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Why the AU needs to restructure its role

Publish date: 08 October 2018
Issue Number: 794
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: General

Most African countries now hold regular elections, albeit often flawed and contested. Fewer coups on the continent are largely the result of the AU’s rejection of unlawful take-overs. And yet democracy continues to be subverted in other ways, like constitutional coups. In an analysis on the Daily Maverick site, Ndubuisi Christian Ani points out that the AU has no illusions about the problem. ‘When it was first adopted in 2007, the African Charter raised the hopes of democracy activists, who believed it would strengthen good governance. Ten years on, even the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) is asking whether the charter has made a difference. The slow pace of democratisation is highlighted by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 Democracy Index, which indicates that many African countries remain under authoritarian and hybrid regimes. The weakness of democratic institutions is also evident from the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.’ Ani argues that weak democracies deprive the continent of development and service delivery. ‘There are several ways the AU can help. It can hold member states accountable through electoral observation missions, PSC meetings and assessment tools like the African Peer Review Mechanism. The African Charter is ideal for this purpose, since it sets a standard for good governance and free and fair elections. But the AU needs to deal with gaps in the charter that enable the subtle subversion of democracy in member states. These gaps relate to the increase in constitutional coups and “popular uprisings” in Africa.’

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site