

Having exhausted all of its other ammunition at a go, ECOWAS is left with military intervention as the only instrument of pressure. Not totally surprisingly, when the second extraordinary summit of ECOWAS was convened on 10 August, the regional body doubled down on its stance, including on its threat of use of force. Thus, notwithstanding the admission of President Tinubu on the failure of the one week ultimatum given to the junta, ECOWAS, among others, decided to ‘immediately activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements’ and ordered ‘the deployment of ECOWAS Standby Force to Niger to restore constitutional order.’ With all these, ECOWAS has locked itself in a tight corner.

On the other hand, the harsh punitive sanctions and the use of force have given the junta the context for stirring nationalist fervour of Nigeriens and ride on their anti-neo-colonial sentiments. ECOWAS’ position is made more difficult due to charges that it was being used to advance the interests of foreign powers in the face of the persistent diplomatic manoeuvring of France and until recently the US centred on securing the reinstatement of President Bazoum.

In the process, the junta has increasingly taken positions that are less amendable to diplomatic engagements. On 3 August a massive demonstration in support of the coup was staged. The ECOWAS diplomatic delegation headed by former Nigerian President General Abdulsalami Abubakar sent on August 6, was prevented from leaving Niamey airport and returned to Nigeria without meeting the coup leader. On 8 August, the junta declined to receive a tripartite delegation from ECOWAS, AU and the UN, alleging that ‘anger and revolt among the population’ against ECOWAS’ sanctions made it impossible to guarantee the envoys’ safety. In the last few days, it was reported that the junta warned that it would kill the deposed president if military intervention is followed through.

All of the foregoing signal that Niger and ECOWAS are on a war footing. The AU should rise to the occasion and mobilize robust diplomatic effort aiming at helping ECOWAS and Niger find a path that steers them clear of military intervention. This effort should include, (as proposed here) and as Joseph Sany, Vice President of USIP rightly counselled,  ‘avoiding military action that could worsen the crisis and shaping sanctions in ways to reduce suffering within the general population.’ AU would fail to play a more responsible role if it takes the easy option of reducing itself to rubber stamping the decision of ECOWAS despite all the risks.

The content of this article does not represent the views of Amani Africa and reflect only the personal views of the authors who contribute to ‘Ideas Indaba’