Amid turmoil, AU autonomy journey under Kagame starts

Sunday January 14 2018

AU Summit

From left: Rwanda's president Paul Kagame, Senegal's president Macky Sall, Mali's president Ibrahima Boubacar Keita and president of the Commission of African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat attend the opening of the 4th Summit on Peace and Security on November 13, 2017 in Dakar. PHOTO | SEYLLOU | AFP 

By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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Within the first week of 2018, several African countries were already mired in turmoil, raising concern about what fate awaits the continent over the rest of the year.

A rapidly changing political climate has seen some leaders face mounting revolt.

Hot on the heels of reports of a December coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, civil unrest has been recorded in countries like Sudan and Tunisia in the last few days.

Pointedly, Uganda and Cameroon are still embroiled in debates about what would happen if their leaders insisted on holding onto power.

On the positive side, there have been efforts to strengthen the African Union and make it less dependent on donors.

Just on Saturday, for instance, finance ministers were meeting in Rwanda to review progress in the implementation of a 0.2 per cent levy on imports.

The tax is aimed at raising funds that will make it possible for AU to become financially autonomous.

AU SUMMIT

The Kigali meeting was tasked with reviewing recommendations to be presented at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, later in the month.

AU members are expected to raise $1.2 billion from the levy.

For years, donors have been financing about 70 per cent of the union’s budget.

The import tax proposal was adopted in July 2016 during a heads of state and government summit in the Rwandan capital.

Yesterday’s meeting came less than two weeks after Rwandan President Paul Kagame took over as AU chairman on January 1.

Kagame was elected chairman in July to succeed Alpha Condé of Guinea, and will formally assume the position at the Addis summit.

Serving for a year, Kagame will be tasked with overseeing institutional reforms in the AU and AU Commission.

The protests in Tunisia and Sudan had to do with bread and butter issues.

FUEL SUBSIDIES

The demos in Sudan began in Wad Medani city in the central part of the country on Friday last week and quickly spread to other towns, including capital Khartoum.

Reminiscent of the late 2016 riots that followed a government decision to cut fuel subsidies, the recent protests elicited characteristically irrational reactions by authorities.

Among them was seizure of copies of newspapers that covered the protests, and the detention of opposition leaders.

In Tunisia, more than 800 people were arrested and dozens injured in  days of riots.

The demos, which began last week, were fuelled by austerity measures instituted by the government.

The austerity bill came into effect on January 1 and includes tax increases.

In Equatorial Guinea, Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy said 27 “terrorists or mercenaries” were arrested following the failed coup.

TURMOIL

The turmoil comes when countries like Togo are still writhing from the troubles that erupted in the streets of capital Lomé last year, and which resumed on Friday.

The protests were fuelled by discontent regarding the tenure of president Faure Gnassingbé.

In Gabon, President Ali Bongo is still attempting to tinker with the constitution — amid resistance — in a bid to hold onto power.

Evidently, starving populations are tinderboxes that bode badly for insensitive leaders, especially when they overstay their welcome.

The AU developments come amid reports of political uncertainty in countries like Uganda and Cameroon.

Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Biya respectively have to contend with domestic discontent, just like their South African counterpart Jacob Zuma.

By all indications, the latter may be shunted aside long before his term ends in 2019.

Africa’s despotic political marathoners are on notice, whether or not they can see the writing on the wall.