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’

The coup in Niger: Lessons from a trouble in paradise

The coup in Niger: Lessons from a trouble in paradise  

Date | 31 July 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

Lea Mehari Redae
Associate Researcher, Amani Africa

After two earlier unsuccessful attempts, the latest usurpation of power by Niger’s army succeeded in ousting the country’s elected President, ending the last central Sahel country under civilian rule. Niger has been put on a pedestal. As a country where the incumbent respected presidential term limits and transferred power to a successor after the holding of elections in 2021, Niger was portrayed as an island of democracy in a sea of military coups and terrorism. During his visit to Niger US Secretary of State Anthoni Blinken praised Niger as ‘a model of resilience, a model of democracy, a model of cooperation.’

Supporters of the Nigerien coup protest as the headquarters of Niger’s ruling party, the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, burns in the background

For a country with such standing, the coup that took place on 26-28 July ousting Niger’s elected President may come as a trouble in paradise. Certainly, it is a major blow to the country’s fragile democratization process. Even more troubling is the constitutional and political uncertainties the coup induces may compound the country’s fragilities. These uncertainties would detract from the effort to contain the terrorism menace unfolding in the country. There is also a huge risk that it exacerbates the geopolitical rivalry unfolding in the region by rendering the country to be a theatre of the power tussle that Niger’s neighbours became victims of.

Yet, the attempted coup in March 2021 made it apparent that Niger was not free of the threat of military seizure of power. France 24 reported quoting a Nigerien official that while the President was in Turkey ‘a second bid to oust Bazoum occurred last March.

Ousted President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum

Niger also shares some of the fragilities that characterise the central Sahelian countries, although it fared better than its immediate neighbours and avoided the crisis that befell Mali following the collapse of Libya in 2012.

Niger’s democratic credential shares some of the characteristics of Mali’s prior to 2012. Like Niger, Mali prior to 2012, was viewed as an example of democracy in the region. This view is best summed up by one analyst who asserted that ‘Mali has achieved a record of democratization that is among the best in Africa.’ As the events in 2012 revealed and many admitted, Mali’s democracy was not much more than electoral democracy.

Like Mali, Niger’s democracy is bereft of substantive depth that goes beyond elections. According to Afrobarometer’s 2020 survey, despite 53% support for democracy in Niger, 67% of Nigerians surveyed thought that the army ‘can intervene if leaders abuse power.’ Unless democracy is reduced to relatively free elections, it is difficult to imagine why citizens consider military intervention in politics as a first choice for holding leaders to account. A major factor that may account for such attitude is the absence or poor performance of the constitutional mechanisms in a democracy such as separation of powers and checks and balances, independent judiciary, free media and open civic space with autonomous civil society.

Apart from the public attitude to military intervention, the other context for the coup involves the widespread perception of President Bazoum administration’s deepening ties with France and the West in the face of the spreading anti-French sentiment in much of Francophone Africa. In other words, putting Niger on a pedestal might inadvertently have exposed Bazoum’s administration to be on a collision course with Nigeriens opposing to Niger becoming the new hub for France’s operation against terrorist groups in the Sahel as protests earlier in the year showed.

Niger: Protests against against the presence of French troops in the country Sept. 2022

None of the foregoing however makes the coup right, although these could limit public opposition against the coup. Indeed, despite the excuse by the junta that the coup was staged due to ‘the continuing deterioration of the security situation and poor economic and social governance’, the coup mostly has to do with greed and personal interests of those who led it. The actual motivation for the coup is immediately tied to President Bazoum’s plan to replace the leader of the Presidential Guard, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, who took over as Niger’s leader.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani - former commander of the Nigerien presidential guard and coup leader

The coup in Niger is the seventh successful coup to take place in Africa since 2020. Six countries stretching from the Atlantic coast in the West to the Red Sea coast in East Africa are being led by men in uniform.

Map of successful, attempted and plots of coup in Africa from August 2020-July 2023

The epidemic of coups, as UN Chief characterized it, is, among others, a result of the crisis of governance of the security sector. The coup in Niger manifests the lack of total break from the experiences of politicization of the armed forces and the militarization of politics associated reflected in the number of successful and attempted coups in the country. As the attempt by Tchiani to forestall his planned replacement shows, the coup also shows the poor level of professionalism and integrity of the military. All of these suggest that democracy in its electoral form will remain susceptible to the vagaries of the army as long as these issues of the crisis of security sector governance are not effectively resolved.

In response to the latest coup in Niger, apart from the unanimous condemnation from AU, UN & other international entities, the regional body ECOWAS adopted the most severe measures including closure of borders & airspace, suspension of economic & financial exchanges and threat of military intervention. These may not be enough to reverse the coup without support from Nigeriens. This highlights that it is utterly inadequate for regional and continental norms to be effective in discouraging coups and other unconstitutional seizure of power to be dependent largely on external mechanisms of protecting constitutional order. More often than not, these norms are not  adequately backed by national level robust formal and informal processes and institutions of accountability and checks and balances. They are further undermined by governing elites tampering constitutions including presidential term limits.

The failure of the anti-coup norms of the AU to prevent coups is not thus merely a result of the lack of effective enforcement and consistent application of the norms on the part of the AU. It is also attributable to the lack of mobilizing and nurturing of anti-coup constituency on the part of the African public at the national level. This emphasizes that continental and international actors have to rethink the dominant approaches to democracy that are election centric and to international relations, including development and security cooperation, that are elite-driven. Not only that continental and international actors need to avoid downplaying the political and socio-economic grievances of local populations against national authorities. Their engagement and development and security cooperation should go beyond the security sector and national elites and extend to the human security, political freedom and development needs of local populations as well.

The upshot of the foregoing is that there is a need for rethinking both democracy promotion and counterterrorism security cooperation in Africa anchored on the primacy of the local. As Amani Africa’s research on terrorism asserted, such a paradigm shift necessitates policy interventions that focus ‘on the vulnerabilities and fragilities as well as political and socio-economic governance pathologies that create the conditions both for the emergence and … resilience of terrorist groups’ as well as coups. With such policy interventions that also entail ‘the same, if not more, level of infusion of technical assistance, financial resources and training of civilian expertise is directed to the governance, the economic and social issues facing local populations as the security-related sectors’, it is possible to mobilize a public that would become a bulwark against coups and other threats to constitutional order and security.

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’

Transcending the state-centric peace and security diplomacy a pre-requisite for peace in the contemporary complex security landscape

Transcending the state-centric peace and security diplomacy a pre-requisite for peace in the contemporary complex security landscape

Date | 10 July 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

Tsion Hagos
Senior Researcher, Amani Africa

As the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) convened the second annual consultative meeting on 6 July, a powerful example that drove home the critical role of civil society actors is the war in Sudan. When the fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) pushes Sudan to the brink of collapse, neither the diplomats who are in the business of peace-making nor those in the business of delivery of humanitarian assistance were able to marshal the level of response to bring the situation to a halt.

