Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, attends a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016. Morrocco claims Dlamini-Zuma is blocking its efforts to rejoin the African Union
Morocco accused African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of blocking its efforts to rejoin the organization it left 32 years ago, the country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Morocco has asked the African Union (AU) to readmit it, as it seeks support for its plan to offer autonomy to the disputed territory of Western Sahara while keeping it under Moroccan sovereignty.
Morocco abandoned its seat in 1984 when the AU recognized Western Sahara, a sparsely populated stretch of desert that was formerly a Spanish protectorate, and admitted it as a member.
Moroccan request delayed
The ministry said Dlamini-Zuma had delayed the distribution of the Moroccan request to AU members without any apparent reason, and then invented a new procedural requirement to reject letters from AU members supporting Morocco’s demand.
“The kingdom of Morocco denounces vigorously the maneuvers of African Union Commission head, who is trying to thwart Morocco’s decision to regain its natural and legitimate place in the pan-African institutional family,” the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency MAP.
“The president of the AU commission is dropping her neutrality and failing the rules and standards of the organization and its members’ will,” the statement added.
Many AU members support Morocco
There was no immediate comment from the African organization on the Moroccan statement.
Morocco says at least 36 of the 54 AU member countries do not acknowledge the territory as a separate state and it is time to withdraw its recognition. None of the Western powers, nor the United Nations, recognize the territory, which calls itself the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
But it is unclear if powerful AU members including Algeria and South Africa, which have expressed support to hold a referendum of the people of Western Sahara on their sovereignty, would accept Morocco’s request.
Discussion expected January
Morocco’s King Mohammed, who visited Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right), Nov. 19, 2016, has been touring Africa seeking support for a return to the African Union
The AU is expected to discuss the Moroccan request in its January 2017 summit in Addis Ababa.
Morocco has controlled most of the territory since 1975. The area has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential. Morocco’s King Mohammed has been touring Africa in the last three months seeking support for its AU demand and autonomy proposal for Western Sahara.
In 2014, Morocco rejected the AU’s decision to appoint a special envoy for the Western Sahara, saying the body had no legal authority to intervene.
At least three eminent women are set to join President Paul Kagame’s team that is charged with spearheading reforms at the African Union.
After The EastAfrican exclusively reported the appointment of Carlos Lopes, Donald Kaberuka, Strive Masiyiwa and Acha Leke to the team, one of the president’s 1.5 million Twitter followers questioned why no woman had been named.
“The team is not complete… awaiting consent of two women to join the team. Thinking of three,” President Kagame replied.
The AU is expected to wean itself of donor dependency by 2018. President Kagame was tasked with leading efforts to reform the AU into a self-reliant body.
Mr Kaberuka, the former president of the African Development Bank, presented a new model of financing to African leaders during the 27th Heads of State Summit held in Kigali in July. He will work with Mr Lopes, the outgoing executive director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and Mr Masiyiwa, the Econet Wireless founder. Mr Leke is a senior partner at global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.
There was speculation that the team would include Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, but this was countered by the argument that her Cabinet position would not allow her to take up another full time engagement.
The other possible appointee was former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Ms Mushikiwabo, who is also the government spokesperson, confirmed that three women will join the team but said she could not reveal the names yet.
“Indeed, shortly three women will join the team working with President Kagame on the AU reform proposal to be shared with other heads of state at the next AU Summit in January 2017. President Kagame’s work on the reforms is quite advanced, but it’s never too late to get a woman’s views. The president wrote to his fellow African heads of state after the Kigali Summit asking for input to enrich his work, and a few have already responded,” Ms Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican.
The AU has in the past come under scrutiny for its dependency on donors and its failure to make firm decisions on important matters affecting the continent.
Although the leaders have adopted a new model for financing the AU, challenges remain on how it will be implemented considering that a similar model floated by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo failed to take off. Mr Obasanjo had suggested that states levy a tourism tax of $2 on hotel rooms and a $10 levy on each air ticket bought.
The new model championed by Mr Kaberuka will see countries raise about $1.2 billion to finance AU operations through a 0.2 per cent tax on imports.
