THE 33RD SUMMIT OF THE AFRICAN UNION ( AU) HELD IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, BETWEEN FEBRUARY 9-11-2020 AND THE STATE VISIT OF PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI TO ETHIOPIA: BEYOND THE SUMMIT AND OTHER MATTERS ARISING
RT. HON. YUSUF BUBA YAKUB
A few weeks ago, the 33rd Summit of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government and the State Visit of our dear President, Muhammadu Buhari,to Ethiopia officially came to an end in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With the Theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for African’s Development, ” the annual event, which is a gathering of over 35 Heads of State and Government, including representatives of regional and international Organizations, did not fall short of its intended goals and expectations.
From all activities and engagements scheduled for the Summit and other events held on the sidelines of the Summit, it was sufficiently clear from the start that African leaders were in the mood for serious business.
And if the theme of the Summit (Silencing the Guns….) had not struck a serious chord in the heart and mind of any participants, the reality of wars and other conflicts raging across the African region was expected to more than jostle the mind of such participants and visitors to Addis Ababa at the time to align with the somber reality of the theme ,which was intended to afford Africans and their leaders the opportunity required to re-address and consider again the outcomes of an earlier commitment undertaken by those leaders in 2013 to end all conflicts in their region by this year, 2020; which, from all available realities on ground, is far from being achieved.
Perhaps, all that the visiting participant in the Summit needed on the very first day of the event to get down with the realities of the moment was the opening speech of the Chairman, African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, who observed ,inter alia, that “heightened tensions from terrorism challenge Africa”.While indicating that conflicts and the scourge of terrorism are still rife in the said region and the Horn of Africa due largely to a host of factors, including the war raging in Libya, Mahamat’s simply- couched submission that “Civilians die everyday and children are seeing their schools closing” succinctly captures in those innocuous words the grim future that awaits Africa if nothing urgent is done to stem the tide of blood-letting on the African Continent.
In the dark reality of the above lies the wisdom of the theme of the Summit.
There were other issues of importance at the Summit to which I shall refer later. It suffices, however, to quickly add here that, in the theme of the event: Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development, African leaders, as part of the tall ambitions contained in Agenda 2063, are seeking to, once in a long while, take the destiny of their region in their own hands. This they seek to do by not only making a total commitment to factors that would aid development in Africa, but pursuing, albeit, religiously, such commitment earlier made in the right belief and mindset that, unless and until we are prepared to enthrone peace as a sine qua non for the development of our region and people, no outsider ,however lofty their programmes,will be able to achieve such a goal for us. The foregoing can only be achieved through a complete shift in paradigm by African leaders,who would formerly attend such regional and organisational fora,ratify accords and conventions,only to return to their countries to do whatever they thought would perpetuate them in power!
For new entrants, like me, into the field of diplomacy and Pan-African-politicking, the 33rd Summit of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was an opportunity to appreciate our leaders and all that they do to galvanize activities that are aimed at ensuring world peace,order and the progress of mankind in general. For instance, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a flagship programme of the AU, is an initiative to review performances of African countries among themselves ,using several indices for comparison. In the past ,countries,including Nigeria,have been peer reviewed against one another on various considerations ranging from democratic scorecard and good governance to political Party administration and human rights issues. This year,APRM got a new Chair in South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa,who has a tenure of two years.There were other such programmes and initiatives at the Summit.
Other headline issues like, the sustainable funding of Africa’s development agenda, specifically addressing the scale assessment and contributions to the AU’s budget; progress achieved in the implementation of the 2063 Agenda as well as the operationalisation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and African candidatures in the international system like the International World Court and Africa’s Digital Transformation Strategy, were all issues of no less importance that ,in one way or another, dominated discussions in the 2-day event.
But amidst all the above, there is no gainsaying the fact that Africa and its leaders must continue to up their ante in all progremmes and initiatives that are aimed at eliminating conflicts and their root causes if success is envisioned early in our quest for total peace in our region. There is no stopping to wait! Although the news coming from Addis Ababa at the end of the Summit might look a bit cheering (that, of 17 conflicts and wars in Africa about a decade ago, only 10 are still on at the moment), more work and serious ,continuous engagements need to be done to wipe out completely these conflicts and wars,especially in an era when promoters of violent extremism in the said region are seeking to establish and hold territorial rights of their own from swaths of land excised from territories of existing countries in parts of North Africa and the Middle East! Such a tall ambition as the foregoing, mixed with other concomitant agenda of some extremist groups like the Boko Haram, ISWA and their co-travellers on the plain of terrorism-in-pursuit-of-territories, has ensured that our country, especially in States on the Northeastern fringes that border Chad, Cameroon, Niger and others, have known no peace in the last ten years.
