Sunday, July 12, 2009

Opening Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt.Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe, MP, at a Media Briefing on the African Union Summit held in Sirte,Libya

source: Republic of Botswana (11/7/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 18 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline

B2) 6/7/09: Opening Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe, MP, at a Media Briefing on the African Union Summit held in Sirte, Libya, 1 – 3rd July 2009:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. This media briefing is intended to give you information on what we consider to be the key outcomes of the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union which was held in Sirte, Libya on July 1-3rd.

2. As you are all aware I represented His Excellency the President at this Summit and only arrived in Gaborone over the weekend. I am glad that Hon. Minister. Phandu Skelemani, who attended both the Executive Council session (held on 28-30th June, 2009) as well as the Summit is here to back me up in our interaction with you.

3. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Assembly of the African Union in Libya met to consider many important items that Ministers (or the Executive Council) had deliberated on and recommended for adoption by the Heads of State and Government. The theme of the Summit was “Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security.” This theme was in our view very appropriate because agricultural activity is critical for the livelihoods of Africans in general.

4. The other reason for the appropriateness of this theme, as we saw it, was that the world had experienced high food and fuel prices which had negatively impacted our continent. The Summit adopted the Sirte Declaration on Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security.

5. While there were many other items in the agenda of the Summit, the following took up much of our time;

- Adoption of the Strategic Plan of the African Union Commission for 2009-2012

- Consideration of the Recommendations of the Executive Council on the Transformation of the African Union Commission into the African Union Authority

- Consideration of the Report of the AU Peace and Security Council on its activities and the State of Peace and Security in Africa.

- Consideration of the Report of the Chairperson of NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee

- Consideration of the Report of the AU Commission on the Meeting of the African State Parties to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court

6. The other items that the Summit considered included the Report of the Chairperson of the committee of Ten on the United Nations Reform, and the Report of the AU Commission on the new African Union Flag.

7. There were also items proposed by member states, and among these were the proposal by Tunisia for the Proclamation of 2010 as the International Year of the Youth and 2 proposals by Libya on the Establishment of the African Defence Council and the Establishment of the African Agency for the Protection of Territorial and Economic Waters of African Countries.

8. The last proposal came from Chad and it was for the Accession of the AU Commission to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

Advancing the theme of Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security.

9. We had expected that the Summit will come up with a concrete plan of action outlining projects that may be advanced to stimulate enhanced investments to grow agricultural output in the continent. Unfortunately, the Summit missed the opportunity to do so. Instead, the Declaration on the theme largely contains commitments adopted by previous Summits of the Union most of which have long been implemented by our government. For example, the Declaration urged Member States to recommit to the Maputo Declaration of allocating at least 10% of their annual national budgets to the agriculture sector by 2015.

10. I must hasten to highlight that the keynote address on the theme which was given by the President of Namibia provided very stimulating thoughts but no time was allocated for follow up debate in order to come up with a programme of action.

On the Commission’s Strategic Plan 2009-2012

11. The plan which we adopted is meant to focus the work of the Commission in the next three years on programmes which fall under four pillars namely;

• Peace and Security (programmes to include establishment of the African Standby Force)

• Integration, Development and Cooperation (programmes here to include infrastructure development to accelerate connectivity among African countries, facilitation of rationalization and harmonization of Regional Economic Communities, establishment of continental standards and quality assurance mechanisms.)

• Shared Values (promotion of good governance, democracy and respect for human rights, promotion of gender equality, promotion of ratification of or accession to AU legal instruments)

• Institution and Capacity Building (strengthening the capacity and operational efficiency of the AU Commission and promotion of its effective cooperation with member states and Regional Economic Communities)

12. Given that this focus is important for the proper evaluation of the Commission’s work and for resource allocation it was very easy for the Summit to adopt the recommendations of the Executive Council.

13. The budgetary requirement for implementation is estimated at US$ 784 million, or roughly US$196 million per annum. Member states will provide a substantial proportion of the resources while the rest will be mobilized from international cooperating partners.
On the modalities for the transformation of the AU Commission into the AU Authority

14. The decision to transform the African Union Commission into the African Union Authority was taken at the February 2009 Summit which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Although it is difficult for us as Botswana to see the significance in the change of name, it was anticipated that the AU Authority will comprise a President, Vice President as well as Secretaries with portfolios based on areas of shared competence.

15. The understanding from the recommendations of the Ministers (Executive Council) and the February 2009 Assembly was that the Authority will not compromise the sovereignty and independence of member states of the AU. The view that we could also live with was that the Authority will remain an inter-governmental body deriving its mandate from the Assembly of the Heads of States and Government. However, what was presented at the Summit at the insistence of the Chair (Libya) was clearly not what everyone expected nor had agreed with. It was also clear that consensus on what the AU Authority will be coordinating was not reached at the level of the Executive Council, i.e. the Ministers.