As our analysis and the work of many others (here, here and here) highlighted, those hailed as heroes and came to the rescue of civilians through humanitarian action and worked tirelessly to contain the expansion of the fighting through local peace deals were Sudanese civic actors.

CSOs in Sudan providing humanitarian assistance and support (Source: BNN Breaking News Network, May 2023)

This experience has brought home the increasing importance of recognizing the role of civic actors in peace and security and the imperative of developing tools and close working relationships for leveraging their roles in AU’s efforts for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts within the framework of Article 20 of the PSC Protocol.

While the AU peace and security order as designed in the PSC Protocol and as practiced for the past two decades is mostly state-centric, it also recognizes and seeks to provide space for the role of non-state actors as envisaged in Article 20 of the PSC Protocol which mandates close working relationship between the PSC and CSOs. The journey thus far shows that, various milestones have been registered over the years towards the realization of this ambition.

The PSC dedicated two of its more than a dozen retreats, first in Livingston in 2008 and later in Maseru in 2014, on formulating the modalities for close working relationship with CSOs.

In practice, the PSC also developed the tradition of inviting CSOs who work on or have the expertise on specific thematic issues to brief the PSC. Although this practice is yet to be fully institutionalized, it has enabled the PSC to draw on the inputs of various CSOs in its policy making on various thematic issues.

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not also uncommon for CSOs to participate in the open sessions of the PSC with the possibility of making statement during such session.

In March 2022, the PSC convened the Accra Forum on Unconstitutional Changes of Government which, among others, provided unique platform for CSOs to join the PSC in deliberating on and co-developing policy decisions for countering the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government. This culminated in the adoption of the Accra Declaration.

Later on, in September of last year, the PSC held the inaugural consultative meeting with CSOs, which decided to hold the consultative meeting annually.

Inaugural Consultative Meeting between the PSC and CSOs (Source: ECOSOCC Website, September 2022)

Some of the other important developments in creating space for participation of CSOs in the peace and security work of the AU include the launch of the Network of Think Tanks for Peace (NETT4Peace) and the Pan-African Civil Society Organizations Network on Political Affairs, Peace and Security.

Second retreat between CSOs and AU PAPS (Source: @AUC_PAPS, April 2023)

These various encouraging developments are worth preserving and consolidating. This is important not only because it is a legal imperative under Article 20 of the PSC Protocol and is the right thing to do. It is also because the nature and scale of peace and security challenges on the continent is such that the PSC and state actors cannot by themselves alone overcome. Instead, these challenges require a whole of society approach, hence transcending the hitherto dominant state-centric peace and security diplomacy.

For the whole of society approach, the central significance of close working relationship between the PSC and CSOs cannot be overemphasized. Among others, CSOs are placed in a unique position that would enable them to bridge the divide between the policy space and the wider African public. As the experience of Sudan’s civic actors attest, they also play critical life saving role in times of conflict as first responders and through promoting local peace initiatives.

For the progress made so far to be meaningful, there is urgent need for institutionalizing a more dynamic and systematic role of CSOs in AU peace processes. In the work of the PSC, while the practice of inviting representatives of CSOs for briefing the PSC is applied increasingly over the years and is no longer contested or opposed, it remains ad hoc and confined to thematic issues.

This practice ordinarily does not apply to PSC meetings on country specific situations. There is thus a need for making this practice more systematic, regular and institutional. For this, one practice that the PSC may look into for emulation is the UN Security Council’s practice of convening what is known as the Aria Formula meeting. The PSC can easily accomplish this by operationalizing Article 8 (11) of the PSC Protocol which provides for informal consultation with CSOs.

The holding of this consultative meeting on a yearly basis is a welcome development. However, it is critical to formulate a clearer vision of how this meeting could materially contribute to advance the objectives of the PSC Protocol. This could be for example by dedicating a part of the consultation to the provision of substantive analysis on regional situations by respective representatives of CSOs from the various regions of the AU. This could feed into the Council’s annual report on the state of peace and security in Africa by presenting a non-state component to the report.

In the face of the contemporary complex security landscape, it is of profound strategic significance that peace and security diplomacy transcends its state centric wiring and adapts to the current reality by creating space and leveraging the role of non-state actors

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’

On why Darfur deserves a special attention

On why Darfur deserves a special attention

Date | 22 June 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

Tsion Hagos
Senior Researcher, Amani Africa

Zekarias Beshah Abebe
Senior Researcher, Amani Africa

Since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan on 15 April 2023, the part of the country that has come to experience the most violence is Darfur. Outside Khartoum, Darfur is the one region where the fighting affected most parts of the region. It is in Darfur that the fighting has taken worrying levels of intercommunal dimension. It is also here that the fighting not only endangers to tear apart the already fragile and violence ridden relations between various communities, but also to result in mass atrocities. This is accordingly a situation that warrants special attention of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC).

 It is in Darfur that the fighting has taken worrying levels of intercommunal dimension. It is also here that the fighting not only endangers to tear apart the already fragile and violence ridden relations between various communities, but also to result in mass atrocities.

Although the signing of local peace agreements led by local leaders and committees initially sought to minimize the degeneration of the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Force (SAF) and the Rapid Support Force (RSF) into widespread inter-communal violence, it was unable to forestall it.

El Geneina, capital of West Darfur and a city close to the border with Chad, is perhaps the most affected by the violence. It reportedly witnessed the killing of significant number of people, widespread damage and destruction of both public and private property and lootings. According to OCHA’s Humanitarian update for 22 June, ‘[t]here are also reports of ethnically-motivated targeted killings, sexual violence, widespread burning of homes and mass displacement of non-Arab residents–particularly in and around the city of Ag Geneina (sic)–by the RSF and allied Arab militias.’

According to various reports, the violence in West Darfur taking the form of ethnic cleansing turns out to be one of, if not the, deadliest thus far and most atrocious. According to Sudan’s Doctors Union, the conflict in El Geneina has led to the death of over 1000 people. It has also forced tens of thousands into internal displacement or into crossing to Chad to seek refuge.

Destruction in El Geneina

It is the fact that the outbreak of fighting between the RSF and SAF has come to intersect with existing conflict dynamics that makes the situation in Darfur particular and deserving of its own special attention. Despite some improvement in the overall conflict situation, Darfur did not recover peace fully. Not only that the conditions that led to the outbreak of war in 2003 have not been fully resolved but the war and most importantly the atrocities committed along ethnic lines targeting in particular non-Arab communities also created new grievances.

It is the fact that the outbreak of fighting between the RSF and SAF has come to intersect with existing conflict dynamics that makes the situation in Darfur particular and deserving of its own special attention.

