The IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) Heads of State and Government Summit held it's 22nd Extra-Ordinary session on the 24th of May to discuss the political situation in Somalia. The Addis Ababa meeting was chaired by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. It was attended by, among others, Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Somali's Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. During that meeting, it was resolved by the African leaders to repatriate thousands of Somali refugees living in Kenya and Ethiopia back to Somalia. The new Kenyan Foreign Affairs Secretary Amina Mohamed and her Somalia counterpart Fawzia Yusuf Adam met on Friday under the direction of their respective Presidents to further discuss the translocation of the refugees. A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the two had agreed to convene an international conference on Somalia, to be held in Nairobi. The conference is meant to discuss and work out the details on the safest and most orderly way to return the refugees.
Dadaab is a town in Garissa County, about 100 KM from the Kenya-Somalia border. It is home to six refugee camps: Kambioos, Dagahaley, Hagadera and the three Ifo Camps. Dadaab was set up in the early 90s and hosts people that have fled various conflicts in the larger Eastern African region. Dadaab is now home to the largest refugee population in the world. It has well over 500 000 people, 96% of whom are Somali nationals. Dadaab has been thought to pose a serious threat to Kenya and the surrounding region. Two years ago, two Spanish aid workers were abducted from the camp and this has led some analysts to believe that militia from Al Shabaab may have infiltrated the refugee population. Dadaab is also believed to be a trafficking route for small arms and humans. Since the launch of Kenya's incursion into Somalia in 2011, Dadaab has experienced a sharp rise in attacks by Al Shabaab sympathizers targeting Kenyan police and aid workers with gunfire, explosive devices and abductions. The rising insecurity coupled with a shortage of funds has seen relief efforts reduced to a bare minimum.
Last year February, the then President Mwai Kibaki (now retired) while speaking at the London Conference on Somalia said that the over crowded camps at Dadaab posed a security threat and that Kenyan was no longer able to carry such a large refugee burden. He asked the international humanitarian community to take advantage of the areas in Somalia that had already been liberated by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and return the refugees home.
Following the resolutions at the IGAD Summit and following the activities of the Kenyan Foreign Secretary since, it is clear that the new government is keen on following through with the former President's wishes. Indeed, Deputy President William Ruto had a recent meeting with Mr. Ban Ki Moon at the UN offices in Yokohama, Japan where the UN Secretary General pledged to support efforts to resettle the displaced families.Despite the plans that are underway, aid agencies and other humanitarian organizations have deemed this move to be impractical. For repatriation to be effective it has to be voluntary and the conditions have to be conducive and sustainable. Kenya is a signatory to The 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits the involuntary return of refugees to a country where the threat of persecution persists. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states.
For the first time in 43 years, Somalia elected a formal leader. This officially marks the end of an eight-year transitional administration in the war and famine ravaged nation. Both old and young took to the streets to welcome President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who was declared President of the Federal Republic of Somalia by the parliament speaker.
It was by a landslide that the 57-year-old founder and chairman of the Peace and Development Party won over former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Mohamud also beat a score of other candidates, including the once United States based technocrat Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and Maslah Siad Bare, son of the former Somali President.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a political newcomer, won the election against outgoing President Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed by the legislative vote of 190 to 79, according to Parliament Speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari. Mohamud thanked the new parliament for electing him as the nation's leader and asked the Somali people to collaborate with him to restore the country.
Mohamud's election is therefore a budge to the fore but the President will need the support of his countrymen to bring change to the country. This is because Somalia's problems are too big for one person to solve alone. They include piracy at sea, terrorism, a lack of institutions and hundreds of thousands of refugees. The new President will have to address a humanitarian situation, which the United Nations has often described as the worst in the world.
President Mohamud has promised to bring Somalia back into the international fold, but he inherits an ongoing war and powerful warlords. While Somalia has had transitional administrations since 2004, it has not had a functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos. The country has been characterized by political bickering, violent threats and seat-buying schemes which has delayed the progress towards a transitional government.