“Africa can do better in terms of mobilising internal resources,” Mr Lopes said.
Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed (file photo)
Rwanda is supporting Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed – but it remains to be seen which way Tanzania and Uganda will lean.
Ms Mohamed was proposed for the job by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who cited her credentials in diplomacy and exemplary performance in her current docket.
She has been Kenya’s ambassador/permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, and served as the assistant secretary general and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi.
Ms Mohamed, who will be standing against candidates from the other regional blocs, stands a better chance of election if she gets support from all EAC member states.
Elections to replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is stepping down after one term to prepare for a stab at the South African presidency, will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January.
On Friday, a committee to vet candidates met in Addis Ababa.
Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican that her country would support Ms Mohamed, ruling out speculation that they would front the former president of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka or former EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera.
“She is the best woman for the job, and she is very much Rwanda’s candidate. She is highly qualified, has incredible diplomatic and managerial experience, and the right heart and mind when it comes to the strategic interests of our continent, as well as Africa’s active presence on the global scene,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
Uganda’s International Relations State Ministry Permanent Secretary James Mugume said the country was yet to decide on whom to support, but would back the candidate the region agreed on between Kenya’s Ms Mohamed and Somalia’s Fowyiso Yusuf Haji Adan.
The nomination process for the chairperson was opened afresh after the AU Heads of State Summit in Kigali in July failed to elect a successor to South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been at the helm since 2012. At the Kigali summit, none of the three contenders for the position – Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, her counterpart from Equatorial Guinea Agapito Mba Mokuy and former vice president of Uganda Specioza Wandira Kazibwe – obtained the required two-thirds majority after seven rounds of voting.
Ms Mohamed is expected to battle it out with Mr Mokuy, Somalia’s Ms Adan and the July elections lead candidate Ms Moitoi. Uganda withdrew its nomination of former vice president Specioza Kazibwe after she did not make it among the top candidates.
The SADC trade bloc, has, however, maintained that it will forward Ms Moitoi’s name because Ms Zuma did not serve her second term. Mr Mokuy had portrayed himself as the Economic Community Of West African States (Ecowas) candidate, yet it was Senegal that instigated the 28 states to boycott the elections due to lack of “high calibre” candidates.
Mr Mokuy had sought the support of Nigeria, the West African economic powerhouse, and Kenya, with a special appeal from President Theodore Obiang Nguema.
Another likely candidate is Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily, who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby, who currently holds the AU rotational leadership, is also believed to have put forth the name of his Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who served as prime minister between 2003 and 2005, and who would present a second candidate for the Central African bloc.
South Africa is said to have great influence on the SADC countries. This week, South African President Jacob Zuma will be in Nairobi for a three-day state visit, and it is expected that President Kenyatta will use the opportunity to drum up support for Ms Mohamed.
In the July elections, South Africa supported Ms Moitoi. Then South Africa’s international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the region would campaign with Botswana, and that South Africa was fully behind the SADC initiative. They have not come up with an alternative candidate.
Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal, which led the Ecowas campaign to postpone the election, have also been pushing for a candidate.
In May, Senegal’s President Macky Sall raised concerns about the candidates with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa was presented as a candidate at the Kigali meeting, but was turned down because the nominations had closed.
In Mr Bathily, in particular, Ms Mohammed is likely to face a veteran of African politics with working experience in West and Central Africa, one whose participation in the Pan African Movement and socialist movements left him with contacts across the continent, including liberation movements in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa.Additional reporting by Daniel Kalinaki and Edmund Kagire.
Mechanism to see 0.2% of eligible imports go toward funding
New funding plan will start in 2017, Rwandan minister says
The African Union agreed to use some cash paid to import goods to help raise $1.2 billion starting next year, reducing its reliance on donors such as the World Bank that provide about three-quarters of funding for its programs.
Heads of state and government pose during a photo call before the official opening of the 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali on July 17, 2016.
