On 27th August 2016, a regional newspaper published an article titled “EAC employees in court to protect their contracts”.
The article states that the Secretary General decided to close the Peace and Security Department due to lack of funds “as the European Union which funds the activities of the organ through the African Union, cut funding”.
Beyond the relation ‘employer and employees’ there are important consequences linked to this situation, important for the organisation.
To set the record straight for the benefit of readers, the European Union’s funding to the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and by extension the EAC Peace and Security department has not been cut.
On the contrary, the EU confirmed continuity of funding for the APSA support programme to all eight African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) through the AU starting January 01 2016 to 31st December 2018 as shown by EU letter to the AU Director of Peace and Security Department dated 11th December 2015.
One can say that the EU funding to APSA is stable and in line with the AU and REC agenda for full operationalisation of the continental program by 2020.
Temporary lack of funds for the APSA support programme is only a result of the delayed disbursement from the EU to AU and RECs, occasioned by long negotiation processes involving the EU, AU, and implementing partners (RECs).
Noting the risk of delayed disbursement of funds, the African Union through its Note Verbal dated 15th December 2015, 26th April and 14th June 2016 requested all RECs including the EAC to help pre-finance and retain staff under APSA funding for the year 2016 promising that their costs will be reimbursed effective January 2016.
Disbursement delays and thus pre-financing at EAC and indeed all other RECs is not new.
It is not clear why among all departments the current EAC management opted to pursue the path of closing down that one entirely at a time when the EAC region is grappling with bloody crises, conflicts and peace processes in Burundi, South Sudan and preparing for elections in at least two of its members come 2017.
Yet this project is not the only one that has delayed to disburse funds to the EAC.
In fact, the Republic of Burundi owes the Community $13,987,908, which includes outstanding contribution for the fiscal year 2015/16 and 2016/17, but none of this country’s staff contracts has been terminated.
The Partnership fund through which most EAC donors make their contributions is empty but no one among its staff has been terminated except those whose contracts expired and are yet to be renewed.
These officers are being pre-financed using the Partner States Contributions on the understanding that once funds are disbursed, a reimbursement will be made.
Further, the 31st Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers directed the Secretariat to develop a roadmap for operationalisation and sustainability of the Directorate of Peace and Security and report to the 32nd Meeting of the Council.
Instead of developing a roadmap for sustainability of the department for Council’s consideration, the management decided to close down even what is in place.
Concerned with these developments, Amb. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission warned the EAC Secretary General of the impact this action will have on the capacity built in the last ten years and reversing the milestones achieved by the APSA programme.
Mwencha’s letter of 02nd August 2016, personally addressed to Mr. Liberat Mfumukeko, informed him that negotiations with EU had been completed, all necessary prerequisites done, with the grants agreement which must precede disbursement set to be signed by end of August 2016.
Considering that the EAC employees who have petitioned court want to protect their contracts is more distraction compared to the consequences for the East African Community and African Continental integration agenda.
The P&S Department is the arm of the EAC secretariat responsible for coordinating initiatives and interventions relating to Peace and Security and the ultimate EAC goal of Political Federation.
The EAC integration process is heading towards the final phase of negotiation of the Political Federation. This component essentially means deeper engagements and deliberations on the various instruments under Chapter 23 of the Treaty. The P&S Department is responsible for coordinating this process.
To make matters worse, it is also coordinating the operations of the Joint Meetings of the Sectoral Councils on Cooperation in Defense, Inter-State Security and Foreign Policy Coordination. Implementation of the regional peace and security strategy including activities of other thematic organs such as Police, Intelligence, Prisons, Counter Terrorism and Small Arms and Lite Weapons (SALW) among others will be halted.
Other implications of disbanding the department include halting operations of other ongoing projects like the Maritime Security, the Chemical Emergency Response Capacity Building (OPCW), Operationalisation of the EAC Regional Forensic Referral Centre, development of the Counter Terrorism Project, the Regional Electoral Support Project and the Conflict Prevention Management and Resolution Mechanism (CPMR). This will have unwarranted consequences for the EAC integration agenda.
Article 16 of the AU Peace and Security Protocol of July 2002, states that RECs and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) constitute building blocks of the AU, working closely with the Commission to ensure a common and African tailored response to peace and security threats.
The APSA support programme therefore provides a framework within which the AU, RECs and RMs collaborate and contribute to prevent, manage and resolve crises and conflicts on the African continent.
Closing APSA at the EAC is like cutting the umbilical code that links the EAC to the Continental peace and security and integration agenda leading to isolation of the regional block. Moreover, the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Peace and Security signed between the African Union Commission and RECs on 28th January 2008 is a binding legal document that no party has a right to breach unilaterally.
The Secretary General should not ignore these consequences or the rules and regulations that vest the powers to terminate professional staff contracts in the Council of Ministers. And so we are left to ask: what motivated the EAC Secretariat’s decision to dismantle the Peace and Security Department, a central pillar of its edifice?
The writer is a Political Analyst on the Great Lakes Region and Senior Editor, Contact MediaFollow https://twitter.com/albcontact