Claim that AU Commission chair is undermining peace mission ‘has no substance’

Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat. (Photo: Flickr)

Statements by Moussa Faki Mahamat have consistently reflected the position of the AU that member states are entitled to the protection of their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

In your edition of 13 January 2021, you published an article by Paulos Tesfagiorgis entitled: “AU Commission chair’s stance on Ethiopian civil war sabotages the union’s peace mission”.

This article argues, without any evidence, that the chairperson of the African Union Commission adopted a position contrary to the principles of the AU and those expressed by current AU chairperson, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in matters of conflict resolution and in so doing, has purportedly sabotaged the promotion of a solution to the crisis in Tigray.

It is not surprising that on the eve of the re-election of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, renewed malicious attacks on his person by certain individuals would come to the fore.

I wish to restore the facts that were entirely and wilfully omitted in the article.

Let’s start with the argument on which the allegation of the AU’s purported “sabotage” of the promotion of a peaceful solution to the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia, is based. It is based on one sentence in the introductory remarks by Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, at the 38th Extraordinary IGAD Summit on 20 December 2020. The sentence your author chose to highlight reaffirmed the consistent position of the chairperson on the imperative need to respect the constitutional order and commitment to the unity and integrity of the member states of the AU.

There is nothing new in this position. In fact, the Constitutive Act of the African Union is clear on the sovereignty and integrity of member states of the AU. In its Article 2.b, the Constitutive Act stipulates: among the top objectives of the AU, the imperative need to “defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States”. 

What does the Charter of the United Nations, to which the Constitutive Act expressly refers, state?

In its Article 2.7, it states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.”

It thus beggars belief that recalling these principles and pointing out the right and indeed the duty of every African state to maintain its constitutional order, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, can be interpreted by some to constitute a dereliction of duty.

Now let us turn to the positions of the current AU leadership on the crisis in Tigray.

In one of the first public statements on the conflict in Tigray by any outside party, Chairperson Faki’s communiqué of 9 November 2020 stated “the Chairperson reaffirms the African Union’s firm attachment to the Constitutional order, territorial integrity, unity and national sovereignty of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”. He also made an appeal “for the immediate cessation of hostilities and calls all parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians. He further urged the parties to engage in dialogue to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the country.”

This communiqué, as the reader can note, is built on the dual principles of the need to safeguard constitutional order, unity and the territorial integrity of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the one hand, and the need for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the call for a solution to the conflict through dialogue, on the other. Why, then, ignore these two interlinked pillars as evidenced in the official communiqué of the chairperson of the commission?

Why state that the chairperson opposed a peaceful solution to the conflict when in fact he was among the first to have publicly called for one? It is disingenuous at best.

Chairperson Faki’s call for dialogue was echoed by current Chairman of the AU President Ramaphosa, in almost identical terms. Thus, in a tweet on 20 November 2020, it is clearly stated: “President Ramaphosa expressed his deep desire that the conflict should be brought to an end through dialogue between the parties.”

Why then seek to oppose the two positions of the two leaders when they expressed the same position in the same terms regarding the AU approach to a solution, as they have consistently done on all continental issues?

One can also ask what the special envoys, sent by the AU to engage the Ethiopian authorities, do? They made the very same plea as that of Chairperson Faki and President Ramaphosa to the authorities who received them in Addis Ababa on 27 November 2020

Similarly, the 20 December 2020 Extraordinary IGAD Summit, in its final communiqué, “reaffirmed the primacy of Constitutional order, stability and unity of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”.

Why then detach the position of the chairperson of the AU Commission, which is in perfect harmony with the texts and the practice of the AU, from the identical positions of the rest of the AU leadership?

In the absence of any facts or supporting evidence, and by selectively highlighting without context, public utterances of Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, all of which are on public record, is malicious and misleading at best, and defamatory. The clear and complete absence of any link, in fact or form, between the author’s assertion that the chairperson purportedly stood in the way of a solution to the crisis and the suggestion that his position countered that of the chair of the AU, lies starkly bare.

While the author is obviously allowed his own opinion, he does not have the luxury of making up his own facts to satisfy his personal feelings, which a cursory Google search would easily have remedied. DM

 Ebba Kalondo is spokesperson for the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.


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