16. We had not, for instance, anticipated that the Chair will insist on inclusion of areas such as the coordination of a common African Defence and Security Policy and the elaboration of a common African programme of action on the area of foreign trade and foreign policy as well as other areas which were not identified as areas of competence in the earlier deliberations on the matter.
Neither had we anticipated that the Chair will equate the functions of the Secretaries (who will replace the current AU Commissioners) to those of 8 Continental Ministers headed by a President and Vice President. Given the way the meeting was presided over by the Chair, Botswana found it fruitless to oppose the adoption of what is essentially the framework of the African Union Government, the issue on which our position is well known.

16. It was clear that the Chair was not prepared to entertain opposing views or opinions calling for a gradual approach to continental integration. It must be understood that while the Sirte Summit was forced to adopt a document most countries did not agree with, the test will be in implementation.

17. The saving grace for most of us who are not keen on an accelerated move towards the establishment of a continental government will be the last paragraph of the document on the transformation of the Commission into the Authority which clearly states that - In order to transform the Commission into an Authority, the Constitutive Act should be amended in accordance with the provisions of Article 32 of the said Act, and thereafter, call upon Member States to expedite the ratification of the amendments. The Authority will become operational only after ratification by 2/3 of African Union Member States.

18. On the Meeting of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC and the Decision of the AU Summit Not to cooperate with the ICC on the Case of Sudan’s President - Botswana’s position on this matter is known to all of you.

19. The Chair did not permit much debate on this matter and therefore we did not get an opportunity to put our opinion across.

20. It is our view that Africa should not try to undermine the work of the ICC simply because one Head of State called Bashir has been indicted by the Court. Indeed by doing so we would be, as Kofi Annan recently put it, demeaning “the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart. It also represents a step backward in the battle against impunity.”\

21. On the Report of the Committee of Ten on the Reform of the United Nations - Africa, as we all know, has been engaged in efforts to hammer out a common position on the reform of the Security Council. The only thing I want to say on this matter is that we have not made much progress.

22. On the Items Proposed By Member States - The proposal by Tunisia on Proclamation of 2010 at the International Year of the Youth was adopted without much difficulty.

23. The adoption on the proposal by Chad on the other hand was deferred in order to give the Commission time to establish whether it was possible for an intergovernmental body like the AU to ratify an Instrument, including in instances where some members are not State Parties to the Instrument.

24. The two proposals by Libya for the establishment of the African Defence Council and the establishment of the African Agency for the Protection of Territorial and Economic Waters of African countries were adopted by the Summit with no debate allowed by the Chair. In our view, this was a rushed decision because the financial and other resource implications for establishing these bodies were not properly examined. The questions of whether the creation of the Defence Council in particular, will be of benefit to the entire continent or to a specific region as well as its relationship to the existing AU Peace and Security Council were also not examined.

25. Indeed Botswana is concerned about the proliferation of agencies/structures established by the African Union without capacity to sustain and implement mandates arising thereof. We will therefore find it difficult to accede to protocols establishing these unless proper consultations are carried out.

26. On the Peace and Security situation in Africa - Deliberations by the Summit on this item took most of our time. The Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict, the Eritrea/Djibouti conflict as well as accusations of the involvement of Eritrea in the war in Somalia dominated most of the discussions in this item. In the end, the Summit agreed to hold an extraordinary session sometime in September 2009 dedicated solely to addressing the Peace and Security Situation in Africa.

27. On the New African Union Flag - The proposal to establish a new flag for the African Union was made in 2003 to symbolize the transformation from the Organization of African Unity, into the African Union. A competition was launched that attracted participation of ordinary citizens from all parts of the continent. After a rigorous selection process was carried the Assembly unanimously adopted a new flag for the Union. The flag has a green background, with the map of Africa, sun rays behind it and 53 stars surrounding the map to symbolize unity, hope and prosperity.


28. This AU Summit was made to rush adoption of many commitments which will be difficult to implement. The Summit failed the people of Africa by not dealing with issues that are of immediate concern to their livelihoods such as what may be done to advance investments in agriculture to promote food security.

29. The Chair of the African Union, Libya, has no respect for established procedures and processes of the African Union and this may be motivated by his burning desire to coerce everyone into the premature establishment of an African Union Government.

30. The African Union needs to get its priorities right if the hope of functional unity among African countries and peoples is to be kept alive.

31. The Libyans were excellent hosts as far as providing facilities for the visitors was concerned. The same cannot be said with regard to the way the business of presiding over the meeting was handled. Until we can all appreciate what democracy, rule of law, respect for fellow Africans and the dignity of others mean in practice, Africa has a very long way to go before we can truly understand each other and work towards common continental objectives. We will now take your questions.

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