The AU’s heads of state on July 16 decided that 0.2 percent of a country’s eligible imports will go toward funding the AU Commission’s programs, Rwandan Finance Minister Claver Gatete told reporters in the country’s capital, Kigali, where the AU Summit is taking place. Eligible imports exclude products such as medicines, fertilizers and baby food, he said. The money will be collected by local revenue authorities and held in central bank accounts, from which the cash will be automatically disbursed.
The 54 member states last year resolved to find a way to fund three-quarters of its programs and 25 percent of its peace-support missions itself. Donor include the European Commission, World Bank, developed countries and other partners. The commission’s budget this year is $447 million, Gatete said.
“We should not be a burden to the donor communities, we should be able to finance our own activities, and this is the beginning,” Gatete said. States will be punished for violating their obligations, he said, without providing more information.
The AU supports programs aimed at developing transport, energy, water and telecommunication services in the continent, among others.
African Union Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was due to stand down but African leaders were unable to agree on a successor to lead the executive branch of the continental body (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)
Kigali (AFP) – African heads of state meeting in Kigali failed on Monday to elect a new head of the African Union and will try again in January, an official said.
Current AU Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was due to stand down but leaders were unable to agree on a successor to lead the executive branch of the continental body during its 27th summit meeting, being held in the Rwandan capital.
“Black smoke billows from the 27th AU Summit as no winner emerges… Commission elections postponed till next summit,” Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesman, Jacob Enoh Eben, said on Twitter, referencing the smoke signal that precedes the naming of a new pope.
None of the three candidates was able to muster the two-thirds majority required to win in the secret ballot.
Ahead of the vote many states had expressed dismay at the “lack of stature” among the little known candidates from Botswana, Equatorial-Guinea and Uganda and, in the end, 28 of the 54 member states abstained from the final round of voting thus forcing a postponement of the election and an extension of Dlamini-Zuma’s term.
“I feel deeply and proudly a true son of Africa after receiving this passport,” said Déby. Dlamini-Zuma said that the body had been “overwhelmed” with requests for the passport since its launch was announced in January and that other heads of state would be issued with the document over the course of the summit, which concludes Monday.
Dlamini-Zuma also urged heads of states in Africa to create their own protocols for introducing the pan-African passport to their citizens “as and when they are ready.”
The document will initially only be available to politicians and diplomats. Images of the passport show inscriptions in five languages—English, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Swahili—and the AU claims that the document has “high security features,” although it is not clear what these are.
The AU outlined in 2013 the introduction of a African passport in its Agenda 2063 document, which lays out the conditions for development of the continent over the next five decades. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only non-member is Morocco, which left a precursor organization in 1984 due to a dispute over Western Sahara, a territory contested by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
The continent already contains several regional blocs, with different levels of freedom of movement. For example, residents of countries in the Economic Community of West African States—a bloc of 15 nations including Nigeria and Ghana—can move freely between member states without having to obtain visas, or obtaining visas upon arrival. Ghana recently instituted a visa-upon-arrival schemefor all AU residents after President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in February, saying it would stimulate trade and tourism.
Heads of state and government pose during a photo call before the official opening of the 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali on July 17, 2016.
The African Union summit meeting in Kigali will be voting for a new AU commission on Monday, despite rumors of a call for the election to be delayed.
There have been persistent rumors at the summit that the ECOWAS bloc of west African states is unhappy with the choice of candidates offered to succeed outgoing AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
There are three candidates, two of them women, former Uganda vice president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Botswana Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy.
Late Sunday an AU legal counsel, Vincent O Nmehielle, denied the rumors of a delay.
“Stop speculating. There is no ECOWAS concern that has made an election to be postponed. Elections are going forward tomorrow. No more names are entering the list, while the elections are going on tomorrow. If somehow we are not able to obtain the necessary majority then the rules will kick in and you will be advised as to the outcome,” Nmehielle said.
ECOWAS does not determine whether AU commission elections are held, he added.
AU rules say the winning candidate must obtain two thirds of member states’ votes. Nmehielle explained that if no one wins this majority in the first round, the candidate with least votes will be knocked out and a second round held.
If a two thirds majority is still not obtained, he said, the election will be suspended pending another vote and an interim chairperson appointed.
One journalist questioned the democratic credentials of some of the candidates’ home countries. Nmehielle declined to comment.
