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July 18, 2004     
AU Commission 2004-2007 Strategic Framework is Severely Flawed
By Dan Kashagama

AU Commission 2004-2007 Strategic Framework report may have done damage to the image of the African Union. Besides the obvious mistakes in the budget projections, such as the $3 million assigned to the Court of Justice and another $3 million for the Court of Human and Peoples' Rights, which are in fact one and the same institutions, not two, the report is conceptually flawed, on many levels. Priority Programme 14 is titled "Made in Africa", so is Priority Programme 15. The sloppy production of the report that is the purported basis of the "central programme" of the Commission is regrettable, and its omissions and misrepresentations about the Pan African Parliament are dangerous.

The report not only makes false assumptions about how AU organs interact, but it deliberately avoids acknowledgement of recent key advances, so that its recommendations are essentially asking for the reversal of what has already been accomplished. This is inspite of claims by the report that it aims to speed up integration. The dates in the report are rather arbitrary. After reading the report several times I am still not sure what exactly is going to happen in 2015, that is not happening now, or cannot happen sooner.

Moreover, in certain places the report uses the terms AU and AU Commission interchangeably, a severe problem that has led to some real conflicts between the AU Commission and the NEPAD Secretariat, and public fights between certain Commissioners and some African states ministers. In fact this conflation of the AUC and the AU is causing confusion in the public's understanding of Pan Africanism. In one place the report refers to the African Union as "this new edifice". Other definitions of the AU in the report are equally brief and uninformative. Although Commission Chair Oumar Konare spoke about the Union Government, the report surrounding how it should work between now and 2015, is undermining the African Union government.

The strategic framework report consists of platitutes about future arrangements and a budget whose figures are speculative and are not based on concrete valuations. The recommendations for implementation are also very weak. For example, on promoting Pan Africanism, the report proposes to make slogans with the phrase "the AU, the future", as if the AU is not yet a fact. Although the promotion of the AU is the purported top priority programme of the Commission, it is aimed at promoting the Commission primarily, not the Union. As its first product, the Strategic Framework plan only succeeds in confusing and misleading the public.

The report falls back on the Abuja Treaty, a much more comprehensive document, to bolster its argument. But it uses the targets of the Abuja Treaty as if they cannot be altered, and rehashes them almost to a word, especially about the supposed phases Africa must go through. Yet the Abuja Treaty goals were set at a different time, and a lot of things have been accomplished in a shorter time than the Abuja delegates could have believed possible. The Union exists now, and the Abuja Treaty did not anticipate it would be so soon. The Commission report would have done a better job if they had simply made a summary of the Abuja Treaty.

The way that the report attempts to deemphasize the political role of the Pan African Parliament violates the spirit of the Abuja Treaty and the Union Act and the Pan African movement. The report makes no latitude whatsoever for PAP political or legislative initiative in the future of the AU, or the AU Commission, or how the PAP is to be helped in the next three years. The report also makes a preposterous claim about the Commission being the main engine of Pan Africanism as well as being the "pilot" of the process, thereby placing itself above the Court of Justice, the Parliament, and the Assembly. In one place the Commissioner assigns duties to Members of the Pan African Parliament, reflecting a poor understanding of how any parliament works.

Also distressing is that the treatment of cultural issues in the report is so tenuous as to be dangerous. The discourse the report uses to define what it perceives as relations between African communities is unfortunate. Although the report is mostly positive, its lamentations and exemptions about culture seem contrived and full of oblique language. For instance, the report states quizzically that the concept of solidarity in African society is "not entirely new", and that interaction has often been limited to people with "primordial ties and national boundaries". I wondered if something had been lost in translation.
The 75 page report acknowledges that "the challenge resides more in the definition of a good strategy", precisely the thing the Commission failed to achieve. This framework report and other recent commission reports are interesting productions that have served to show only that the Commission is doing a lot of something called "brainstorming". But the convoluted language of the commission reports remind one of a business report of a dot com company, not a political document designed to make us understand what has happened and what ought to happen in Africa.
The Commission also acknowledges that "it needs to communicate the defined vision to stakeholders in a way to make them understand the meaning and directions of the reform actions on offer." I think that in order to do this the Commission should simplify the language in its documents, and stop arrogating powers to itself. I would also advise against Commission Chair Oumar Konare's and Commissioner Said Djinnit's plan to create a new organ called the "Council of the Wise". It would be unwise, and a total waste of funds that should go to the Pan African Parliament.    
Finally, it is important to remember that the "pilot" of the process of Pan Africanism is the African people, not the Commission. The African people want the Parliament to have the central role in the administration of the African Union, and the Commissioners should not forget that. The only strategic framenwork Africa needs is a functional Parliament. So far the service that the Commission has rendered to the PAP causes a lot of concern.