Somalia has however seen much progress over the last year. Al Shabaab militants, who are linked to Al Qaeda, were forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011. This has allowed businesses to thrive while also witnessing a return of the arts and sports. Al Shabaab has lost control of Mogadishu and has ceded the control of towns in western Somalia. The militants largely fled to northern Somalia and Yemen, but some retreated to Kismayo, the last major town in their control.
Last month Somali leaders endorsed a new provisional constitution that expands rights for Somali citizens. The United Nations, which helped broker the constitution and is in charge of the poll, hopes that one day all of Somalia will be able to vote to endorse or reject the constitution.
Many young people in Somalia hope that the new president will improve the country's education sector, which is among one of the key organs paralyzed in the two decades of war. President Mohamud is famous for being one of the founders of the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development (SIMAD), which became Simad University. Established in 1999, it is the first institute of its kind since the collapse of the Somali state. As of last year, close to 4,000 students were registered in its undergraduate programs and, since 2002, over 1,500 students have graduated with diplomas in various disciplines.
The International Community stated that the move to elect a new President in the country is a key step toward the East African Nation's transition from a war-torn failed state to a nation with an effective government. Electing Mohamud is seen as a vote of change from the previous government, which has faced accusations of engaging in unlawful activities. A report written for the United Nations in June stated that the previous government was rife with corruption. The respected lecturer and peace activist now faces the task of putting together a capable and credible government after more than a decade of transitional administrations largely seen as corrupt and inept.
The election of a new President raises hope that Somalia could emerge from two decades of civil war, but a recent attempt on his life reminded Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of the tough road ahead. There was a suicide assail at the gates of a hotel in Somali's capital, Mogadishu, where the new President was staying, only two days after he was elected. The blasts took place as the President was holding a press conference in the Jazeera Hotel with visiting Kenyan Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri. The meeting however went on successfully after the thwarted terrorist attack.
Such attempts to push the country back into chaos and violence should not deter the Somali people's determination to move forward.
The formation of the African Union (AU or EU depending on the language) was heralded as an event of great magnitude for the continent. In September 1999, African Heads of State issued a declaration calling for the formation of the African Union. In July of 2002, at the Durban Summit, the AU was officially launched and the first Assembly of the Heads of State of the African Union was convened. The AU consists of 54 African States, the exception being Morocco, which declined to join because it opposes the membership of Western Sahara.
The Vision and Mission
The AU was formed with the overall mission of speeding up integration in the continent in order to enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy while at the same time addressing a myriad of economic, political and social problems currently plaguing its member states. The AU succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which had failed due to multiple reasons.
The AU is based on the common vision of a united and strong Africa and on the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector, in order to strengthen solidarity and cohesion amongst the peoples of Africa. It focuses on the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent as a prerequisite for the implementation of the development and integration agenda of the Union. Ultimately, the AU is building towards a greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and its people.
Article 3 of the Constitutive Act of the AU provides the following as the objectives of the African Union:
- To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa;
- To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of its Member States;
- To accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
- To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
- To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
- To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
- To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
- To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations:
- To promote sustainable development at the economic, social, and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
- To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
- To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
- To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular science and technology;
- To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
Principles establishing the AU:
- Sovereign equality and interdependence among Member States of the Union;
- Respect of borders existing on achievement of independence;
- Participation of the African peoples in the activities of the Union;
- Establishment of a common defense policy for the African Continent;
- Peaceful resolution of conflicts among Member States of the Union through such appropriate means as may decided upon by the Assembly;
- Prohibition of the use of force or threat to use force among Member States of the Union;
- Non-interference by any Member State in the internal affairs of another;
- The right of the Union to intervene if a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity
- Peaceful co-existence of Member States and their right to live in peace and security;
- The right of Member States to request intervention from the Union in order to restore peace and security;
- Promotion of self-reliance within the framework of the Union;
- Promotion of gender equality;
- Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance;
- Promotion of social justice to ensure balanced economic development;
- Respect for sanctity of human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities;
- Condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes of government.
