AU Captainship: Will Tshisekedi make a difference?
By John Eche
In the next few days, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Felix Tshisekedi will assume the captainship of the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments.
While this is largely seen as a ceremonial position, the facts really point to the truth that a goal-setting and focussed Chairperson of the elite club of leaders on the continent could indeed achieve quite a lot.
In 2018 for example, the Paul Kagame presidency achieved a considerable degree of reform and projects traction, including getting an almost unprecedented 44 Heads of States to initial their consent for the landmark African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA. While the succeeding leaderships of Abdel Al-Sisi of Egypt and Cyril Ramaphosa have generally held the course, they were however to be hobbled by local and regional challenges that both leaders could not generally get over.
In the case of Al Sisi, his poor handling of the Sudanese crisis that led to the ouster of former Prime Minister Omar Al Bashir and the intrusion of several Arab states into the domestic politics of the North East African country was quite problematic. At a point, it was quite evident that to make progress in Sudan, Egypt and by extension Al-Sisi had to be eased off the stage.
In Ramaphosa’s case, issues with a strugglng economy, the spike in COVID 19 figures and political challenges inherited from the Jacob Zuma presidency before him have hobbled his ability to drive a stronger course with AfCFTA or indeed any other major policy initiative for the continent. One such marked failing is in the fact that the security crisis continent-wide tended to spike in the same year when the AU was engaged with a project of Silencing the Guns!
Looking ahead, pundits worry that Tshisekedi may also not fare much better and they list the current second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, the continuing security and health crisis in his country and the extended Great Lakes Region and the lingering, and even currently escalating feud, with his benefactor and former President, Joseph Kabila, as some of the inhibiting factors on the horizon. They do have a point, but will Tsisekedi rise beyond these?
Felix Tshisekedi, incoming AU Chairperson, Assembly of Heads of States and Governments