In recent years and particularly since the ouster of Bashir and with new recruitment drives and the deepening of ties between the RSF and Arab militias, these conflict issues have become more acute and induced recurring incidents of violence. This is most notable in Western Darfur. According to the 2022 report of the UN Sanctions Committee, ‘[t]he city of El Geneina and neighboring areas of West Darfur have experienced regular and significant outbreaks of violence since 2019. In April 2021, the upsurge of violence had reached catastrophic dimension.’ It went on to report that ‘[l]ocal sources argued that the events took the form of ethnic cleansing, directed against the Masalit and other non-Arab communities.’

The fighting between the RSF and the SAF therefore seems to affect Darfur in two ways. First, it has adda a new axis of conflict in Darfur between entities that previously fought against Darfur armed groups jointly. Perhaps, most importantly, this fighting has made the resurgent conflict dynamics in Darfur much more violent and destructive. Media reports indicate that the attacks in El Geneina are largely by Arab militias and the RSF and they mainly targeted non-Arab groups, particularly the Masalit.

On 14 June, West Darfur’s Governor, Khamis Abdullah Abbaker, was killed in El Geneina shortly after he implicated the RSF for the atrocities being committed in the town. Reports attributed the killing to Arab militias and the RSF, although the paramilitary group denied the assertions. Following this killing, the OCHA update reported that ‘at least 15,000 people, including Sudanese refugees and 3,000 Chadian returnees have reportedly crossed into Chad.’

Other parts of Darfur are also experiencing increasing levels of violence. It is reported that the RSF has stepped up attacks elsewhere in Darfur in attempt to ascertain its dominance in Darfur. The outbreak of clashes in North Darfur, in Tawila town on 16 June, led to killing and injury of civilians, including internally displaced people and widespread displacement.

Displacement Trends

While much of the diplomatic attention is focused on the fighting between SAF and RSF generally, this should not lead to overlooking the specificities of the conflict dynamics in Darfur that warrant its own attention and intervention.

The nature and the scale of the violence as well as its impact on civilians of the targeted communities raises risks of a repeat of the genocidal violence of the previous Darfur war. What makes the situation particularly dangerous is that those being attacked are not receiving any protection from the SAF, which reportedly withdrew from El Geneina. On 13 June, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, released a statement warning that the violence in El Geneina could amount to crimes against humanity. He indicated an ‘emerging pattern of large-scale targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnic identities, allegedly committed by Arab militias and some armed men in Rapid Support Force (RSF)’s uniform.’

The PSC has both a legal and historical responsibility. The situation in Sudan, involving the war in Darfur and the north-South conflict, has attracted the most attention from the PSC. Since 2004, the PSC dedicated the largest number of sessions to Sudan pursuant to Amani Africa’s database.

PSC’s Engagement on Sudan and Specific Sessions addressing the situation in Darfur, 2004 up to end of May 2023

Nearly 2/3 of PSC sessions on Sudan were tied to Darfur. Darfur was the first of conflict situations that featured on the agenda of the PSC when the PSC became operational in March 2004. It is also here with respect to the conflict in Darfur that PSC deployed various conflict management and resolution tools.

The first peace support operation that the PSC deployed was the AU Mission to Sudan (AMIS) that provided the first international presence in Darfur, contributing to reduction of violence against civilians. It is also here that the PSC for the first time established a high-level panel, the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur (AUPD) which later became AU High-level Panel on Sudan (AUHIP), setting an example for the high-level panel as a model of AU’s diplomatic action for mediation and peacemaking.

The nature of the violence in Darfur involving mass atrocities including those that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing legally implicate PSC’s action. Additionally, the role the PSC played with respect to the Darfur war also places historical responsibility for it to pay special attention to Darfur. Urgent action by the PSC can contribute towards averting the situation in Darfur from spiraling completely out of control. This the PSC can accomplish at the very least through convening a dedicated session for mobilizing diplomatic and humanitarian attention and action the situation in Darfur demands.

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’

Why the idea of the establishment of a civilian transitional authority in Sudan should be taken seriously and how it can be realized

Why the idea of the establishment of a civilian transitional authority in Sudan should be taken seriously and how it can be realized

Date | 15 June 2023

Solomon A. Dersso with contribution from Zekarias Beshah

Almost three months into the fighting, there is no sign of the war in Sudan slowing down let alone ending. Each of the warring parties in Sudan, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), is locked in a logic for imposing its will by the barrel of the gun. The resultant entrenchment of the fighting is exacting enormous suffering on the Sudanese public and destruction on the state infrastructure.

Despite various diplomatic efforts involving regional and international actors and the announcement of about a dozen ceasefire initiatives or agreements, there is little to show for it. If anything, the approach of the peace and security and humanitarian diplomacy is aggravating the situation. It has bestowed legitimacy on the two warring parties. The singular focus of the efforts for ceasefire or humanitarian truce as well as peace mediation, as illustrated by the 12 June 2023 IGAD summit decision, is on the two parties, thereby inadvertently incentivizing the reinforcement of their respective positions.

Instead of any change of course, both the logic of the warring parties to achieve their objective through fighting and the glorification by the diplomatic processes of the two belligerents have set Sudan on a path for a protracted conflict with all the more catastrophic risks it carries with it. There is as a result a present danger of the collapse of the Sudanese state.

Sudanese civic actors are the only ones that provide the Sudanese state and the international community the viable window for averting this present danger of state collapse and the accompanying apocalyptic consequences that are frightening to contemplate. These civic actors comprise diverse groups, including the neighborhood/resistance committee, professional associations, trade unions, political parties and local community formations. Distinguishing themselves from other civic actors in other countries, Sudanese civilian actors have displayed incredible level of organizational ingenuity, agility and resilience.

It was the peaceful protest and other civic actions that they mobilized that set the stage for the overthrow of the three decades dictatorial rule of Omar El Bashir in April 2019. While drawing on rich civic traditions, the non-violent movement waged by these actors, or what is referred to as the ‘December Revolution’, drew the participation of people from various walk of life, with women and youth taking active role in organization and leadership.

When the military sought to abort the revolution by declaring military rule for three years after seizing power by ousting Bashir in April 2019, it was the Sudanese civic actors that fought this illegal seizure of power and imposition of military rule. Despite violent crackdown by the SAF and the RSF, Sudanese civic actors did not opt for armed insurrection as was the case in Libya. They displayed firm commitment for peaceful resistance. As Susan Stigant pointed out, ‘any tensions among Sudanese civilians should not belie their near-unwavering unity on a foundational principle: A commitment to democratic politics and debate, however messy. That commitment stands in stark contrast with the persistent behavior of senior officials in the SAF and RSF, who use force indiscriminately to settle their differences.’

All these provided the basis for the African Union (AU), together with the then Chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), supported by the US and gulf countries, to facilitate mediation for the establishment of a transitional process.