Given the territorial ambitions of the above mentioned groups , especially, with the amount of military sophistry that is available to those purveyors of terror,owing largely to the fact that such territories bear easy access to parts of Sudan and Libya that are long torn by conflicts, Africans and, especially Nigerians in this instance, must appreciate the fact that the dimension and degree of the war we are currently fighting against groups like Boko Haram are, indeed, not, particularly, peculiar to our nations, but has an international dimension that merely finds expression in what we witness locally in places like Nigeria.
Perhaps, the above is why it equally became expedient at this material time for leaders of Africa to,during the Summit,commission the Headquarters of the all- important Committee for Intelligence and Security Services in Africa( CISSA), which arose from Decision 62 taken by African leaders in Abuja,Nigeria, sixteen years ago,to deal with issues of borderless intelligence- sharing across Africa,having realised that all forms of crimes have become transnational. Interestingly,our own Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar of NIA is chairing this Committee for a 1- year tenure and another of our own,Hajiya Zainab Ali- Kotoko is Executive Secretary for a tenure that will run for five years. It is, therefore, on this score that we must also accord understanding to the efforts of our dear leader, President Muhammadu Buhari who, also used the opportunity provided by the AU Summit to pay a State Visit to his Ethiopian counterpart,Prime Minister Dr. Abiyy Ahmed,during which time bilateral agreements were also signed in the areas of Defence,Culture and Tourism. All of these point to what our President and those around him,including his military tacticians and planners, are doing to keep our nation going. But ,in spite of doing their best at the moment to put an end to terrorism,they have only scored what looks to some pundits as pyrrhic victory.
The wild dimension of the current areas of struggle and gun-running across the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa should provide us the much-needed insight into the reality Africa faces today as a continent under siege. If we add this to what is also happening in the waters along the Gulf of Guinea then ,and only then, will we appreciate all that our leaders in Africa, including our dear President and the military, are doing to make us sleep with both eyes closed, live in our communities and carry out other activities that constitute our daily routines. We must be mindful of the reality that this kind of warfare without determined territories where enemies face anywhere, but themselves, which is often referred to as guerilla warfare, is not easy to bring to an end. This reality, as grim as it may sound, demands of us to commend rather than condemn our President and his military lieutenants, who, by the way, are known to possess enormous knowledge and capacity against terrorism and the terrorists.
For me,the 33rd Summit of the AU was not just about silencing guns and ending conflicts in Africa. There is more to the trip and I cannot,therefore,conclude this piece without sharing a thought on another exciting aspect of what I saw in Ethiopia during that event. As arid as that country may seem and even without the gift of such natural blessings as oil and other mineral resources, Ethiopia has managed to keep its economy and its population going through a combination of tourism, hospitality and care for those who have any form of business to do in that historical country. The sight that greets a first- time visitor to Addis Ababa, the somewhat sleepy capital of the country, may as well look discouraging in the appearance of what someone called ‘ small buildings and small people”, but there is so much our country ought to learn from Ethiopia. To begin with, the city does not throw at your face the sprawling opulence of Abuja or the choking and intriguing, quick-pace ambience of Lagos. Addis Ababa is just there, welcoming in its light, sweaty feel, but offering assurance that “life here is simple as ….. God intended it from the beginning.”
This is the country everybody loves to visit. From its National carrier, the Ethiopian Airlines, one could get a feel on how much joy can be gleaned from little things that are done well. Somehow, the Ethiopians just manage to make every small thing seem great. From their planes to their tourist sights, including what to us Nigerians would be akin to an erstwhile Presidential Villa, from where His Excellency, Emperor Haile Magistu Sellaise called the shots as the leader of unconquered Ethiopia, everything is open to the inquisitive tourist that is willing to part with a few dollars to gain entrance into the huge gates of history before his very presence. In Ethiopia, money is made from everything and everywhere and you know what,I kept wondering when our nation can toe this path of efficiency in little things and turn them into FOREX earners for our dear country outside petroleum.
Surely,we have the land ,the culture,the monuments and the arts and artefacts to showcase to the visiting world.
Rt. Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub ,Chairman ,House Committee on Foreign Affairs,is Member representing Gombi/ Hong Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.
He wrote in fro Abuja.