The African Union has declared 2015 the year of “Women’s empowerment”, and made gender central to its 24th annual summit taking place this month. Whether this year can be one of ground-breaking transformation for African women depends on how we seize the opportunity it presents. It is an important year, not only because the African Union has baptized this year “The year of Women’s empowerment”; this year we see the end of the Millennium Development Goals and the launch of the post-2015 development agenda. Crucially, this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the 4th World conference on Women, where the world agreed the Beijing Platform for Action, recognized at the time as “the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights”; an ambitious expression of aspiration that no country in the world has fully realized. Perhaps to those outside the circuit of conferences, agendas and resolutions, these global and regional processes may seem like hot air. After all, despite the ambitious aspirations of both the MDGs and Beijing platforms, women are still, globally, not able to fully realize the potential they are capable of. But we would be wrong to despair; the path to gender equity has been […]
Whatever one may think of the AU’s position on Libya, it has been perceived as at odds with the international consensus articulated in the implementation of Resolution 1973 authorising Nato intervention in the country. As the conflict escalated, the AU seemed slow to react. While deliberations in multilateral forums like the UN were rapidly converted into tangible actions directed from Nato’s Brussels headquarters and decisions by the ICC in The Hague, the AU appeared to dither and seemed hesitant or unable to articulate a coherent position. One explanation favoured at the time by the European and America pundits and commentators suggested African leaders were motivated by a desire to protect an erstwhile friend and mentor. Africa’s reluctant and qualified support for foreign intervention in Libya was explained as misguided historical loyalty at best, and hypocritical at worst, with variations of timidity and naivety characterising the bulk of the response. More empirical explanations have focused on the relative weakness of institutions and mechanisms of the AU. For example, Paul Simon-Handy, writing in The African, argues the AU has no hard power, some soft power, and generally is constrained by a deficit of leadership. These are all fair points, but I am […]
The accusations made against Eritrea of plotting to bomb this year’s African Union summit were alarming for many reasons. First and foremost, they illustrate how much the government is willing to draw on other extremist groups in the region to help achieve its aims. The country was accused of planning an attack that would have resulted in the killing of delegates from a wealth of African nations, and this implies their aims have extended to other parts of the Horn, if not to the world at large. Asmara claimed, as always, the accusations were completely fictitious. But among those arrested in connection with the plot was a member of the Ethiopia-based Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Omar Idriss Mohamed. By Maddy Fry Mohamed maintained that those involved sought not to target other African leaders but rather to simply use the Addis-based summit as a way to weaken confidence within the Ethiopian state. While Asmara’s previous activities had been limited to causing direct damage within the borders of its larger neighbour, the plot, if true, suggests even if its aims are unchanged its methods are not. Eritrea is now seeking to tap into wider networks across East Africa in order to further […]
By Tutu Alicante This week, leaders from across Africa descended on Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the site of the 17th African Union Summit, to discuss the challenges confronting African growth, development, and stability. Hosting the summit represented the Equatoguinean government’s latest public relations coup in its aggressive campaign to polish its tarnished image domestically and internationally. Africa’s second longest serving head-of-state after Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Equatoguinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, appears to be taking a page out of Gaddafi’s playbook and using the country’s sizable oil largesse to reinvent himself as a reformer and humanitarian. The government’s development plan prioritizes high-cost, highly visible infrastructure showpieces. The country can now boast two of the most advanced medical facilities on the continent, yet the quality of medical care at the smaller hospitals and clinics used by most citizens remains poor. Sipopo, the 580 million Euro ($830 million) luxury complex built specifically to host this week’s summit, boasts 52 beachside residential villas, an 18-hole golf course, a spa, a mile-long private beach, a conference center, and a heliport. Visitors travel the short distance from downtown Malabo on a new road, constructed at a cost of 86 million Euros (US$120 million). Meanwhile, spending on education […]
The Qadhafi regime in Libya is tottering and is likely to collapse within days, despite its reputation for brutality and intolerance. Its disappearance is all-the-more surprising because, over the last forty-two years, it has systematically destroyed any pretence at dissidence and has atomised Libyan society to ensure that no organisation – formal or spontaneous – could ever consolidate sufficiently to oppose it.
Introduction Much of the debate around the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) relationship with Africa has tended to focus on the case of Sudan’s Darfur region and the Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for the country’s President, Omar al-Bashir. At the July 2009 African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of States and Government summit in Libya, Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi rallied his counterparts to sign onto what became known as the “Sirte decision”, in which AU states resolved not to cooperate with the ICC. As a matter of international law, the Sirte decision was hollow. But as a political decision, it was clear: international justice on the continent is now at a major crossroads. This should not be misconstrued, however, as the continent being against the ICC. In fact, it is important to note at the outset that the tensions between the ICC and African governments often disguise an important underlying fact: Africa’s states are divided about the role that international justice should play in contributing to the continent’s fight against impunity for mass crimes. The continent is composed of fifty-three states whose views on the ICC’s role are more varied and complex than is often imagined. This was […]
In the short life of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Review Conference of the Rome Statute scheduled to take place in Kampala from 31 May to 11 June 2010 represents an historic moment. Africa will not only host the Conference, but will also be central to the stocktaking exercise, as to date all of the situations investigated by the prosecutor involve African victims. This essay argues that African states should also seek to play an active role supporting the ICC during the months leading up to the Review Conference. The support of African states for the ICC was crucial both during and after the Rome Diplomatic Conference in 1998, where delegates debated the wording of the ICC Statute. Three African states thereafter referred situations in their countries to the Court. The Minister of Justice of Kenya also invited the Prosecutor to use his powers under Article 15 to seek permission to investigate the crimes committed during the post-electoral violence in 2007. African states should therefore, as they did in Rome and subsequently, stand on the side of African victims, recognize that justice lays a firm foundation for lasting peace and act fully in support of the ICC. Initiatives that […]
On 3 July 2009, at the 13th African Union (AU) summit of Heads of State in Sirte, Libya, African leaders resolved to “denounce the International Criminal Court (ICC) and refuse to take action on the Court’s order that should Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir land in their territories, he should be arrested, and extradited for prosecution by the ICC, for crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the Darfur region of southern Sudan”. This essay argues that despite the fact that African leaders have subscribed to the ICC Treaty, emerging developments show that African leaders have resorted to protecting themselves, implicitly sanctioning human rights violations. As a result, they continue to spread a protective umbrella over their peers such as Bashir, even when there exists strong evidence of genocide in the Darfur region, and mass displacements continue unabated. It is important to note that in 2000 the leaders in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) created the African Union (AU) with the coming into effect of its Constitutive Act. The new institution showed determination to embark on reform. The Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution under the OAU was changed to the Peace and Security Council (PSC), as a “standing decision-marking organ […]