“Can you define democracy for me? When you say candidates from undemocratic countries I do not know what you mean. They are members of the African Union. To be a candidate it is open to all members of the African Union,” Nmehielle said.
According to AU rules the commission chairperson and deputy chairperson are elected by heads of states or their representatives at the summit, while the eight commissioners are elected by member states’ foreign ministers.
Twenty-six African countries have failed to agree on how traders would access a market of more than 600 million people through the proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), blurring expansion plans by companies.
The EAC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have differed on the kind of preferential treatment sensitive goods and services from one bloc would be offered in another.
The 12-month period for negotiations expired on June 30.
“We were to complete this work by last month (June) but we did not reach an agreement. There are still challenges,” said Mark Ogot, a senior assistant director in-charge of economic affairs at Kenya’s Ministry of East African Affairs.
It is understood that though the blocs have reached a common position on the proportion of tariff lines to be liberalised they have broken ranks over a common tariff to be applied on sensitive products such as maize, wheat, sugar, textile and cement which are considered essential in spurring the growth of domestic industries.
The EAC countries have agreed to liberalise 37 per cent of the tariff lines estimated at 5,600 items. This would allow about 2,000 items excluding sensitive items to enter member countries at zero duty.
The other goods would be charged duty at the rate of 10 per cent for intermediate goods and 25 per cent for finished goods.
Southern African Customs Union – the SADC Customs union – has agreed to remove duty on 60 per cent of its 7,000 tariff lines, offering opportunity for 4,200 goods to be exported to southern Africa.
TFTA protocol had targeted the removal of duty on between 60 per cent and 85 per cent of the tariff lines. The remaining 15 per cent of the tariff lines were to be negotiated over a period of between five and eight years.
Comesa has 5,000 tariff lines but its members who are neither in EAC or SADC have been allowed to negotiate individually because the bloc does not have a customs union.
A trade framework agreed upon by heads of state during the TFTA launch last year required countries to exchange tariff concessions based on reciprocity.
Mr Ogot said plans are underway to extend the negotiation period but the duration is still not yet clear.The EastAfrican has learnt that the protracted discussions have been complicated by South Africa, which is keen on protecting its key markets from competition.
It is understood that South Africa is wary of opening up its domestic market and its export market in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, which are members of the SACU to the selected items, especially maize, wheat, electronics and equipment from other blocs.
“South Africa does not appear to be keen on this arrangement because they dominate the market and are cautious of losing part of it,” said Ogot.
Under the TFTA pact the members of the three trading blocs agreed to ignore sensitive products and subject them to duty and quota restrictions in order to ensure fair competition.
The products earlier listed for protection until 2017 included, maize, cement sugar, wheat, rice, textiles, milk and cream, cane and beet sugar, secondhand clothes, beverages, spirits, plastics, electronic equipment.
The implementation of the agreement would effectively open the door for EAC goods, to markets such as South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea and vice versa.
The TFTA agreement is expected to serve as the basis for the completion of a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017 which South Africa appears to be more keen on. The CFTA aims to boost trade within Africa by up to 30 per cent in the next decade, and eventually establishing an African Economic Community.
South Africa has said that implementing the TFTA would complicate its trade with Europe because EAC is yet to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
Spanning the continent from Cape Town to Cairo, the grand FTA encompasses 26 Countries with a combined population of nearly 625 million people and a total gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $1.2 trillion.
Morocco has sent a special envoy to lobby African leaders to rejoin the African Union 32 years after it left in a row over Western Sahara.
Taib Fassi Fihri met Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi and said Morocco wants to re-join the AU without any preconditions.
Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its territory, much of which it has occupied since 1975.
But the AU recognises Western Sahara as an independent state.
Morocco is the only African country not to be an AU member.
The AU, however, says it will continue pushing for the rights of Western Sahara to hold a referendum on its self-determination.
Brahim Ghali, the new leader of the North African territory is expected to attend the African Union summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, according to the AU’s deputy chairperson Erastus Mwencha.
Thousands of Sahrawis have spent years in refugee camps
Mr Ghali was elected the Western Sahara president and secretary-general of the independence movement Polisario Front on 9 July.
