Political Affairs Department
The mandate of the department is to contribute to the emergence of a political environment, within and among African countries, as well as at the international level, that is conducive to bringing about sustainable development and accelerating the economic integration of the continent. To that effect, the department plays a prominent role in promoting, facilitating, coordinating and encouraging democratic principles and the rule of law, respect of Human Rights, the participation of the civil society in the development process of the continent, and the achievement of durable solutions for addressing humanitarian crisis.
Advocate for and assist in ensuring that all African countries respect Human Rights;
Work towards the emergence of democratic institutions and sustained popular participation throughout the continent;
Encourage transparency and accountability in public affairs, political, economic and cultural areas with a greater involvement of the civil society and the private sector;
Devise ways and means of finding durable solutions for problems of refugees and addressing the causes and symptoms of humanitarian crisis;
To monitor election processes on the continent.
The thrust of the programme
The Political Affairs portfolio which is headed by Mr. Jean Mfasoni has six different branches and offices:
HUMAN RIGHTS | | DEMOCRACY AND ELECTION OBSERVATION/MONITORING | |HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS, REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
After much efforts exerted by the Commission, the Second Meeting of Experts on the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Relating to the Rights of Women, which had been postponed on several occasions owing to insufficient confirmations of participation by Member States, was held from 24 – 26 March 2003 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting was followed by the Meeting of Ministers responsible for human rights issues in Africa, from 27 – 28 March 2003, at the same venue.This protocol was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Maputo [(Assembly/AU/Dec/19(II)].The appeal is on Member States to sign and ratify this important instrument in order to ensure its speedy entry into force.
The Ministers considered the various proposals submitted by the experts as well as the completed and revised Draft Protocol and adopted the final text of the 32-Articles Draft Protocol, which is being submitted to the current session of the Executive Council and Assembly of the African Union for adoption and subsequent signature and ratification by Member States.
Similarly, at the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Rwanda, the Meeting of Experts on the First AU Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa, was organized and held by the Department from 5 – 6 May 2003, in Kigali, Rwanda. The meeting was followed by the Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa, from 8 – 9 May 2003, at the same venue.The meeting made a thorough review of the implementation of the Grand Bay (Mauritius) Declaration and Plan of Action held in april 1999 in Mauritius.
The Ministers considered the recommendations submitted by the experts on the various sectors relating to the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa and adopted the Kigali Declaration, which forms the basis of the revised agenda of the AU on human rights in Africa.
The OAU’s first involvement in election monitoring was in 1989, when the organization joined the United Nations in monitoring elections in Namibia to ensure the fulfillment of United Nations Security Council Resolution 435. However, in February 1990, the OAU faced its first direct challenge, when an OAU Observer Team of three took part in observing the elections in Comoros, upon the invitation of the then President of Comoros. From that point onwards, the process of election observation/monitoring gradually acquired legitimacy in the OAU and it was made clear to all Member States that they could avail themselves of the good offices of the OAU with respect to the participation of observer teams in elections, in order to verify the integrity of elections.
In July 1990, African leaders, meeting in their 26th Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, formally endorsed the OAU’s involvement in the democratization process, through the adoption of the Declaration of the Political and Socio-economic situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking Place in the World.
During the same session, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government also adopted the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, which further emphasized the consolidation of democratic institutions through popular participation.
As the process gained added momentum on the continent and the Members States demands for OAU involvement in elections observation correspondingly increased, the issue assumed special importance during the Sixty-Fourth Session of the council of Ministers, held in July 1996, in Yaounde, Cameroon. The Session, in its deliberations on the Report of the Secretary General on the Process of Election Monitoring by the OAU, called for the OAU to assume greater responsibility in the democratization process in Africa.
Furthermore, the military coup d’Etat in Sierra Leone on 25th May 1997, appeared to be an added catalyst for the OAU to underpin respect for the rule of law and the process of democratization in Member States. It will be recalled that the coup d’Etat in that country took place at a time when the African Leaders were meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, and the OAU had condemned the act and pledged not to tolerate any more acts of changing governments by unconstitutional means.
