The African Union Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC) was birthed to become a vital voice of the AU citizens and the conscience of Africa, giving active life to a society that aspires to its best ideals at home and flying the flag of the continent abroad.
Is the organ vested to collectively channel the aspiration of the African citizenry in the building of our Union inspiring reason for that hope? The rhetorical question underlines the weariness when time and again, it is more about the Members' perks, pecking order, to dictated scandalous letters to scare off citizen participation. One of the areas of focus of the AU Institutional Reform is to connect the AU to citizens through value added goods and services. It is time for grown-ups with the courage and soul to steer a better course.
The African Union Summit is underway and the seat of the AU ECOSOCC cannot be vacant. There is no such thing as Interim Presiding Officer after the First Permanent General Assembly in 2008; neither is there a style called Acting Presiding Officer. The Presiding Officer must be substantive lest more mockery is heaped upon the organ and, by extension, devaluing the role of the African civil society in the making of our Union. It is not perfect but challenges are not excuses not to strive and drive the vision.
H.E. Denise Kodhe, from Kenya, is the Presiding Officer of AU ECOSOCC. With God's speed, and in this trying time, may he uphold the Oath of Office and move with the wisdom to represent the entire African citizenry to the best of his ability.
The politicking surrounding why and how the elected Presiding Officer, H.E Abozer Elligai from Sudan, was removed from office is not the subject here. He is yet to challenge the basis of his termination, as submitted by the credential lady of the committee, which could be official grounds for review. When Egypt and Mauritania, etc. were suspended from the AU, ECOSOCC Members from the countries and staffs at the AU were never dismissed. The government of Sudan is recognized by the AU in context of special considerations; not a return to civilian rule. So this situation meritoriously calls for consideration of extenuating circumstances.
While any challenge may be pending, the issue brewing is something else.
Now, comes a faction or even if it is the whole of the Eastern Region Members of AU ECOSOCC who consider themselves to be sufficiently aggrieved based on their notion of their right to choose and, thereby, vexed enough to be writing letters on the process of choosing the Presiding Officer from their region for a replacement.
To be very clear, they are not concerned about why the elected Presiding Officer was removed, whether it was fair or foul. They are narrowly focused on their interest to choose the next one.
The petitioners sent the stuff to: a) H.E. Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of AU Commission who has often demonstrated a Pontius Pilate washing of his hands off AU ECOSOCC internal migraine and wahala because it is not his jurisdiction; b) CIDO and the ECOSOCC Secretariat that are both below the AU ECOSOCC General Assembly, the organ, and the Standing Committee in terms of authority; and (c) AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) that may be more baffled than enlightened by the goals and contents. Other recipients may be startled for lack of any instrument to help them understand it all.
It is fundamental to ask: on what statutory or constitutional basis are the petitioners seeking any exclusive right to nominate/select a Presiding Officer? It is not referenced anywhere in the AU ECOSOCC Statute or Rules of Procedure.
Yes, the organ can create its own internal arrangement. But no other organ can help the petitioners when what they are seeking intervention/remedy for are internal practices not referenced in any rule for a possible violation to occur. Lies telling among ECOSOCC Members are not what reasonable people expect African Foreign Ministers in the AU Executive Council to discuss.
The maxim, he who comes into equity must come with clean hands, is based on principles of equity and justice that are universal in legal systems around the world. As a broad statement of principle, truthfulness and reasonableness are self-evident. As a general rule, parties/persons cannot seek equity based on a faulty premise or through the party's own fault. Equity does not relieve a party/person of the consequences of his or her own making and irresponsibility.
The party/persons cannot benefit from equity because equity cannot assist someone to escape from the circumstances they created or participated in. Therefore, equity will not grant relief from a self-created hardship/confusion/chaos.
Petitioners cannot insist that a strict technicality be enforced in their favor when it would create an injustice because equity balances the interests of the different parties and the convenience of the public - we, the African Union citizens in this case. It is of no interest to the African citizenry to changing POs when these members should be drafting acceptable Advisory Opinions and reaching out to the civil society. Referenced in the Strategic Implementation of Agenda 2063, the views of Member States' civil society organizations, including in the Diaspora, must be taken into account.
Based on the AU ECOSOCC Statues, the representatives were supposed to be elected by their fellow citizens in their own countries, regions, continent-wide, and in the Diaspora, with the organizing involvement of competent authorities of the Member States. These requirements have always been violated.
Having violated the process to become Members of AU ECOSOCC, how can AU PRC help the Easterners in their plight to reject any process that produced one of their own and to choose anew? Their own constituencies do not know them and they want to choose a Presiding Officer who is expected to represent all African citizens? This righteous claim to rights rings constitutionally hollow.
Even the Standing Committee is not constitutionally mandated to select/elect a Presiding Officer. The General Assembly is the highest decision and policy making body of ECOSOCC that elects Officers and Member of the Standing Committee and oversee its work. This is where, from day one, the great violations reign. Members of the General Assembly hardly know what is happening, and sometimes through Facebook with pictures, including those posing in fancy places.
Agreed, AU ECOSOCC, just like other organs, needs reform and urgently. The least destructive manner should be used to address matters arising until comprehensive reforms happen and the Members start respecting the Statute and Rules. Cherry picking what is wrong and ignoring other violations is brazen, opportunistic malarkey.
Given that AU ECOSOCC has created its own ways and means, the Eastern petitioners cannot reasonably seek the intervention from the AU Executive Council through the PRC. It is an in-house issue for grown-ups to learn and fix. While at it, it is not a good idea to waste tax payers' money with extraordinary expenses, with no regards to the cost/benefit, to solve an ordinary point.
Get on with the citizen business. Let us Build a Vital and Vibrant African Civil Society.
By Evelyn Joe
African Union Citizen Journal