He replaced long-time leader Mohamed Abdelaziz who died in May.
How did we get here?
1975-76: Morocco annexes two-thirds of Western Sahara after colonial power Spain withdraws.
1975-76: Polisario Front declares the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile in Algeria. Thousands of Sahrawi refugees flee to western Algeria to set up camps.
1984: Morocco leaves the Organisation of African Unity (which later became the African Union) in protest at the SADR’s admission to the body.
1991: UN-monitored ceasefire begins in Western Sahara, but the territory’s status remains undecided and ceasefire violations are reported. The following decade sees much wrangling over a proposed referendum on the future of the territory but the deadlock is not broken.
March 2016: Morocco threatens to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon uses the term “occupation” when referring to the territory.
May 2016: Long-time Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz dies aged 68
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, is to step down after holding the position for the last four years
As heads of state meet amid the rolling hills of Kigali for the African Union summit, which kicks off Sunday, the biggest item on the agenda will be the selection of the next AU Commission chairperson.
The current chair, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa, is to step down after holding the position for the last four years.
“I think it’s important to stress that who leads the African Union Commission matters,” said Elissa Jobson, advisor on African Union relations for the International Crisis Group. “And it matters immensely. The chairperson is responsible for shaping the continent’s economic, political and security agendas, and so it’s really key that they have the best candidate in this job.”
So far, there are three candidates. Two are current foreign ministers, one from Botswana and the other from Equatorial Guinea. The third candidate is Uganda’s former vice president and a former U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
But Peter Pham, the director of the Washington-based Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, cautions that Dlamini Zuma’s successor may not come out of this summit, since a two-thirds majority vote is required.
“This time around, with three relatively unknown candidates, it might well be the case that a two-thirds majority is not achieved, and there is additional campaigning and the possibility that other candidates might throw their hats in the ring,” said Pham.
The leadership turnover doesn’t stop there. A new deputy chairperson and eight commissioners of the AU will also be selected, according to Monde Muyangwa, director of the Africa Program at the Wilson Center.
“So you have a huge leadership transition occurring at the African Union and so this is really going to determine which way does the African Union go,” said Muyangwa.
ICC issue simmers
Back in January, an AU ministerial committee was asked to draw up a strategy regarding the International Criminal Court, giving special consideration to whether AU member countries should leave.
Critics of the ICC point out that all of the cases it has investigated or prosecuted stemmed from Africa.
The committee said that in order to prevent an African withdrawal from the court, the ICC should grant immunity from prosecution to sitting heads of state and other senior officials. But that demand is at odds with many human rights activists, who say it would undermine the effectiveness of the court.
Elise Keppler, the associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch said, “Now whether or not the conclusions and assessments of that committee are going to be considered at this AU summit is not clear, although it’s important to note that we have seen again and again in the past few years that the issue of the ICC and AU attacks on the ICC regularly comes up very last minute, sometimes on the floor of the debate at the African Union summit. So really, we don’t know for sure now, but anything is possible.”
Pham doesn’t believe the ICC issue will become a priority at this particular summit, because no sitting head of state other than President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, is under threat, although he says in the long-term, the issue will be important.
“In many respects, the collapse of the ICC case against the president of Kenya, in a way took a bit of the urgency out of the African threat to withdrawal from the ICC,” he said
War crimes court for South Sudan?
South Sudan will likely be discussed. HRW’s Keppler said the AU was tasked in the 2015 peace agreement to establish a hybrid court to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict, because the country is not a part of the ICC.
“And we’ve been looking to the African Union commission to get this process off the ground. I think a great outcome from the summit would be to see that there is encouragement for more progress,” said Keppler.
Last month, South Sudan’s leadership called on the international community to “reconsider” setting up that tribunal in an op-ed published in The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the 54-nation bloc will be issuing its first e-passports, which will go to AU heads of state, permanent representatives of these states and ministers of foreign affairs as part of a pilot program.
The goal of the new passport is to ease restrictions in the movements of people, goods and services across national lines.