In July 1999, the thirty-fifth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments in Algiers, Algeria, took a tougher stand and further measures against unconstitutional changes and for the promotion of democratization in Africa. Besides, further recognizing the importance of the democratization process in order to ensure good governance, the session, in its Decision AHG/Dec.142 (XXXV), gave an ultimatum to all Member States’ governments that came to power unconstitutionally after the Harare Summit, to return to constitutional rule by the following Summit, or face sanctions. The African Leaders also declared The Year 2000 as “The year of peace, security and solidarity in Africa”[AHG/Decl.2 (XXXV)].
In July 2000, besides adopting the Constitutional Act of the African Union, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted the Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA). Based on the Kampala document of 1991, the Declaration recognized the importance of the 4 “calabashes” in the realization of the interests of the African continent. The “Stability Calabash”, in particular, emphasized the need for democratization and good governance, as a means of promoting political and social stability in individual African States, thus providing an additional stimulus for advancing the OAU/AU’s agenda in the democratization process.
In its determined efforts to further promote fundamental freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and good governance in Africa, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, meeting in July 2000, in Lome, Togo, adopted the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government [AHG/Decl.5 (XXXVI)] in which, amongst others, common values and principles for democratic governance were outlined.
By June 2003, the process of democratization had taken root on the continent, and the OAU/AU had participated in observing over 100 elections in 43 Member States.
To fulfill its mandate, the organization based its activities on the following policy documents:
1. The Addis Ababa Declaration of July 1990 on the Political and Socio-Economic situation in Africa and the Fundamental changes taking place in the World. Click here
2. The Cairo 1995 Agenda for Action.
3. The Algiers Decision on unconstitutional change of Government.
4. The Lome July 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on the Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa. Click here
5. The Lome July 2000 Declaration on the Framework regarding OAU’s responses to unconstitutional change of government Click here ; and
6. The Durban July 2002 Declaration on the principles governing democratic elections in Africa. Click here
Implementation of the Durban Declaration (July 2002) on the Principles governing democratic elections in Africa.
In implementing this Declaration, the AU commission undertook various studies as required by the assembly, namely:
1. Directives for election observation and monitoring by the AU. Click here
2. Prospect for the establishment of an AU electoral assistance funds.Click here
3. Draft AU Declaration on election, democracy and governance. Click here
In the same vain, from 7 to 10 April 2003 in Pretoria, the AU Commission convened jointly with the South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), an African Conference on Elections, Democracy and Governance, which discussed and enriched the three documents referred to above. This conference further discussed at length the following themes:
Theme 1 : Multiparty Democracy and its Relevance in African Societies - This theme deals with the history of the African state. Issues to be probed include both the historical and the present manifestation of coup d’état, and the one party state. Also, in what ways can elections also produce one party states?
Theme 2 : Acceptance of Election Results – One of the key features of elections in Africa, is the rejection of the electoral outcomes by the losing contestants. Essentially, the theme seeks to establish means of fostering legitimacy of the electoral management body and the quality of the elections themselves. The main question is : what prompts electoral contestants to denounce the elections both during the process as well as the point of the announcement of the results?
Theme 3 : Sources of Violence and Conflict in Elections – The focus here is on electoral campaigns. That is, what forms, or nature of electoral campaigns contribute to violent eruptions? Issues for exploration include : economic insecurity, ethnicity, tribalism and religious schisms.
Theme 4 : Governance - The role of Traditional and Modern Institutions – This theme explores possible tensions between these two forms of institutions. Mainly, between traditional authorities and elected representatives. In the growing influence, if not dominance of modern democracies, what may be the best form of adaptation for the traditional authorities?
Theme 5 : Institutional vs. Substantive Democracy – The focus of this theme is to explore the apparent gap between formal institutional democracy, which seems to be prevalent in the continent, with social and economic justice. Are these two irreconcilable? Alternatively, is institutional and formal democracy sustainable in the environment of abject poverty? Essentially, how can the gap be bridged? Other issues for consideration focus on public participation in the quest for a substantive democracy.
Theme 6 : Constitutions and Electoral Process – This theme aims at exploring the process and nature of electoral legislations. In what manner, for example, can the electoral rules be manipulated in favor of a given political party? In what ways can the resourcing of electoral bodies be used to compromise its independence and integrity? In what manner should the making of the electoral rules and legislation be subjected to democratic checks and balances so that ultimately they do not favor certain parties at the expense of other parties?
