Forum touts Peer Review Mechanism for promoting governance in Africa

27May 2018
James Kandoya
Guardian On Sunday
Forum touts Peer Review Mechanism for promoting governance in Africa

AFRICA has been marred with political conflicts, from South Sudan’s tribal fighting over power to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo where seating presidents change their constitutions for their own gains.

Tanzania Former President Benjamin Mkapa speaking at the African Leadership Forum meeting in Dar es Salaam last week in the company of Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki (L) and Former Somali President Hassan Mohamoud

Yet such conflicts create a lot of death, insecurity, diseases and hunger to civilians, and sometimes fuel more tensions amongst tribal groupings in the respective countries.

The tendency by African presidents to cling to power aroused the African Leadership Forum to convene a meeting in Dar es Salaam last week to find ways of reducing unnecessary conflicts on the African continent.

The forum, under host former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa included former South African President Thabo Mbeki and former Somali President Hassan Mohamoud, saw the need to address the issue to ensure political conflicts become a thing of the past.

Organised by Uongozi Institute, the forum focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Federal Republic of Somalia, which provided case studies in the context for recommendations.

According to the meeting, there was a need for African presidents to promote universal access and implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism as an essential tool for ensuring good governance, string national level dialogue and inclusiveness.

The meeting also agreed on increasing collaboration among national, regional and continental organs and frameworks in contributing toward conflict prevention and peace enforcement.

Themed ‘Africa in the Global Peace and Security Architecture,’ the former presidents encouraged current leaders to promote unique Africa-initiated instruments that undertake periodic peer reviews of African countries to strengthen and improve political, social and economic governance.

“We also need to increase collaborations with the United Nation’s peace and security structures, including the UN Security Council, and learn from their experience,” said the former Somali president Hassan Mohamud while presenting the forum resolutions to reporters.

He said African countries need to have leaders who respect the constitutions in the respective countries, saying disrespecting the constitution was against the mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union as a self-monitoring mechanism in 2003.

The former Somali president called for the need to ensure heads of state leave power by legal means and not otherwise in order to end unnecessary conflicts to the people.

“We appeal to all seating leaders to obey or respect constitutions in their respective countries to end conflicts. In so doing they will be promoting good leadership,” he said.

The former presidents’ recommendations were aired even as Burundians were voting on a referendum designed to change its constitution to propose extension of the presidential term from five years to seven, to allow the incumbent, Pierre Nkurunziza, to rule for up to 14 more years after his current term expires in 2020.

Last year, Mauritanians held a contentious referendum to alter the constitution amid widespread opposition claims that the vote was a ploy to increase presidential power.

The opposition, concerned that the vote would give President Mohamed Abdel Aziz too much power and pave the way for him to scrap presidential term limits, boycotted the vote.

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa highlighted the need for the African Union (AU) to strengthen its relationship with the UN Security Council to get more boost.

He says a strong relationship with such institutions will help to empower the AU Security Council to work out the ongoing conflicts always emerging in the region.

“Although the existing relations among the security organs is good, we need to further cement them to realise more achievements,” Mkapa said.

He recalled on the mandate of the APRM to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards among African countries and the objectives in socio-economic development within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

He appealed to current leaders to strengthen the continent’s institutions tasked with peace and security matters in their countries’ frameworks for stakeholder engagement and consultation and ensuring inclusive national discourse.

“We did not discuss anything about Burundi and wouldn’t like to speak about that because I have not been permitted by my bosses,” he said.

“What I know is yesterday they were holding a referendum. I don’t know about the results yet,” he said. Burundi went to the polls on Thursday in a constitutional referendum which finally extended President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.

There are concerns that the referendum would also roll back some key aspects of the Arusha Agreement, which paved the way for ending the country’s long and bloody civil war in 2005.

President Mkapa noted that a comprehensive report from the discussion will be forwarded to the AU secretariat in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, as the forum’s contribution to the organisation’s efforts to drive the peace and security standing across the African continent.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki said the forum discussed, among others, the situation of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as case studies for some reason.

Congo is bordered by five countries including Tanzania and therefore once not checked it might have regional dimension.

Mbeki added that all emerging conflicts with Congo have continental impacts and therefore the select provides a practical necessary lesson.

“As a matter of fact, we have agreed and called on our neighbouring leaders in DRC to ensure that the election is held by the end of this year,” he said.

Somali was also taken as a case for practical lesson due to ongoing conflicts and terrorist attacks that have also impacted other neighbouring countries in the East African Community (EAC).

According to a African Centre for Strategic Studies report released last year, African leaders’ adherence to constitutional term limits is a key component of institutionalizing predictable norms of democratic succession.

Progress toward establishing this norm has been mixed, however. While a number of African countries have succeeded in upholding term limits over the past two decades, leaders in more than 20 countries effectively do not face restrictions on their time in power.

Eighteen African countries have established a constitutional two-term limit on their executive officeholders. Chief executives in these countries have been in power for less than four years, on average.

However, ten African leaders have evaded term limit restrictions and the average time in power for leaders in these countries is 21 years, while eight of the 10 countries where term limits have been undone are in Central Africa.

On average, Southern Africa is the subregion with the strongest adherence to term limits and term limits for leaders while in North and East Africa largely remain weak or absent.

“There is a need for regional leaders to work together once one country falls into conflicts,” according to the International conference on the lake region (ICGE) executive director ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita.

He stressed that political leaders should engage in crisis solution when it happens to prevent the spread of the conflicts.

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