“Which is a step at least symbolically in the direction of a closer union, a pan-African identity,” said Pham. “But the reality is that despite those aspirations and those ambitions, it’s not the want of passports that causes Africans not to travel to each other’s countries, and to trade and do business with each other. It’s the lack of transportation infrastructure that makes that. A passport won’t do you any good if you don’t have a road that will get you from one place to another, or you don’t have customs officials and customs clearing houses to expedite the passage of goods.”
Muyangwa expressed a bit more optimism that the e-passports will be more than just symbolic.
“I’ve been encouraged by the discussion on the benefits of this e-passport at the highest levels in Africa so hopefully this is something that you’re going to get more and more countries signing up for and hopefully becoming a reality in the next few years.”
The AU summit opens July 10 and culminates with the heads of state meeting on July 17 and 18.
Despite securing national and regional backing for the African Union top job, Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe’s chances could be scuttled by Uganda’s failure to pay membership fees to continental organisations.
It was reported last week that Kampala had committed Shs 3.5bn to former vice-president Kazibwe’s campaign for the July election; but sources said Uganda’s ‘serial defaulter’ status could rock the boat.
“Our candidate stands very good chances of getting the job but our biggest problem is that we have accumulated unpaid membership fees to several organisations. Our opponents could use that against us,” said a source who declined to be named so as to discuss the matter freely.
Kazibwe launched her campaign for the job of All Commission chairman at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 10. She faces Botswana’s foreign affairs minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea foreign affairs minister Agapito Mba Mokuy. The winner will serve up to 2020.
Buoyed by the Shs 3.5bn cash kitty, Kazibwe last week began a continental charm offensive, with her first stop being the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Angola. Kazibwe reportedly met 12 heads of states and their delegations on the side lines of the event, which President Museveni also attended, to front her candidature.
Ironically, given how much the government is investing in her bid, one of the issues that could knock wind out of Kazibwe’s campaign’s sails is money matters.
SHS 38.4BN DEBT
Uganda is indebted to international organisations to the tune of Shs 38.4 billion, according to the most recent financial audit review of the ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Office of the Auditor General. The audit, dated December 15, 2015, shows that Shs 33.1bn is for annual subscriptions while Shs 5.3bn is for other outstanding obligations.
Tasked to explain why the government had not paid the debt, foreign affairs ministry officials told auditors the problem was insufficient budget allocations by the finance ministry. The auditor general warned at the time that Uganda’s failure to meet its international financial obligations could come back to haunt the country in the future.
“The practice may limit the country’s participation in activities organised by international organisations. It may also attract litigation and its associated penalties from other creditors,” he noted in the report.
In an interview on Friday, the foreign affairs permanent secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, conceded that the government has defaulted on payments to some organisations. But the African Union was not one of them.
“Regarding the AU, we are clear,” he said. “We have paid [membership] up to 2015 and, in the budget that is coming up, we are paying our membership for 2016.”
Mugume named one of the organisations that Uganda owes money as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but argued that it did not mean the country was not playing its role on the continent.
“There are [organisations] where we have not been paying like IGAD and others, but you know we have been playing such a big role to stabilise IGAD,” he said. “We had to stabilise South Sudan and do it by ourselves; so, this contribution they are talking about would not even have been enough to stabilise the situation in South Sudan.”
Mugume, a member of Kazibwe’s campaign team, also said that wherever they have so far gone to solicit support for the former vice president, nobody has raised the issue of the fees Uganda has not paid yet.
“Nobody has complained but everybody recognises our singular role in IGAD,” he said. “Whether it is Somalia or South Sudan, we have been playing our role.”
While the main audit does not indicate exactly which other organisations Uganda owes money, a separate report on the performance of our embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia sheds light on at least one other affected programme.
According to the second audit, dated December 7, 2015, the government failed to allocate Shs 683 million required to meet Uganda’s obligations as a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council. Uganda was voted onto the council in 2013 for a three-year term.
In the report, the auditor general says that due to failure to send that money, Uganda’s embassy risked failing “to meet its obligations of its mission charter, including its participation in the AU Peace and Security Council.”