The power-sharing agreement this process produced with alteration of leadership of the Sovereign Council (the highest authority of the transitional power-sharing government) during an agreed 39-month period and legitimizing the military’s seizure of government power and active role in politics was the original sin that the international community committed. Seen as a pragmatic necessity, this arrangement ended up incentivizing the appetite of the SAF and the RSF to entrench their grip on power. Thus, just before transferring the role of heading the Sovereign Council to the civilian leadership of the power-sharing government as per the terms of the August 2019 Constitutional Declaration, the SAF and the RSF staged a coup and arrested Prime Minister Abdela Hamdok and his cabinet on 25 October 2021.

Once again it fell on the Sudanese civic actors to mobilize against the illegal usurpation of power by going to street with their legendary peaceful protests, forcing the military to engage in a shaky political process that aimed at resolving the standoff between protesters and the military. They even went as far as articulating a constitutional document. This time around, AU, IGAD and UN joined hands under a Trilateral Mechanism to facilitate the political process, but with the same strategy that is anchored on people with the guns. As in 2019, the political process resulted in the signing of a ‘Political Framework Agreement (PFA)’ on 5 December 2022 between the military and section of the civilian actors organized under Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC). The US and other members of the Quad (Saudi Arabia, UAE, and UK) were behind this agreement.

The PFA, lauded by its sponsors as the first step towards the restoration of a civilian-led government but greeted with opposition from the resistance committees, instead of putting Sudan on a footing for democratic dispensation, set the SAF and the RSF, the incompatibility of whose interests has grown increasingly deep, on a collision course. While seemingly engaging the trilateral process, they were preparing for a final showdown to settle their power contest. The Trilateral Mechanism was busy in convening workshops and consultations to facilitate the appointment of a new prime minister when the two generals, Al Burhan of SAF and RSF commander Dagalo, started fighting in Khartoum on 15 April.

This time around as well, Sudanese civic actors, the unsung heroes, rose to the occasion, once again demonstrating their organizational ability to serve the public good even in the midst of fierce fighting between the SAF and the RSF through humanitarian action and local peace activism and peace making. They mobilized themselves to identify safe passages for enabling civilians caught in the cross fire to escape from harm’s way into safer areas, thereby serving not only Sudanese civilians but also foreigners including members of the diplomatic community. They organized humanitarian assistance involving the provision of food and medical help for civilians cut off from access to basic necessities due to the heavy fighting. Leaders of local communities in parts of Sudan signed local peace agreements to avoid being drawn into the fighting. Similarly, various civic actors rejected the war and campaigned for keeping Sudanese people from taking side in the war that they never chose.

Despite all of these, the international peace and humanitarian diplomatic processes showed little imagination and flexibility for anchoring their engagement on Sudanese civic actors and the enormous organizational resources they avail for humanitarian action, peacemaking and monitoring and reporting on the ceasefire commitments of the two fighting parties. Instead, these processes continue to show incredible level of impotence which was further compounded by proliferation of roadmaps and peace forums that continue to glorify the people with guns who are burning Sudan to the ground.

In the light of the extraordinary and present danger of state collapse arising from the continuation of the war and the lack of breakthrough from the use of the same failed diplomatic approach, there is an urgent need for changing course. This necessitates shifting the locus of peacemaking from the greed driven SAF-RSF duo to the Sudanese civic actors, who hold the key for averting the dangers associated with the continuation of this greed driven war.

The most viable avenue for seizing the opportunity that Sudanese civic actors present for saving the Sudanese state from collapse and the apocalyptic dangers that such collapse is sure to precipitate is the establishment of a civilian transitional government. It is true that this is a radical approach that is neither clean nor easy. But the extraordinary nature of the situation in Sudan demands nothing short of such radical approach. Under the circumstances, there is neither a clean nor an easy approach better than this for arresting Sudan’s descent into collapse.

While this proposal builds on arguments that analysts such as Alex de Waal made, we make a case for a two-staged process towards it. With these two phased processes, it is possible to inject a measure of pragmatism to this proposal.

The first phase involves the establishment of a civilian care taker government. This is a government whose only raison d’etre is the salvation of the Sudanese state by creating the space for a Sudanese led peace process that brings to the center of diplomatic efforts the agency of Sudanese civic actors. The mandate of this care taker government is envisaged to be further limited both in time and its non-participation in the subsequent transitional process. As a body with such limited emergency and technocratic power for saving the Sudanese state, there is a need for its urgent establishment whose narrow focus can mitigate, if not dissolve, fragmentation and contestation which was used against effective engagement with Sudanese civic actors.

Within the framework of the foregoing, this care taker government will have two principal roles. First is to mobilize Sudanese people in their various formations and the international community towards securing ceasefire. For it to succeed, it has to receive not only diplomatic recognition but also importantly substantial institutional support for it to be in charge of such state institutions as the bureaucracy and the Central Bank.

The establishment of such care taker government by Sudanese civic actors and the diplomatic recognition of such government by the international community brings multiple benefits for the search for ending the conflict. First, by creating an entity as main locus of diplomatic efforts and separate from either of the two fighting parties, it ends the glorification of the people with gun who are unleashing the destruction of the country. Clearly, such a care taker government does not dispense with the necessity of engaging the warring parties but disrupts the incentive structure. Second, it thus has the potential to break the logic of total victory and total defeat by which the action of the warring parties is currently dictated. Third, this would incentivize the warring parties, perhaps most notably the SAF, to opt for committing to ceasefire as a means of limiting their loss in any future dispensation. Fourth, by the sheer fact of its presence, it is also possible that the warring parties would be put into a position pursuing their interests by choosing to accept the role of the care taker government.

The second role of the care taker government, which will not be part of the future transitional government, is the creation of the conditions for the holding of a national popular convention.  This is a convention that will bring together various political and social forces of Sudan for the elaboration of a transitional roadmap and the establishment the transitional government for the implementation of the roadmap involving various reforms that will usher in a democratic dispensation in Sudan.

Whether or not this could work and how it could be made to work depends first and foremost on the Sudanese civic actors. With them showing leadership by seizing the initiative themselves and doing so without much delay, they present an opportune challenge for international diplomacy to save itself from its repeatedly failed approach.


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’

AU’s Network of think tanks for peace: an avenue for bringing the AU closer to the wider African public?

AU’s Network of think tanks for peace: an avenue for bringing the AU closer to the wider African public?

Date | 12 June 2023

Prof Tim Murithi,
Head of program, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

On 8 February 2023, the African Union (AU) launched the African Network of Think Tanks for Peace (NeTT4Peace) to enhance the strategic partnership between African epistemic community and AU’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) on areas of governance, peace and security. This came as a breakthrough after years of efforts to institutionalize the engagement of African CSOs in peace, security and governance work of the AU, one key avenue for bringing the AU closer to the wider African public.

