Peace and Security Issues Dominate African Union Summit

Closing Ceremony of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union and final Press Conference of the 24th AU Summit, 31 January 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

African leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union (AU) summit which concluded with the adoption of Agenda 2036 – a fifty year agenda for accelerated development and technological progress for the African continent. Peace and security issues dominated the summit held under the theme “2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2036”. The AU’s standing decision-making body responsible for the maintenance of continental peace and security, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), took a decision on action against Boko Haram.

The Institute for Security Studies reviewed the most important outcomes from the AU summit.

The recently concluded African Union (AU) summit, from 23 to 26 January 2015, which concluded with the adoption of Agenda 2063 – the continent’s blueprint for development – once again gave African leaders and international role players an opportunity to engage on pressing issues affecting the continent.

While the theme of the summit was ‘Women’s empowerment and development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063’, peace and security unsurprisingly dominated both the agenda and the high-level sideline meetings, with mixed results.

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) held its first summit-level meeting for 2015 on 29 January, where it took a decision on action against Boko Haram and deferred the tabling of a crucial report on South Sudan (See Addis Insight 9 February 2015: The PSC Summit: deferred promises and raised expectations).

Divisions undermine the International Contact Group on Libya

Libya has been a major concern for the AU due to the deteriorating security situation and deepening political divisions in the country. The second meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya (ICG-L) took place on the sidelines of the summit. The meeting, which was held at ministerial level, was co-chaired by AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui and Special Envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General to the AU Haile Menkerios.

Chergui noted that despite recent positive developments, including the start of the UN-led talks in Geneva, the situation in Libya remained ‘generally bleak’. Menkerios emphasised that without an inclusive process, the recent gains would remain fragile.

Regional and global rivalries – both ideological and strategic – continue to affect efforts to resolve the Libyan conflict. These divisions had a direct impact on the meeting, held behind closed doors in Addis Ababa. […]

Africa to cover 25% of AU’s peace budget

One of the crucial issues discussed at the summit was the AU’s request for member states to increase their contributions, and the consideration of the report on alternative sources of funding for the AU. Although the report did not receive the required support of member states when considered at the ambassadorial level, consensus had been reached by the time the report reached the Assembly. The adoption of the report by heads of state was considered one of the successful outcomes of the summit, contrary to early expectations.

A proposal made by AU finance ministers, led by Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to increase member states’ contributions to the AU’s operational budget to 100%, its programme budget to 75% and its peacekeeping budget to 25%, was accepted. This is to be phased in within five years from 2016. […]

Disarming the FDLR

Efforts to disarm the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern DRC, which is believed to have between 1 500 and 2 000 soldiers, also attracted particular attention on the sidelines of the summit. Shortly after the start of the summit, the DRC government announced that it was launching a military campaign against the FDLR after the deadline for the group to disarm expired on 2 January. In a statement issued on 30 January, after a meeting held on the sidelines of the summit, the Southern African Development Community again expressed its concern about the failure of the FDLR to disarm voluntarily.

In its decisions, the Assembly reiterated the AU’s support for the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement on the DRC and the Region. It also emphasised the crucial importance of the initiative for the neutralisation of the FDLR and other armed groups in eastern DRC.

Dealing with Ebola

The threat of Ebola and the AU’s efforts to deal with the disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone was visible at the summit in Addis Ababa. Delegates to the summit were routinely checked as they entered the AU conference centre and warnings about Ebola were widely distributed.

The AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) has mobilised over 800 health workers so far, according to Social Affairs Commissioner Dr Mustapha Sidiki. Representatives of the three affected countries told the AU that the situation in their countries was encouraging and thanked the AU for its support. However, a lot still needs to be done to rid these countries of the disease and to mitigate the after-effects of the epidemic. […]

ICC again under fire

One of the items that were proposed for inclusion, at the request of the East Africa block, as agenda items of the summit during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee was the implementation of previous AU decisions on Africa and international criminal justice. After reviewing the issue, the AU Assembly welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta late last year. It reiterated previous calls to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to withdraw the case against Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir and Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, and it called for follow-up on previous decisions concerning the revision of the Rome Statute to give immunity to heads of state and government. […]

Zimbabwean chair to focus on Western Sahara

The Western Sahara conflict, one of the longest running issues on the continent, was also on the agenda of the summit and included in the report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to the Executive Council. The Commission expressed ‘grave concern’ over the continued ‘illegal occupation of the territories of Western Sahara’ and recommended that the AU organise some of its activities in the liberated territories of Western Sahara to show solidarity with the struggle for an independent Saharawi Republic.

The chair of the Council, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, also announced that Western Sahara would be one of the priorities of Zimbabwe’s AU presidency for 2015. […]

African contributions invaluable to UN Peace Support Operations Review

In his address at the opening of the AU Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN was reviewing its peace support operations. While urging AU member states to operationalise the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis, he emphasised that Africa’s contribution to this review was invaluable, as Africa formed the backbone of the UN’s peacekeeping capacity. During a press conference on the sidelines of the summit, Ban also said that the changing nature of security and conflict forced the UN to change peacekeeping principles.

[…] The 17-member UN Review Panel, chaired by Jose Ramos-Horta, will consider issues facing peace operations, including ‘the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peacebuilding challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians’. Ban said a report of the panel was expected later this year. The report of the PSC to the Assembly on its activities and the state of peace and security in Africa anticipated that the AU Commission and the PSC would facilitate a successful interaction with the UN Panel during its visit to Addis Ababa, which is scheduled for 9–13 February 2015. To this end, the report also envisaged that a common African position on the matter would be developed and adopted by the PSC to feed into the review.

Click here to read the full review of the AU summit’s outcomes on pressing peace and security issues.

Photo courtesy of African Union Commission.