President Paul Kagame has called on African countries and regional economic communities to take ownership of the African Union reforms process to facilitate urgent implementation.
Kagame made the remarks, yesterday, during a consultative meeting on the African Union Reforms attended by African foreign affairs ministers and ambassadors accredited to the AU, in Kigali.
President Kagame has been leading the reform process following the mandate given during the African Union Summit in Kigali last July.
He said that ownership of the process by African citizens and their representatives is a necessity towards implementation of the reforms and realisation of their goals.
Giving Rwanda’s experience in changing its circumstances, he said that it was necessary to change the mindset from one of reliance to ownership and independence.
“Having resolved to change our circumstances two things became very important, as we struggled to turn aspirations of the new Rwanda into reality. The first was to overcome the mindset of sitting back and waiting for rescue,” he said.
“Doing so involved becoming aware of the substantial means we already had both in our soil and much more importantly in our people. With these resources we found that we had more than enough to get started,” the President said.
Another decisive factor in the implementation process, the president noted is the attitude of stakeholders involved in the process.
“If the mentality was to look for stumbling blocks, you would surely find lots of them and the end result is that goals are not accomplished. Instead of finding reasons to do nothing, look for what should compel us to act,” the Head of State told the foreign affairs ministers.
“The decision and the decisive factor here was changing our mindset from dependence to ownership and from we ‘can’t’ to ‘we can. That is an asset that cannot be imported,” Kagame added, referring to the mindset that characterised Rwanda’s transformation.
Among the African union reforms is a decision to reduce donor dependence in funding the organisation’s budget. At the moment, over 80 per cent of the union’s budget is sourced from donations which experts say has often seen the body compromise on its priorities.
The Union, in July last year, adopted a proposal to fund 100 per cent of its administrative budgets, 75 per cent of programme budgets and 25 per cent of the peace keeping related activities.
The funds will be sourced from a 0.2 per cent levy imposed on eligible imports entering the continent. The decision takes effect from January 2018.
Kagame said that the decision was taken to avoid dependence on donors and to make the body more effective.
He said that if there are any problems or concerns about some details of the reform, it would be better to amend and improve it as opposed to sacrificing the principle.
“Regardless of the challenges we face in implementing the decisions, there are certainly better problems than the ones we faced before. Let’s work together on the details, while standing firm on our principles,” he said.
Other key reforms adopted by the union include a decision to focus on key priorities with continental scope and to empower Regional Economic Communities to take the lead on regional issues.
The reforms also include realigning AU institution to deliver on its key priorities, connecting the African Union more to citizens for them to have a stake in its work, and managing the business of the union more efficiently and effectively with particular focus on how summits are conducted and how personnel are selected.
Kagame also noted the importance of ensuring that no country or party was left behind in the reforms process as it would cause the entire process to stall.
“This process is not about what each country can do on its own but what we can all do together, for each other and with each other. If some of us get it right while others lag behind, most likely we will all be stuck. We affect each other one way or another,” he said.