Navigating the AU policy space has been challenging for CSOs for the large part of the existence of the Union. This challenge and the frustration it caused is perhaps best captured by a participant at a High-Level training seminar hosted by Amani Africa in July 2022 when she told AU Commissioner for PAPS, Bankole Adeoye, that after 20 years of knocking on the door of the AU, to engage and work together, she had become jaded and she felt that she was no longer ‘in love’ with the AU. In his characteristically diplomatic style, Bankole replied that ‘we are all Africans’ and that AU-CSOs relationship is like a ‘marriage’; despite the challenge, the relationship is the one that we are committed to ‘for better or for worse’ ‘till death do us part’.

Providing the space for the engagement of CSOs in the works of the AU should not be seen as a favour or a burden. It is rather about honouring the normative commitment to engage CSOs in the implementation of its objectives. Comprising wide segment of groups including think-tanks, academic and research institutions, advocacy and Pan-African organizations, African CSOs play critical role in bringing the AU and its decision-making process closer to the people.

Article 20 of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) encourages CSOs to actively participate in the efforts aimed at promoting peace, security, and stability in Africa. The Protocol further envisages that the PSC may hold informal consultations with various actors including CSOs for the discharge of its responsibilities. There have been different initiatives to operationalize this article to ensure meaningful participation of CSOs in the works of the PSC.

The Livingstone Formula and the Maseru Retreat Conclusions are outcomes of such efforts by the PSC to put in place the appropriate modalities for effective interaction with CSOs in the promotion of peace, security, and stability in the continent. In September of last year, PSC also held its inaugural annual consultative meeting with CSOs with the view to enhancing synergy on timely governance, peace, and security issues in the continent. These are nothing short of a lip service and the commitments under the initiatives have not translated into the meaningful engagement of CSOs in the areas they were supposed to contribute, including early warning, peace-making and mediation, and peacebuilding.

African CSOs did not sit idle until the creation of an enabling environment for their engagement, but they have been organizing themselves to carve out space for themselves. The first decade of the establishment of the AU from about 2002 to 2010 witnessed a dynamic and robust era of CSOs’ engagement where they were organized to the point of convening pre-AU Summit meetings and issuing their view in good time to the Union before the Summit. They were organized enough to also participate in the margins and corridors of the Summit as Observers during the opening sessions of the Executive Council and even during the Assembly of Heads of State and Government. That space has been restricted since recently as the Summit was no place for CSOs but for them to stay in their ‘lane’, at technical expert level.

Over the last five years, there is renewed effort by CSOs to reclaim the AU policy space, particularly through the engagement with PAPS. It was in that context that a coalition of CSOs convened the first strategic retreat with the PAPS in Nairobi in February 2022 with the aim to enhance the collaboration and synergy between the two sides toward advancing the peace, security and governance agenda in the continent. The creation of this important platform – the NeTT4Peace – is the culmination of such strategic engagement while other outcomes, including the appointment of a focal point within the PAPS department still require follow-up. The second strategic retreat was convened this year in April in Addis Ababa.

The idea of creating such a structure to facilitate solid AU-CSOs partnership is not new. It dates back to the time of the Organization of the African Unity (OAU), a predecessor to the AU. In June 2001, 22 years ago, OAU convened the first ever OAU-Civil Society Conference in Addis Ababa, under the leadership of Amara Essy, the then Secretary-General of the Organization. Among one of its objectives was to build an OAU-Civil Society Partnership for Promoting Peace and Development in Africa. The building of a network between the OAU and CSOs to address the political, peace and security, socio-economic and environmental issues was one of the recommendations that emerged from that conference. 21 years down the road, not a single OAU-Civil Society convening as it was envisaged has taken place despite that there have been other similar platforms. Nor was the intended network established.

It is therefore for the first time in the history of the AU that such a structure has been established within the AU. And for this, Commissioner Bankole deserves appreciation for his leadership in bringing the number of African CSOs working in the areas of peace and security under the umbrella of NeTT4Peace. Given the diversity of organizations involved in this initiative, the NeTT4Peace will not be a replication or duplication but an important stand-alone necessary platform, which will be driven and utilized by the AU and its Member States, as well as the wider Pan-African society, to advance the African political, peace and security agenda.

NeTT4Peace is hoped to bridge the gap between research and policymaking. As noted by the AU, the initiative is expected to enhance the relevance and value of the contribution of African knowledge communities while allowing the PAPS to better utilize evidence-based research to inform policy formulation and strategic decision-making. For the researchers and academics, it presents the opportunity for them to have a full picture of a part situation from an insider perspective, which has been the missing link in their work. This also increases research uptake by policymakers. Sometimes the nature of advancing political, peace and security agendas, is not so much about what you know, but who you know, and how you can get the desired outcomes.

The importance of the NeTT4Peace cannot be over-stated, and it is an idea whose time has come. This is particularly true in the current global context where Africa is facing the risk of the Second Scramble for Africa. This time the Scramble is not defined exclusively by military forces colonizing and occupying the continent, but it is playing itself out at the level of ideas, ideology, dogma, and deliberate agenda to extract resources and to control and manipulate African governments and societies. This is something that the AU PAPS and NeTT4Peace can collectively apply their minds to understand and put in place mitigation strategies.

NeTT4Peace offers the much-needed expert resources for producing timely data and analysis that can be strategically deployed by AU decision-makers to bring about the change that we would like to see in our societies. Turning this potential into a reality however requires an earnest commitment on both sides to operationalize the initiative.

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’

Authorizing use of UN assessed contributions for AU PSOs is about fulfilling UN Charter's most fundamental pledge, Amani Africa tells the UN Security

Authorizing use of UN assessed contributions for AU PSOs is about fulfilling UN Charter's most fundamental pledge, Amani Africa tells the UN Security

Date | 25 May 2023

Amani Africa Statement delivered to the United Nations Security Council

Thank you, Madame President.

I would like to thank the Swiss Presidency for this invitation to address the Council on my behalf and on behalf of my organization Amani Africa Media and Research Services (Amani Africa).

Amani Africa is a pan-African policy research, training and consulting think-tank that works on multilateral processes on peace and security and democratic and constitutional rule in Africa with a focus on the role of the African Union (AU) and its Peace and Security Council (PSC). 1 It is an honor for me to draw on and use the rich research work of my organization in addressing you today. 2

Madame President, distinguished members of the Council

We would like to propose that at its core the subject of this session is not about money. Rather, it is first and foremost about the kind of arrangement that can best deliver on the pledge of the UN Charter of ‘saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ at a time when existing arrangements and tools for delivering on this promise have been found wanting.

