Africa Day
From OAU to AU: Security remains a key concern in Africa

49 years of the Organisation of African Unity
African Union
The African Union's headquarters building in Addis Ababa. © Shutterstock

A look into the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government, late in May

The African Union was founded in 2002, to expedite economic integration and protect the territorial integrity of African states. It was preceded by the Organisation of African Unity, its mandate was quite clear - fight colonialism and racial discrimination. Hopes were high as the continental body had to change the lives of millions of Africans who continue to languish in poverty, subjected to instability and weak states. 

The demon of terrorism is a hot potato in Africa, it's often said many factors contribute to instability in the continent like unemployment that's on the rise, disillusioned young people, failing economies, endemic corruption, and lack of strong governance institutions. That is why the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government, late in May, will focus on rooting out terrorism. It will also assess how to reverse the terrible trend of unconstitutional changes of regimes in Africa, and the humanitarian situation in the African continent. The gathering will be hosted by Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Malabo. The current ECOWAS chairperson and President of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo once said the threat of terrorism in West Africa has made the region violently extreme. This is also the same region that has seen a tsunami of coups in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea and there was an attempted coup in Guinea Bissau where luckily, President Umaro Siccoco Embalo survived and the coup plotters were arrested.

During his recent visit to South Africa in Pretoria, Guinea Bissau President Umaro Siccoco Embalo told reporters alongside his South African counterpart President Cyril Ramaphosa that they are taking measures to deal with future attempts to seize power through unconstitutional means. President Cyril Ramaphosa also emphasised that the unconstitutional change of governments in parts of our continent runs contrary to the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of an integrated, peaceful, and prosperous continent. Ramaphosa is also currently the Southern African Development Community's chair for the organ responsible for peace, security, and politics in a region that was once hailed as relatively stable. However, with the emergence of terror activities in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, SADC has been seized with ensuring that the insurgency is dealt with, especially since Cabo Delgado is one of the important points in Mozambique with a massive amount of gas and other energy projects that have been disrupted due to terror activities.

Terrorism expert Jasmine Opperman says the SADC mission in Mozambique has made progress and they have re-captured villages, towns, and other areas that were under the hands of insurgents. But she warns that in several areas like Meluco, insurgents have re-grouped and they are terrorising communities who were hoping to rebuild their lives. Opperman has also urged the SADC leaders to ensure that the troops are well-capacitated and given the necessary resources to tackle terror-related activities. The East African country Rwanda has also deployed to support the SADC mission.

African leaders must not just meet and greet, what is key is to strengthen civilian and military relations.

Sipho Mantula
Sipho Mantula, Institute for Dispute Resolution in Africa

Expectations are high from African Affairs experts. They hope that the decisions adopted by the African Union summit will be implemented because without peace there won't be sufficient development, which is a critical issue in the continent. The slow pace of implementation of resolutions is another hindrance in doing away with major challenges. African expert advocate Sipho Mantula says African leaders must not just meet and greet, what is key is to strengthen civilian and military relations. Some fundamental problems include challenges in the Ethiopian conflict between the anti-government rebels in Tigray region and the federal authority in Addis Ababa. They also want the AU leaders to re-look at the admission of Israel as one of the observers in the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. This matter has divided the continental body. Countries like South Africa, Namibia, and other SADC region countries want the inclusion of Israel to be revoked. 

The Malabo extraordinary summit is going to afford the continental body the opportunity to re-look what it once adopted in 2020 to silence the guns. The African Union Peace and Security Council expressed its grave concern over the persistence of conflict in the continent. As the continent seeks to rebuild itself, there are worries that this has been triggered by several factors like the trend of civilians acquiring arms for protection during situations of conflict. 
This contributes to the proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons. The AU Peace and Security Council is expected to receive a report on the number of hotspots in Africa like Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, and other troubled countries.