‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover’.
H. Jackson Brown
On behalf of the entire AU Watch team, I offer you a very warm welcome to AU Watch website. I urge you to explore our website and see where you fit into this unique project. We have kept open a couple of spaces for you and your friends. Bring them along. Let me get one confusing and recurring issue out of the way. You are probably thinking that we are crazy. Yes, we are. We know that. A few people have told us that as well. I must also warn you that to be part of us, you have to be a little crazy as well. As our Chair has also pointed out, ‘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.’ I urge to fully explore your new organization. Have a question? Want to comment on something or contribute to our work? Or maybe you want to volunteer for us? We have a wide variety of opportunities just for you. Call us or write to us. We are quite good in replying.
We have for over 55 years tried the same and rational approach with the O/AU and AUMS. It has not worked. The OAU and now the AU and its Members have left a bitter taste in our mouth. What has the AU and its Members bequeathed to us – social injustices at a massive scale, poverty, hunger, corruption, poor governance, conflicts, a disheartened and disenfranchised youthful population? Every day millions of our compatriots wake up to a beautiful African sunrise only to be confronted with poverty and a host of every conceivable problem in a continent of plenty. It’s ridiculous and unacceptable! You probably will agree with that. Hopelessness and helplessness pervades, crouching at our doors. Desperation has forced many of our youths to flee the continent, with hundreds dying in the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea. Those are the lucky ones. Many are sold as slaves in Libya and other places. It is only in Africa these ills can happen, and yet our governments are unmoved and still sitting pretty. Dr Nkosazana-Zuma is probably right. Let’s try ‘crazy’ to see if we can get things moving. Having established our credentials, let’s get to the main issues. The good thing about the state Africa and the vast majority of its people find themselves is regrettable, but the truth is we don’t have to feel pity for ourselves. Africa’s condition is not fatal. We can take Africa back from THEM and make 2063 a reality!
Recent Afro-barometer public-opinion surveys reveal that, after more than 50 years of the establishment of the O/AU project, millions of Africans have a very negative view of the AU. A 2015 scientific poll conducted by AU Watch in ten African countries and in two European countries revealed the shocking extent of the ignorance about the AU, its institutions, and its programs. Even for those who had some limited knowledge about the AU, including very highly educated and supposedly informed people, the level of distrust and cynicism about the AU is embarrassing. Read about the outcome of the survey.
As Africans how do we change those views? A casual examination will reveal that most development process in Africa has been mainly state-centered, “a top-down” process. Development strategies and we dare say political processes in many African countries, lack the involvement of civil society, even though its participation is crucial in ensuring democratic legitimacy. The Constitutive Act of the AU refers to the creation of space for the inclusion and participation of civil society in its processes. Various advocacy opportunities for civil society are also provided for in the structures of the AU. The Constitutive Act of the AU refers to the creation of space for the inclusion and participation of civil society in its processes. Various advocacy opportunities for civil society are also provided for in the structures of the AU. ECOSOC is the primary vehicle for formal participation by civil society in AU processes and the Citizens and Diaspora Organizations Directorate (CIDO) is the unit of the AU Commission that is charged with the responsibility for mainstreaming the participation of non-state actors in civil society affairs of the Union. CIDO was designed to be that catalyst and vehicle for realizing this objective.
Has that vision been realized? No! The door is firmly shut to many African CSOs. ECOSOC and CIDO are more of foras for the Chinese and Europeans! African CSOs are so incensed with the status quo that during the 58th OS, a formal complaint was lodged at the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights. Moreover, as has so often been commented on, these institutions have weak legitimacy and lack visibility and policy influence. Hundreds of millions of its citizens don’t even know these institutions exist, let alone know what they do or are able to participate in their activities. We at AU Watch have, therefore, taken it upon ourselves to inspire and empower all of us to claim ownership to what rightly belongs to us. If it is true that the AU belongs to all of us, then we have the right to own it and direct it. So, through our programs and projects, especially our education, media, outreach, and advocacy strategies, we aim to:
AU Watch holds the view that by vigorously exploring these options we can give voice to the voiceless of the African continent. Together, we can assist the AU to once more become the principal political regional forum for Africa for facilitating international cooperation among its member states to promote democracy, human rights, multidimensional security, and the advancement of sustainable and inclusive development.
You may have read the statement from our Chairperson. What AU Watch is trying to achieve is not only to make a point, but to make a difference in Africa. Like all pioneers or trailblazers, we see ourselves as lions in an urban jungle – in a new world of CSOs waiting to be explored, monitoring the work of the AU and AUMS and undertaking honest and independent analysis and policy-relevant work. Our mission is to provide strategic insights and policy solutions to many of the AU’s greatest challenges. We are, therefore, under no illusions about the magnitude of the tasks we have set for ourselves and the challenges and hidden traps ahead. We fully understand the gargantuan nature of the task we are undertaking. But we are equally resolute in our resolve to forge ahead and shall not be dissuaded, firmly convinced that where there is a will and the commitment to stay the course, there is always a way. We are determined to find that way. We are certain that with assistance from people like you we will find that way. We are not intimidated by the challenges of setting up and running an organization of the size of AU Watch. We are not afraid to dream of a time when all of us can make ‘Africa Work’ – holding dear to the maxim that if the human mind is able to conceive of a thought, that same mind is able to execute it, of course with liberal doses of tenacity, fortitude and plenty of collaboration, networking and team working. All of us can make it work. I urge you to go through our objectives and programs and see how you can help us make a difference.
Dr Feyi Ogunade
President and CEO