At various junctures in its 78 years history, this Security Council had to make bold decisions for adapting the arrangements and tools for the maintenance of international peace and security to the challenges of each era. Although not always successful, there is no doubt that they give the UN the fighting chance for doing better in its efforts towards ‘saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’

Considering the nature of the peace and security challenges facing Africa, which account for 60 % of the decisions of this Council, it is the moment to make the necessary decision for adapting the arrangement and the tools for the realization of the Charter’s most fundamental pledge.

This the Council can achieve by heeding the UN Secretary-General’s call in the report presented today for the ‘Security Council to signal its clear support for providing African Union peace support operations with access to the United Nations assessed contributions.’

As discussed in some detail in Amani Africa’s special research report 3, the question of financing of AU PSOs has been an important part of the policy discourse on international peace and security in Africa for nearly fifteen years. At the turn of the century, the Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council was cognizant of the necessity for resort to the use of UN assessed contributions. This was premised on the fundamental recognition that when the AU deploys peace support operations with UNSC Chapter VII authorization, it does so as part of the arrangement deemed necessary and in pursuit of the global public good for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The experiences witnessed in the use of AU PSOs under this Council’s authorization have made it clear that the full potential of this arrangement (AU led UN authorized PSOs) can only be realized if AU PSOs are provided with sustainable, predictable and flexible funding. This Council has on many occasions affirmed the imperative for such funding. 4

This Council has actually deployed assessed contributions for funding AU peace support operations, 5 although in each instance as an exception. Following Resolution 2320 (2016) and Resolution 2378 (2017) as well as Presidential Statement of 31 August 2022 that requested the preparation of the Secretary-General’s Report presented today, I wish to indicate that the Secretary-General is spot on in stating that this is ‘an opportune, timely moment for the United Nations Security Council to rise to the challenge of laying the foundation for a new generation of African Union-led, United Nations-supported peace support operations on the African continent.’

On whether the institutional and technical work accomplished is good enough for such action, solid enough progress has been made albeit with some areas requiring further consolidation.

There is significant progress with respect to compliance framework for AUs peace support operations pursuant to UNSC Resolutions 2320 (2016) and 2378 (2017). 6

The AU has also established a unit dedicated to compliance. 7 This can be strengthened further.  The implementation of the compliance standards can also be enhanced with further support.

With respect to burden sharing, institutionally the most critical development is the revitalization of the AU Peace Fund dedicated to mobilizing funds from within the continent for financing AU’s peace and security work. 8

Although the question is framed narrowly in monetary terms, there are questions about giving considerations to the enormous price that AU personnel pay with their lives and limbs and the resultant financial, social and other costs that result from such loss to the families, communities and institutions that these personnel are part of.

The use of UN assessed contribution is the avenue for crafting, along the lines outlined in the Secretary-General’s report and the AU Consensus Paper, that arrangement and the accompanying combination of tools required for this era to give the UN, working in concert with the AU, the fighting chance to make meaningful effort towards the promise of the Charter to save ‘succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ in Africa.

The conflict situations in various parts of the continent, including those in which the major UN peacekeeping operations are currently engaged, require the use of the combination of peace enforcement, stabilization and peacebuilding instruments. Lacking the combination of these tools and the doctrinal space for using some of these tools, UN missions in the CAR, DRC and Mali have come to face enormous challenges.

As the progress made in Somalia, under AU’s mission there, clearly attests, AU PSOs are willing, and when properly resourced, able to use peace enforcement for creating conditions for peace. In similar conflict situations, AU PSOs financed through UN assessed contribution can be the necessary alternative to UN peacekeeping.

Madame President,

At a time when there is apathy to using UN peacekeeping, using AU PSOs offers this Council the avenue for preventing the emergence of such a dangerous vacuum for security arrangements that don’t operate on the basis of multilateral principles.

The future of multilateralism lies in Africa. The interest of the peoples of the African continent is best served under a multilateral system even when it is imperfect. As Nkrumah said 60 years ago ‘although confidence in the United Nations has suffered several shocks since its foundation, …, it remains the only world organization in which the many problems of the world have a chance of finding reasonable solution.’ His endorsement of multilateralism within the framework of the UN is so absolute that he was emphatic that the UN ‘must, therefore, be supported by all interested in the preservation of peace and the progress of human civilization.’ 9

Madame President, excellencies members of the Council

The adoption of the framework resolution on the use of UN assessed contributions for AU PSOs will contribute materially to restoring Africa’s faith in the multilateral system as forcefully put by Nkrumah and facilitate the harnessing of the enormous reservoir of support for multilateralism in Africa.

Moreover, the use of UN assessed contributions within agreed institutional arrangement jointly worked out by the AU and the UN offers the best framework for AU’s role in the maintenance of international peace and security to be one that meets the expectations of the UN Charter. All indications are AU-led PSOs financed by UN assessed contributions are cost effective.

This is not about writing a blank cheque nor is it a matter of charity. Doing this is rather about this Council crafting the framework for shouldering its part of the responsibility in the shared global public good of maintaining peace and security in Africa.

Africa is looking up to this Council. It is our firm believe that this Council will rise to the occasion and muster the will for demonstrating, as the Secretary-General puts it, its ‘readiness to address a critical gap in the international peace and security architecture as well as strong reaffirmation of the willingness of this council to stem the scourge of armed conflict on the African continent.’

I thank you for your kind attention!


We are the leading source of information and analysis on matters the Peace and Security Council, including its role in projecting Africa’s voice, in concert with the three African members, in this august body. Some examples of Amani Africa’s products in this area include: ‘Financing Peace and Security in Africa: Breakthrough in Increased African Ownership?’ (July 2017); ‘The Internal Institutional Setup and Working Processes Shaping the Relationship between the AUPSC and the UNSC’ (December 2019); ‘Making Africa’s Voice Matter in the UN Security Council: Bridging the Gap Between Ambition and Reality in the Role of the African Three Members of the UNSC’ (March 2021); and ‘Seizing the New Momentum for UNSC Resolution on UN funding of AU Peace Operations’ (May 2023).

2 I will particularly draw on the report we launched the week before last titled ‘Seizing the new momentum for the adoption of UNSC Resolution on UN funding of AU PSOs’. As you can see from the sources cited in this latest special research report, Amani Africa closely followed the policy discussion on this file since the very first special research report it produced on this file in mid 2017.

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

4 Various expert bodies established under the authority of this Council have also on several occasions indicated that one most viable, if not exclusive, option in this respect is the use of UN assessed contributions.  United Nations, “Note to the Secretary General: Follow up to the AU-UN Panel (Prodi Report)”, 5 May 2009 and Report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations on uniting our strengths for peace: politics, partnership and people (17 June 2015).

5 It did so for the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) as part of the plan to facilitate its transition to the joint UN-AU mission. It has done so and still does for the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM/ATMIS).

