AU Watch

Note From the Chair

“Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men

Albert Eienstien, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and humanitarian

Greetings from Banjul, where we are temporarily based!

If you are reading this message, then you are probably thinking about serving as an AU Watcher or simply want to learn more about AU Watch’s worldwide work.

We must at the very onset say that AU Watch is a very ambitious programme. Various adjectives have been used to describe us: ‘absolutely huge’, ‘gargantuan’, ‘massive’, ‘impossible’, ridiculously ambitious’ and even ‘crazy guys and girls’. In truth we cannot disagree with all of those very beautiful compliments. We like ‘crazy’ more’. We are the first to admit to you, that we are trying to achieve in Africa, has never been done before! We are not afraid to be different! We relish been different. The previous Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana-Zuma, in launching Agenda 2063 in January 2014, stated that it’s about time to do things crazily to get the AU and the continent moving. So we are in good company.

So, we are very aware that AU Watch is an unusual model and an unusual organization. It was built that way. Our mission is ambitious, but we are convinced doable. With decades of experience working with different types of organizations in the field of social justice, the founders were a bit frustrated with the usual way things were done by CSOs that were supposed to be catalyst of change. They set out to do things differently with the realization that to change the world you sometimes have to be bold and not be afraid to be different. That is even more so in Africa, where to make a difference, one must not only challenge the status quo and be prepared to go against the grain, but be prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice. It simply cannot be business as usual.

AU Watch is an African-based, non-partisan, non-profit, research, policy, monitoring and advocacy NGO, and think-and-do tank on the African Union and the AU Member States, as they relate to the AU. Temporarily headquartered in The Gambia, the seat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, we are a social justice organisation working in Africa and on African issues globally, to challenge corruption, poor governance, injustice, inequality and human rights violations in Africa. By monitoring the policies and activities of the AU by the standard of its Constitutive Act and the standards of the legal instruments of its various institutions, we challenge the AU and States Parties to the Constitutive Act to live up to the standards and ideals they have set for themselves. AU Watch is also committed to advancing a wider understanding of the work of the AU. Working with partner organisations and individuals, AU Watch’s practical programmes includes building strong and dynamic civil societies, and empowering Africa’s poor and disadvantaged communities to question and challenge what Africa’s states managers are doing on their behalf. AU Watch remains at the forefront of research and analysis on the most vexing problems affecting Africa.

The advent of the OAU in January 1963 was a watershed moment in the annals of African history. With ambitious goals of promoting democracy, human rights and development across the continent, including educating all of citizens, and attracting inward foreign investment, the OAU was to lead Africa to take its place as equals amongst the community of nations. However, the promised African renaissance never materialized. Though the decolonialiazation project had produced moments of inspiration and promise, in large parts the OAU project had failed, after 40 years of floundering in the desert. Corruption, insecurity, bad governance, and human rights violations were more the order of the day. Millions of its disenchanted citizens fled the continent for better lives in other parts of the world. Recently, some even dying in the scorching heat of the Sahara Desert or drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and worse being sold as slaves in Libya. The image painted by some of Africa’s harshest critics is one of primordial irrationality, and even those inclined to take a friendly view were themselves imprisoned in their preconceptions and in the end write sob stories about poverty, conflicts, and diseases. Even in the 21st century, the overall impression created is a region of chaos, terror, corruption, hunger, famine, human rights violations, political violence, despair and sheer hopelessness.

In 2002, the OAU metamorphosed into the African Union. The AU is premised on the idea that a process of integration within the continent will enable African countries and peoples to find their rightful role in the international community. Providing a platform in which members can discuss challenges, the AU aims to intensify cooperation for development, promote and protect human rights, promote good governance, combat poverty, and corruption and end Africa’s chronic insecurity problem, whilst building a strong partnership between government and civil society. However, recent a 2016 public-opinion survey by AU Watch revealed that, after 50 years of the O/AU project, millions of Africans have no idea what the AU is doing. Ninety one per cent of the people polled thought the AU is useless and not fit for purpose. In the eyes of the people it is supposed to be working with and for, the AU project is also a failure.

