President Paul Kagame has called on African Union member states not to succumb to pressure by some external partners during the process of the Union’s reforms.
Kagame made the remarks while presenting a report on the implementation of the AU institutional reforms in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.
Kagame warned that some aspects of the reforms could cause discomfort among some external partners since it would challenge some of their interests as the continent becomes more independent.
“As evidence mounts that this reform is real and irreversible there have been expressions of polite surprise, bordering on discomfort, from external parties. Accommodating an articulate and effective African Union in the world order challenges entrenched interests and assumptions. Even those who wish us well may have reason to discourage a more independent and organised Africa. We should be prepared to react accordingly,” he said.
He said that the discomfort among external partners should always remind the AU member states on the reason for the reforms.
Kagame’s statement on the issue comes ahead of 5th EU-Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which among other aspects seeks to develop a partnership framework between the two parties.
“This should only serve to remind us of the reasons we felt the need to make these changes in the first place. It is important to prepare the framework for the upcoming partnership summit in Abidjan in advance, and within the spirit of our reform,” the president noted.
The African Union last year adopted a self-financing mechanism whereby a 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports would be imposed on products from outside Africa.
External parties opposed to the move say that the move is not compatible with international trade principles.
The parties claim that the levy decision is discriminatory.
Update on reforms
President Kagame, who is overseeing the reforms process, observed that there is notable progress as countries move to implement the reforms.
He said the reforms will be done with flexibility to ensure that all member states’ concerns were taken into consideration.
“For any major institutional change, it is very normal for problems to be identified. Stakeholders are within their rights to do so. And indeed, many of the issues which have been raised are in order, and merit our attention,” Kagame said.
“The reform process contains the flexibility to improve as we go along, and we will continue to listen to each other and incorporate feedback. The key principle we must insist on is not to allow political or technical dilemmas to override our strategic imperatives, but rather to address them as they arise.”
Among the concerns that have come up in the consultation process is the representation at the Assembly meetings, location at summits and mode of member states contribution to the self-financing mechanism.
The President, however, said none of the concerns expressed was a serious obstacle to the implementation of the reforms.
Kagame also shed light on the Reform Implementation Unit, which he said will serve to maintain the pace of the process by holding consultations with all concerned parties.
On the self-financing mechanism, President Kagame said it was the last best chance for the AU to fix its finances and enhance its capabilities.
“The Financing Decisions imply an increased level of financial commitment from all member states. There is no way around that. We have agreed to pay or even make sacrifices where necessary. In fact, I am glad to say that around ten countries have already started to implement what we have agreed,” he said.
The President called on the African heads of state to be active participants in the reforms process, saying it was long overdue and a window of opportunity for growth.
The ongoing 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly closes today. The summit is under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.”
Other key focus areas of the summit include peace and security and continental free trade area.