6 First, in addition to broad normative commitments, the AU adopted specific policy instruments including the AU Policy on Conduct and Discipline for PSOs and the AU Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) for PSOs. Second, through the AU-UN-EU tripartite project, the AU has also developed its strategic framework for compliance and accountability, which was adopted earlier this month at a ministerial meeting, where the AU policy on selection and screening of PSO personnel was also adopted. There has also been deliberate integration of IHL in the various mission documents prepared by the AU Commission including Concepts of Operations (CONOPs), Rules of Engagement (ROE), Force commanders’ directives and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Police/Troop Contributing Countries (P/TCCs). At mission level, the AU developed the Indirect Fire Policy of AMISOM, which has contributed to the reduction of civilian harm, and through the establishment of no fire zones and setting up restrictions on the modalities of use of specific weapons. The Board of Inquiry and the Civilian Casualty Tracking Analysis and Response Cell (CCTARC) are the other tools critical to giving effect to the compliance policy of the AU. There are also instructive experiences of convening marshal courts for holding non-complying personnel accountable.

7 At a time when our founding director led an assessment of AU’s experience with compliance through field mission including to AMISOM and MNJTF in 2018, one of the gaps identified was the absence of such a dedicated capacity.  See report submitted by Solomon A. Dersso to AU PSOD on ‘Comprehensive Assessment of AU Mandated and Authorized Peace Support Operations (PSOs) Approaches to Compliance with Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and Conduct and Discipline Standards: Towards a System Wide AU PSOs Compliance Framework’.

8 Three major developments are worth noting in this respect. First, unlike in the past, the scale of assessment of member states serves as a dedicated mechanism to resource the Fund. Second, significant progress has been made towards the operationalization of the Fund through instituting the governance and management structures of the Fund. With the recent appointment of the head of the PF Secretariat, the full operationalization of the Peace Fund is at its final stages. Third, the AU adopted the Consensus Paper on financing of PSOs presenting Africa’s position and the progress made in meeting Resolution 2320 (2016) and Resolution 2378 (2017).

9 Africa Must Unite.

Sudan's descent from a peace process to armed fighting and implications for the AU: the Urgency for more and sustained action

Sudan's descent from a peace process to armed fighting and implications for the AU: the Urgency for more and sustained action

Date | 20 April 2023

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

Zekarias Beshah Abebe
Senior Researcher, Amani Africa

Since the outbreak of fighting on 15 April between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan is witnessing one of its worst violence affecting various parts of the country, including the capital city Khartoum. The leaders of the two security formations General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as ‘Hemedti’ have been serving as the head and deputy head of Sudan’s governing Sovereign Council after staging two military coups in concert in April 2019 and October 2021.

Unlike other previous armed conflicts in Sudan, the parties to the conflict and the physical spaces in which they are taking place are different. This fighting is taking place not only in areas previously affected by conflict such as Darfur but also in places such as Khartoum that was largely spared from the previous conflicts in Sudan. The fighting is also between two state security institutions: SAF and the RSF, with the leaders of the two vying for dominance. Both these features of this conflict make it hugely dangerous.

The fighting involving indiscriminate bombings and shelling in civilian settlements is already exacting huge pain and suffering to civilians. It is claiming the lives of hundreds of people, destroying civilian infrastructure and leaving people completely stranded without access to amenities & basic necessitates as well as health care for the sick and the wounded.

The foregoing dimensions of this fighting makes the need of cessation of hostilities in Sudan patently urgent.

Regional and international partners were quick to condemn the eruption of hostilities in Sudan, but it was too little, too late to prevent weeks of mounting tension from erupting into an open confrontation. There was every sign that tension was building up between the two sides for months, with the 13 April statement of the SAF spokesperson raising the alarm over the possibility of the collapse of security in the country following the alleged deployment of RSF forces in certain locations. Early warning issues were not heeded as regional and international actors opted for believing that the negotiations on the transition in Sudan involving the parties to this fighting is capable of preventing this eruption.

It also seems that the reactions of these regional, continental and international policy actors are proving inadequate.

For the AU, this is the latest in a series of armed conflicts that erupted in Africa that makes a mockery of AU’s agenda of Silencing the Guns. Instead of guns getting silent, more guns are getting into use and in Sudan the sound of the guns have become deafeningly loud. Nothing short of the very relevance of the AU and its progressive norms and institutions is at stake.

The AU Peace and Security Council – a standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts in the continent – convened an emergency session on Sunday, 16 April, which was a holiday where the AU is hosted. It is worth noting that the emergency session was held a day before it was initially proposed and despite that weekend being a holiday, all PSC members were present for the session, ten of them at Ambassadorial level.

The PSC issued a communique shortly after the conclusion of the meeting, condemning the armed confrontation and calling for an immediate ceasefire without conditions. It also rejected any external interference that could complicate the situation.

As part of the effort to end the violence and bring the two sides to the table, PSC’s emergency session underscored the importance of the plan of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to immediately travel to Sudan.

Meanwhile, IGAD Summit of Heads of State and Government also held an extraordinary emergency session on the situation on the same day as the PSC emergency session. Among others, the regional bloc called on the two parties, like the PSC, to ‘immediately and unconditionally cease hostilities’, and ‘allow unfettered humanitarian access’.

The key outcome of that IGAD summit was its decision to send a high-level delegation to Khartoum ‘at the earliest time possible’. The delegation is made up of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Head of delegation, Kenya’s President William Ruto and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh. The regional leaders delegation has as yet to travel to Sudan, with Burhan indicating that conditions are not conducive for the leaders to travel to Sudan.

The UN Security Council also discussed Sudan on 17 April under ‘any other business’ at the request of United Kingdom, the penholder on the Sudan. Earlier on 15 April, the Security Council issued press statement, urging the parties to ‘immediately cease hostilities’ and return to dialogue. The Arab league and European Union made similar appeal.

All the appeals left unheeded as fighting continues to rage in the capital and elsewhere in Sudan. Fighting has entered its sixth day. With every passing day, there is a risk of this vicious fighting escalating further and becoming more protracted, with heightened danger of worsening the suffering being inflicted on Sudanese people further.

The longer it also continues, the more susceptible it increasingly becomes for the involvement of forces from the region and beyond. This puts Sudan on the very dangerous ground of experiencing fragmentation that has been witnessed in Libya, with all its grave regional and international security ramifications.

What more should be done?