The hard fact is the AU from all the available evidences is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is without doubt, our foremost regional forum for facilitating international cooperation. It is also best placed to promote social justice, democracy, good governance, human rights, multidimensional security, and the advancement of sustainable and inclusive development. The AU is also made up of all the Recs, various organs, institutions and programs; and of course all African states. In other words, the AU is all of us – Africans, wherever you are. Important decisions are taken every day at the AU. Those decisions affect you, whether you are aware of it or not! We may as well get our only regional political forum for multilateral dialogue and concerted action to work properly, and in our own interest; but more importantly the way we WANT it to work. Remember change can only happen when everyone who is affected has a seat at the table and has the opportunity to speak and influence that change. Don’t you think we should put ourselves in a position to ensure our voices are not only heard, but that our wishes are actually carried out? Don’t you think that we should be able to influence decisions taken on our behalf, but about which we have not been consulted? Don’t you think we should be able to hold the feet of the AU and AUMS close to the fire, as a gentle reminder for them to implement all the promises they have made to us? The solution? Let’s invite ourselves to the AU jamboree and influence the decisions taken on our behalf, and the direction of what type of AU we want, that is, if we even want an AU. Don’t you think we should rethink this unworkable AU project? The way the AU operates is failing all of us, and the way its Member States relate to it is just unacceptable. Let’s be the change we want to see in Africa! Let us invest in the Africa we want to be in! Don’t you think? Join AU Watch and let us make Agenda 2063 a reality. Together we can make a difference, for in the big questions affecting Africa, we cannot be alone!

The hard fact is the AU from all the available evidences is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is without doubt, our foremost regional forum for facilitating international cooperation. It is also best placed to promote social justice, democracy, good governance, human rights, multidimensional security, and the advancement of sustainable and inclusive development. The AU is also made up of all the Recs, various organs, institutions and programs; and of course all African states. In other words, the AU is all of us – Africans, wherever you are. Important decisions are taken every day at the AU. Those decisions affect you, whether you are aware of it or not! We may as well get our only regional political forum for multilateral dialogue and concerted action to work properly, and in our own interest; but more importantly the way we WANT it to work. Remember change can only happen when everyone who is affected has a seat at the table and has the opportunity to speak and influence that change. Don’t you think we should put ourselves in a position to ensure our voices are not only heard, but that our wishes are actually carried out? Don’t you think that we should be able to influence decisions taken on our behalf, but about which we have not been consulted? Don’t you think we should be able to hold the feet of the AU and AUMS close to the fire, as a gentle reminder for them to implement all the promises they have made to us? The solution? Let’s invite ourselves to the AU jamboree and influence the decisions taken on our behalf, and the direction of what type of AU we want, that is, if we even want an AU. Don’t you think we should rethink this unworkable AU project? The way the AU operates is failing all of us, and the way its Member States relate to it is just unacceptable. Let’s be the change we want to see in Africa! Let us invest in the Africa we want to be in! Don’t you think? Join AU Watch and let us make Agenda 2063 a reality. Together we can make a difference, for in the big questions affecting Africa, we cannot be alone!

2018 is a watershed year for us. It is the year of our official launch. If you do decide to join us or to assist us in any way, I believe you will find, as I have, that Africa is indeed the rainbow continent, a unique continent that offers a staggering variety of almost everything apart from the sun. The combination of rich culture, friendly people, and close personal relationships is unrivalled. From the day visitors arrive in any part of the region, they are immediately immersed in the dynamic, complicated, supportive culture of Africa.

I look forward to working with you should you decide to join us. Many of our volunteers and staff find the experience both challenging and rewarding. It is an experience that will inevitably change your life in many ways, as well as offer you an opportunity to have an impact on the lives of those with whom you work.

Finally, thank you for inspiring us to continue to do the work that we do. If not for you, we would not be anywhere. Let us continue to grow the movement in Africa and make an impact towards changing our continent, and the world, for the better.

Honorable Bahame Tom Murkiya Nyanduga