The AU consists of the following organs:
Composed of Heads of State and Government or their duly accredited representatives. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the Union.
The Executive Council
Composed of Ministers or Authorities designated by the Governments of Members States. The Executive Council is responsible to the Assembly.
The Permanent Representatives' Committee
Composed of Permanent Representatives of Member States accredited to the Union. The Permanent Representatives Committee is charged with the responsibility of preparing the work of the Executive Council.
The Court of Justice
A Court of Justice of the Union shall be established. The statutes defining the composition and functions of the Court of Justice have been prepared and will be submitted to the Assembly in Maputo.
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
By decision AHG/Dec 160 (xxxvii) of the Summit of Lusaka, July 2001, a decision was made for the creation within the African Union of the Peace and Security Council. The Protocol establishing the PSC is in the process of ratification.
A Pan-African Parliament, and organ to ensure the full participation of African peoples in governance, development and economic integration of the Continent. The protocol relating to the composition, powers, functions and organization of the Pan-African Parliament has been signed by Member States and is in the process of ratification.
The Economic, Social and Cultural Council. This is an advisory organ composed of different social and professional groups of the Member States of the Union. The statutes determining the functions, powers, composition and organization of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council have been prepared and will be submitted to Maputo Summit.
The AU Commission
The Commission is the key organ playing a central role in the day-to-day management of the African Union. Among others, it represents the Union and defends its interests; It elaborates draft common positions of the Union; It prepares strategic plans and studies for the consideration of the Executive Council; It elaborates, promotes, coordinates and harmonizes the programmes and policies of the Union with those of the RECs; IT ensures the mainstreaming of gender in all programmes and activities of the Union.
Members of the Commission
- Deputy Chairperson;
- Eight (8) Commissioners.
- Staff members
The Specialized Technical Committees
The following Specialized Technical Committees are meant to address sectorial issues and are at Ministerial Level:
- The Committee on Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters;
- The Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs;
- The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration Matters;
- The Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment;
- The Committee on Transport, Communications and Tourism;
- The Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs; and
- The Committee on Education, Culture and Human Resources.
The Financial Institutions
- The African Central bank
- The African Monetary Fund
- The African Investment Bank
The East Africa Legislative Assembly recently passed a resolution to have the Ministers of the EALA institute proceedings that would have the trial of the four suspects of Post Election Violence in Kenya moved from The Hague to the Arusha based East Africa Court of Treaty. This was a very odd move, seeing as the Court was established to deal with disputes between East Africa Member States on matters relating to the interpretation and implementation of the East Africa Treaty. It has limited jurisdiction in civil matters that fall outside the Treaty and has no criminal jurisdiction at all. This attempt by EALA has been interpreted widely by commentators as being a push by Kenya to have the other sister states stand in solidarity with her in this matter.
This is despite the fact that majority of Kenyans not only want the trials in the Hague to proceed, but wish for the same to be expedited. Further to this, many have expressed a distrust of the local process in Kenya, and are unlikely to look favourably on an East African Process. The East African Community is supposed to foster EU like characteristics, with the main emphasis of co-operation being mutual financial benefit, rather than usurping the Sovereignty of member states. The Kenyan government has made no secret of the fact that they would prefer if the suspects were tried in Kenya, but recurrent decisions by the ICC trial chamber clearly show that this is unlikely. The most recent development was an indication by the Chamber that they would be ready to commence hearings within the next month or so.
The East African Law Society has responded to the recent resolution by the East Africa Legislative Assembly to have the cases of the four Kenyans facing trial at the Hague to the Arusha based East Africa Court of Treaty by urging caution. (A full statement can be read here) The East Africa Centre for Law and Justice stands on this same position, and in solidarity with the Kenyan people would prefer to see the trials commenced at the Hague allowed to follow through to the logical conclusion, not least, to give the victims of the PEV some closure and relief in knowing the truth about the Post Poll chaos of 2008. This is because, whether or not the four are found guilty, the fact is important information will be made public and a clearer picture will definitely emerge on the truth behind the instigation and execution of the violence seen in 2007 – 2008.