  1. The AU institutions and officials, working together with UN and IGAD as envisaged in the PSC communique, could engage in extensive diplomatic engagement by reaching out and speaking to various Sudanese social and political actors including civilian groups for identifying needs and for informed pursuit of the plan for travel to Sudan;
  2. The AU along with IGAD and UN also need to initiate humanitarian diplomacy with a view for establishing civilian areas to be war free zones where the parties should stop fighting and for the parties to conflict to guarantee humanitarian access for alleviating the mounting humanitarian crisis;
  3. The AU along with IGAD and the UN should also reach out and dissuade neighbouring and other countries to end and refrain from being drawn into the conflict;
  4. The AU should also put in place interdisciplinary emergency taskforce on Sudan that tracks, documents, analyses, and reports on the fighting including on violations of the PSC communique and international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict; and
  5. The AU along with IGAD should on the basis of the work of the taskforce convene regular press conference and providing briefing with a view to show solidarity with the Sudanese people and mobilize public pressure on the fighting parties similar to the briefings of Africa CDC on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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’

Cash strapped African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) starts its second year facing uncertain financial future

Cash strapped African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) starts its second year facing uncertain financial future

Date | 4 April 2023

Bitania Tadesse
Program Director, Amani Africa

Zekarias Beshah
Training and Research Coordinator, Amani Africa

Solomon Ayele Dersso, PhD
Founding Director, Amani Africa

This month marks exactly one year since the transition of the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). On 8 March 2022, at its 1068th session, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), in one of the notable highlights of its work during 2022, ‘authorized’ ATMIS to take effect as of 1 April 2022. Unlike other peace support operations, ATMIS is authorised with a defined expiry date, hence expected to end by 31 December 2024 upon the full assumption of security responsibilities by the Somali Security Forces (SSF). The communiqué of 1068th session is one of, if not, the longest Communiqués of the PSC with 33 paragraphs, capturing various aspects of the reconfiguration and phased implementation of the mandate of ATMIS.

In the work of the PSC in 2022, ATMIS, along with the situation in Somalia, received a lion’s share of PSC’s agenda. Indeed, as Amani Africa’s review of the PSC for 2022 revealed, out of the 17 sessions dedicated to the East and Horn of Africa region, a region that received the largest percentage of PSC’s engagement both in sessions and field visits in 2022, the situation that received the most attention with seven sessions was Somalia/AMISOM/ATMIS. Much of PSC’s intense engagement on Somalia/ATMIS had to do with the transition of AMISOM to ATMIS and the reconfiguration and effective operationalization of a reconfigured ATMIS. Within this context, the most recurrent issue, both at the start of ATMIS and subsequently, is the funding of the mission.

Pursuant to the communiqué of the 1068th session of the PSC and the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution 2628, ATMIS military component maintains current AMISOM size of 18,586 troops during Phase I, and the first drawdown of 2000 troops was expected to take place at the end of this Phase slated for 31 December 2022. As indicated in Amani Africa’s March 2022 monthly digest, the phased drawdown of ATMIS forces, as outlined in the communiqué of the PSC’s 1068th session, would not be linear but contingent on developments on the ground including security and preparation of the SSF at the requisite number and capacity to take over responsibility. It thus came as no surprise that the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) requested the postponement of the first drawdown scheduled for December 2022. The PSC in the 1121st session convened on 11 November 2022 expressed support for FGS’s request to extend the timeline for the drawdown of the 2000 troops from 31 December 2022 to 30 June 2023. Despite this change, the PSC affirmed the timelines for subsequent drawdowns and eventual exit of ATMIS on 31 December 2024.

During the one year period, ATMIS continues to make progress in the execution of its mandate working closely with FGS and the reconfiguration and incremental transfer of its responsibilities, although it suffers from lack of a Force Commander for unduly prolonged period of time. ATMIS played critical role in securing the presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power to the elected President in June 2022. While it is not taking a lead role in the new offensive launched against Al Shabaab apparently on account in part of the funding problem, ATMIS provides logistical support including air cover and medical evacuation for the local forces and SSF executing the offensive.

ATMIS also faced the worst that such a mission can experience. It sustained its first and one of the worst attacks that the AU Mission sustained in recent years, leading to the death of 30 Burundian soldiers when on 3 May Al Shabaab hit the ATMIS base in the village of El-Baraf, about 150 kilometres north of Mogadishu. As an attack that clearly highlights the heavy price that ATMIS personnel pay in the line of duty, the PSC underscored the need for enhancing ‘the capacity of ATMIS, including by availing the Mission with all necessary human, material, technical and financial resources, including force enablers and multipliers, in order to enable it to more effectively discharge its mandate.’

Even in the face of such fatal attacks, ATMIS started its journey and remains with a significant funding shortfall. The seriousness of this shortfall is of such a nature that one of the recurrent themes that featured throughout PSC’s sessions on ATMIS is the financing of ATMIS. Its 1075th session was particularly dedicated to the financing issue where PSC noted with ‘deep concern’ the commencement of the mission without the required resources. Despite the direct funding by the European Union (EU) (€120 million) and the United Kingdom (UK) (€29.6 million), the mission’s budget deficit for the year 2022 was around €25.8 million. This funding shortfall has increased further for 2023.

With the aim to address the budget shortfall, PSC sought different options in various of its sessions including an appeal to the UN Security Council to hold a special session on financing ATMIS and the SSF (1075th session); a call on EU and other partners to establish a financial support package (1075th session); and a request on AU Commission and UN, along with IGAD and partners, to jointly organize international pledging conference by March 2023 (1121st session). The PSC also stressed, in all its communiques adopted at the sessions on ATMIS, the need for accessing UN assessed contributions for sustainable and predictable funding necessary for the effective execution of the mandate of the mission.

While no breakthrough has emerged and many of these options such as the convening of pledging conference are as yet to be tried, the AU Commission along with FGS during the week of 20 March undertook a roadshow in an effort to inject urgency to mobilize funds to make up for the funding shortfall. This involved travels to and holding of convening with partners in New York and Washington DC for soliciting action to resolve the dire funding gap facing ATMIS. These took place during the week leading to the one year anniversary of ATMIS on 1 April. Talking to people who were in these meetings in New York, there was no indication of any new pledges. Those already contributing expressed frustration about lack of engagement of countries such as China and gulf countries for making contributions.

On its part while the AU is set to use the Conflict Reserve Fund (CRF) of the AU Peace Fund towards ATMIS as decided by the AU Assembly, the scale of the shortfall is such that during the PSC session held last month (March 2023), AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye indicated that the AU would be forced to bring forward the June 2023 timeline for the first drawdown of ATMIS. Noting that the mission is in a dire financial situation, Under-Secretary-General of the UN, Rosemary DiCarlo, warned the situation poses a significant risk to the security transition and could threaten hard-won gains. Although in the words of DiCarlo the common objective of realizing ATMIS mandate depends on predictable, sustainable and multi-year funding for ATMIS and adequate resourcing for the Somali security transition, ATMIS faces very uncertain financial future notwithstanding the heavy price its personnel pay in the maintenance of international peace and security. It is to be seen whether there will be successful follow up to the PSC’s reiteration, under its most recent communique of the 1143rd session, of its earlier calls for the convening of a special session by the UN Security Council and the convening of a pledging conference by the UN Secretary General and the AU Commission Chairperson.

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’