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African Union

African Union 'must finance' itself

After its summit on Tuesday, the African Union wants to, among others, send a mission to calm growing tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti. But the donor-dependent body needs external support to roll out its 2017 plans.

This is one of the resolutions that came out of the end of a two-day summit of  African Heads of States and governments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The leaders also discussed urgent reforms that will enable the body to steer away from foreign dependence in order to fund its projects.

DW spoke to Agina Ojwanga, a Nairobi-based lawyer and political analyst, on the possibility of the African Union becoming a fully-fledged independent body, that doesn't have to rely on support from China and the European Union.

DW: Apart from the focus on security issue, there was lots of talk about reforms, including institutional and financial reforms, meant to make the AU an independent body from its donors. Do you foresee a positive outcome, or is this simply wishful thinking?

Agina Ojwang: With the US curtailing its aid to organizations like the African Union (AU), and donors like EU countries that also have problems and would like to help Greece rather than Africa, the AU must, as of necessity, look into ways and means of financing itself rather than depending on the donors. It has to be done whether the AU likes it or not.

But will African leaders find the means to finance the AU's activities?

 I think they will. Because once you break the dependence on Europe, which used to support countries depending on whether they were Francophone or Anglophone, and which likely ended by the advent of South Africa, member states will find that there's no other option.

They will bring very stringent rules like: if you do not pay your dues, you are kicked out. We may have fluctuation in members; some countries will stay out for a while before they can come back when their finances have improved. That may come in the future but let's hope not.

 The summit also focused on youth investment. Could it have been driven by the migration crisis?

The forecast on youth was driven basically by the fact that in most of our countries the youth now constitute almost more than 50 percent of the total population. With high unemployment among them, it is a security risk in that these are the target groups that organizations like Boko Haram and other fundamentalist or extremist groups are approaching to recruit their members.

The youth pose a security risk if not properly addressed by being included in programs. There is also the need to create a situation whereby they feel wanted, employed and engaged. The youth is a critical issue for African countries.

What about the target of silencing arms on the African continent by 2020. Has there been any progress?

Certain steps have been taken on small arms circulation. In East Africa for example, we have got the Intergovernmental Agreement on Development (IGAD) mechanisms that help to monitor non-proliferation of arms. Unfortunately, the very countries trying to limit the arms inflow belong to the East African community to which Southern Sudan belongs, and Eritrea.

For instance, Uganda is actively supporting the arms flow to various insurgent groups that they support. So it seems the efforts are being undercut by actions of the very members who belong to the organizations that want to curtail the arms inflow into the continent. Until we have a lit bit of stability in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia, small arms flow will continue almost unabated. 

The need for permanent representation at the United Nations Security Council is slowly gaining momentum. How would this make the AU more progressive in ensuring security all over Africa?

If the AU was given a permanent seat at the Security Council to represent Africa, it would impact in two ways, in that, once the Security Council makes a decision, Africa would be part of it. Hence, it would not be easy to demonize the Security Council like we do now by saying it is racist. So we [African] would be forced to abide by a decision taken by our representative at the Security Council.

Apart from that, it is very difficult to see how sheer membership will improve security in Africa as long as there is inter-ethnic and clan warfare in countries. For these we need internal mechanisms in individual countries. Stopping the current conflicts going in parts of Africa should be a responsibility of individual countries rather than regional or international bodies.

Agina Ojwang is a political analyst and lawyer based in Nairobi.

Interview: Jane Ayeko-Kümmeth

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