Uganda’s embassy in Addis Ababa is a multipurpose station charged with the role of representing Uganda in Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is also accredited to the AU, UN-ECA, AfDB, and is a member of the Peace and Security Committee on South Sudan, in addition to its regular role of offering consular services to Ugandans in the Horn of Africa.
Yet, in the words of the Auditor General, the embassy – which is expected to perform a key role to ensure Kazibwe’s election to the AU top job – is always battling “expenditure pressures on the available funds.”
“According to the ambassador, this scope of work involves a lot of activities including travelling, all of which require substantial resources in form of funding and time,” says the Auditor General’s report.
In the 2014/15 financial year, the government released less money than the mission had budgeted for its activities, resulting in a shortage of Shs 171 million. The Auditor General says this led to failure to maintain the existing embassy building (which Uganda has been renting since 1972), the ambassador’s residence which is in a run-down area and even the three official cars attached to the mission.
Uganda also risks losing a plot of 9,086 square metres that the Ethiopian government allocated to the country for the construction of a new embassy. While Uganda’s neighbours on the land, Zimbabwe and Chad, have already developed and occupied their plots, Uganda has not developed its own since it was allocated in 2005.
With the Ethiopian government asking for the full payment of Shs 417 million for the plot before development can go on, Uganda’s failure to pay the money looks likely to cost the embassy the prime property.
“During inspection, I noted that half of the plot had been recently fenced off with iron sheets without the knowledge of the embassy, with a possibility that it had been reallocated to another developer,” says the report.
Mugume said Uganda would counter any efforts to de-campaign Kazibwe’s candidature using the unpaid bills by highlighting the country’s role as a peacekeeper in Africa.
“We have had our troops in Somalia and even when EU funding has reduced, we have maintained them. We have stabilised South Sudan until they have attained peace. So for anybody to suggest we are not playing our role is wrong,” he said.
The veteran diplomat said they are confident of Kazibwe’s chances of securing the AU job, especially since she received the endorsement of other East African countries at a time when the region is a front runner to take over the AU chair.
“West Africa had their chairperson in [Alpha Oumar] Konaré [from Mali]. Central Africa had [Jean] Ping from Gabon. Southern Africa had [Nkosazana Dlamini] Zuma. So, it is now the turn for East Africa and the Maghreb region [North Africa] but we have the support of the Maghreb so that means we have the momentum,” Mugume said.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu (left), at the Geneva press conference launching his candidacy to head the World Health Organization, with Algerian Health Minister Abdelmalek Boudiaf.and African Union chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Geneva — On this sunny Tuesday in the city that hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world, Africa took center stage presenting a united front in support of the candidature of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to head the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs, who previously served as his country’s health minister from 2005 to 2012, was designated at the January meeting of the African Union summit as the continent’s sole candidate to become the next WHO director general.
At today’s press conference at the Geneva headquarters of WHO, the candidate was flanked by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who chairs the African Union Commission, and Algerian Health Minister Abdelmalek Boudiaf.
Foreign Minister Tedros told assembled reporters and observers that a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the world health challenges. While noting that Africa has never had the opportunity to lead the UN agency, he emphasized that his candidacy is based on merit as demonstrated by a respected track record both at home and in the international arena.
A leaflet distributed at the press conference included an hearty endorsement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. “Dr Tedros’ signature approach takes innovation, collaboration and community ownership as its core principles. The transformative changes he brought to Ethiopia’s health sector are testimonies to his unique leadership style that gives primacy to county ownership and adaptive home-grown solutions,” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying.
“Through his leadership of global organizations, he has introduced reforms that helped them live up to the challenges of the day. I am proud to nominate Dr. Tedros, a transformational leader and unrelenting champion of global health, for the WHO Director General post.”
Selection of the next WHO director general takes place in May 2017. In the intervening 12 months, Tedros said he will convey his platform to the world, key elements of which include universal access to basic healthcare, emphasis on policies to improve women and girls health, emergency-response readiness and consolidation of the WHO funding structure.
The press conference was held on the margins of this week’s World Health Assembly, the decision-making body for WHO which includes delegations from all the 194-member states.