Theme 7 : The Role of African Monitoring and Observer missions. This theme seeks to explore key factors and issues that impact on the nature of Monitors and Observer Missions in Africa. Moreover, explore viable relationships with missions from outside the continent. The ultimate objective here is to ascertain if an overarching set of principles, benchmarks and indicators can be drawn in this particular instance.
Theme 8 : Resourcing elections: This particular theme attempts investigate the crucial link between resource and the running of elections at various dimensions : the cost of running elections; the implications of running elections through foreign funding; the impact of donor agencies funding political parties during elections; the use of state resources by political parties during elections (both financial and institutional – use of information department). And also, the development of a strategic document to establish an Electoral Assistance Fund under the auspices of the AU.
At the end, the conference
adopted a Communiqué on Election, Democracy and Governance, which
contains principles and standards for the conduct of free and fair elections
Consequently, as a way of expressing solidarity, donations were extended to the people and governments as follows:-
As is customary, the African Union was invited to the EX-COM meeting held from 30 September to 4 October 2002 and was represented at two levels, namely, Commission of the Union and African Union Commission on Refugees. The delegation of the Commission was led by Ambassador Said Djinnit, Interim Commissioner in charge of Peace & Security and Political Affairs, while the African Union Commission on Refugees was represented by H.E. Simataa Akapelwa, the former Ambassador of Zambia in Ethiopia and the then Chairman of the Commission.
The two delegations delivered statements. The Interim Commissioner also chaired the panel discussions on NEPAD with regard to the refugee situation in Africa. The meeting noted the positive developments taking place, especially in the area of voluntary repatriation, and the Zambia Initiative which centers around integration of refugees in host communities and was well received by UNHCR and the donors.
c) Conference on Refugee Protection in Africa: How to Ensure Security and Development for Refugees and Local Hosts, 10 to 14 November 2002, Uganda
The Division also participated
at the Conference on “Refugee Protection in Africa": How to Ensure
Security and Development for Refugees and Local Hosts”. The Conference
took place in Uganda from 10 to 14 November 2002, and was organized by
the Stanley Foundation in cooperation with the Lawyers’ Committee for
Human Rights, the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and the
Refugee Law Project (RLP) of Makerere University in Kampala. The meeting
focused on security and economic and social relations between the refugees
and local host communities. It brought together 50 participants from governmental
and non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, Red Cross, key donors
as well as six African countries hosting the largest refugee populations
During the period under review, the Division together with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and UNHCR organized a seminar on Protection for African Refugees and seeking solutions to their problems. The organizations collaborated on cooperation modalities on human rights on the continent. This culminated into the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ACHPR and UNHCR and was signed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UNHCR in Niger in May 2003.
e) Mission of African First Ladies Summit, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 14 – 16 May 2003
At the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, a staff member from the Department of Political Affairs participated in the assessment for the preparations of the African First Ladies Summit from 1 – 6 May 2003 and also in the fourth Summit from 14 – 16 May 2003, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
The delegation of the Commission to the Summit was led by H.E. Mr. Amara Essy, Interim Chairperson. The Summit adopted its Statutes and Rules of Procedure and thereafter the mission of the African Ladies which deals with Peace and Humanitarian issues was institutionalised, in accordance with the framework of the Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing, China in 1995.
The Commission on Refugees held a series of meetings at the level of its Bureau and the Commission of the whole in order to review the progress made on the continent in the area of refugees, returnees and displaced persons. Within the framework of the cooperation between African Union and UNHCR in May 2003, Ambassador Fisseha Yimer, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Programme (EX-COM) visited the AU Headquarters and on that occasion addressed the members of the Bureau of the Commission on Refugees.
As is customary, the African Union Commission carried out some activities in celebration of African Refugee Day that falls on 20 June every year. The Commission requested Member States to commemorate the event by carrying out various activities based on this year’s theme, “Youth: Building the Future Together”. They were further requested to inform the Commission about such activities.
In Addis Ababa, the Commission on Refugees together with the African Union Commission and the AU partners organized many activities that included visits to refugee camps in Ethiopia and the Interim Chairperson’s statement that was syndicated to different parts of the world. The Commission therefore ensured that the day received maximum publicity.