AU Watch

Note From the Chief Executive

Dear Colleagues,

LET THE ROARING 2020s BEGIN, BUT THIS TIME A FEW DECIBLES HIGHER!

The new year is traditionally viewed as an opportunity for individuals and institutions to reflect upon the past year, and set resolutions for the forthcoming 12 months. We hope this past year has been an inspiring one, and that you have taken up paths you envisioned to go on.

As we step into another decade, I write to thank you for your deep support of AU Watch, and for your engagement through different moments of wonder, mutual learning, organising, mobilising, advocating, and resistance. We seek your ongoing involvement and insights in charting the course ahead. The reality we live proves that co-operation delivers, despite the often-boisterous rhetoric against the merits of multilateralism. When people gather on equal footing, as they do at AU Watch, to share their experiences, to discuss and debate the future of Africa, and to learn from one another, mutual interests and common values are strengthened.

We hope that in 2020 and beyond we will count on your support as we embark on an uncertain journey of holding our state managers accountable to the standards of the Constitutive Act. To remain on that path requires courage and bravery. The bridge that merges the two is commitment. One thing is certain, with you by our side, we will continue to work with courageous individuals and organizations around Africa and the world who inspire us about human rights and democracy’s boundless vitalities. We have not underestimated the task and the difficulties ahead. But our resolve is stronger!

2019 was a challenging year. We saw a deterioration of insecurity, democracy and press freedom in many places. In some countries, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector and restricting the operating space for civil society. You may have noticed that some of our policy chiefs are also masters of constructing a grand narrative and crafting new realities, by flooding the media landscape with their own political messages. This allows their henchmen to dominate the political agenda, divert public discussion away from sensitive issues, and ultimately control and manipulate the public sphere. We need to be alert to these shenanigans.

So, as we enter 2020, organisations like AU Watch need to keep the feet of our policy chiefs close to the fire. Social media with all its down side, has dramatically expanded access to information and freedom of expression, and in repressive regimes they remain a lifeline to journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens attempting to exercise their democratic rights. So, watch out for our blogs, online news outlets, and social media platforms that will provide alternatives to pro-government television, radio, and print outlets. Experience has shown that democracy and press freedoms can rebound from even lengthy stints of repression, and when we refuse to give in. So, all is not bleak. We will soon be launching our brand-new website – so feel free to send in your comments. Stay tuned also for AU Watch Internet Radio and Online TV!

2020 is also election year. And they will be anything but boring. Voters across the continent will be heading to the ballot box to choose their leaders in presidential, parliamentary and local elections starting with the Comoros in January and ending with Ghana in December.  The huge numbers of young people reaching adulthood across Africa have fuelled a powerful desire for change and has pushed forward a new wave of younger political figures who could dramatically influence the continent’s future. We will be reporting from all the spots. Overall, the polls are expected to be peaceful and free. Yet, for different reasons, some countries like Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo are ones to watch, offering tear-furrowed concertos, with coaxing diminuendo, and counterpoint crescendo. Stay tuned, and we will not allow you to be lost in the labyrinth of their complexities of civil strife, unknown successors and ‘will he or won’t he run’ storylines.

In conclusion, it is important to recalibrate ourselves for the changing times and to move forward together as a team. When our core values and actions are in alignment, a thriving culture emerges. At AU Watch, we say: “a better Africa is possible”. We will only get there if we stick together. Our experts, journalists and analysts will be working hard to inform you of what will be happening in 2020 and beyond by bringing you the news that matters – which is often about how the AU and its Members are ‘working’ on our behalf! We will continue to hold them accountable! But we think the most important part of our mission is to empower and inspire – and so we will be working hard to bring you the voices of visionaries who dream about how Africa should be, and how we can get ready for 2063, even if not for our sakes, but for our (grand) children.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Feyi Ogunade