Africa: African Union Acts on Mali, But Sees Delays on DR Congo, Sudans

| February 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

The AU did well to raise pledges for $450 million to support action in Mali, but little headway was made regarding problems in the DRC and between the Sudans.

Addis Ababa – The African Union (AU) has raised over $450 million in pledges from the international community for an African-led force to fight against militants in northern Mali. The donations were the major outcome of a week-long African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which saw no similar advances regarding ongoing conflicts in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and between Sudan and South Sudan.

At the summit, African leaders were outspoken in their gratitude for France’s intervention in Mali, but stood united in their support for the rapid deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to take over operations against the militant rebels. AFISMA would be led by the West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS, but is set to comprise of troops from outside the region, including 2,250 desert-trained Chadian soldiers.

The AU itself committed $50 million to AFISMA, the first time it has made significant financial contributions to an African fighting force. For example, the AU’s mission in Somalia was largely funded by the West. Apart from the AU’s donation, many African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana, promised further bilateral contributions to AFISMA.

Nevertheless, the AU and ECOWAS will have to lean heavily on non-African countries which agreed to donate either to AFISMA or the Malian military. Japan pledged $120 million, the US $96 million, and the European Union $50 million. Meanwhile China and India each pledged just $1 million – less than some smaller African countries such as Niger and Senegal, which contributed $2 million each.

But even with this support, the final tally of $455.53 million was less than half of the nearly $1 billion goal, which was revised up from $460 million to accommodate over 2,000 extra reserve troops.

Stalled Sudans

Despite its unity in addressing Mali, the AU was unable to make similar breakthroughs regarding problems between the Sudans and in the eastern DRC.

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir met but made little headway in trying to resolve their dispute around the Abyei border-region.

Kiir and al-Bashir previously signed on to the African Union High-level Implementation Panel for Sudan (AUHIP) to demilitarise Abyei and hold a referendum on the region’s final status. But there has been little action on the ground. At the summit, the presidents again agreed to implement AUHIP’s terms, but the AU Peace and Security Council expressed its concern that the countries are conditioning implementation of their decisions on new agreements.

Speaking to Think Africa Press, Renata Rendon of the humanitarian group Enough Project, said the March deadline is positive, but that “the problem is the government of Sudan will invent preconditions and delay progress”. If Khartoum continues to stall, Rendon said, the AU will have to be more decisive to prevent escalation of tensions in Abyei, where thousands have been displaced. “Another outburst of violence,” she said, “we know from history, is a result of delayed progress on Abyei’s final status.”

Sudan was also under pressure from humanitarian groups which urged an end to attacks in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. Some organisations accuse al-Bashir of bombing civilians and blocking the flow of food and medicine to certain groups. At the summit, the Peace and Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon both requested humanitarian access to the regions.

But Mukesh Kapila, from the anti-genocide organisation Aegis Trust, said the statements were not enough. Earlier in January, Kapila documented human rights abuses in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and hoped the summit would investigate al-Bashir’s crimes and strongly condemn his actions. “There is no urgency or specific measure,” Kapila told Think Africa Press of the AU’s progress. “The summit seems to simply have given more space and time for Khartoum to continue its ethnic solution.”

Delays on the DRC

Finally, talks stalled on an agreement for a general framework to restore peace to the eastern DRC. The deal would address a proposed neutral international force to be deployed in the region to assist or merge with the UN’s current MONUSCO troops, as well as create a political space for further dialogue, according to Boubacar Diarra, special representative of the African Union for the Great Lakes region.

The DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as South Africa and Tanzania, were set to sign on to the framework, but did not due to “procedural issues”, said Ban Ki-Moon. “Some member-states expressed some desire that they needed more time to discuss. This is the simple reason why I had to postpone the signing.”

Ban Ki-Moon gave no date on when the countries might sign the agreement, but as in the Sudans, decisions and action cannot come quickly enough for the tens of thousands of civilians affected by the fighting.

According to Emmanuel Kabengele, a Congolese civil society leader who attended the summit, “For us as a population, we need the deployment as soon as possible. Even tomorrow if they can.”

Until the African Union can match its speed in diplomacy with its ability to fundraise, they will have to keep waiting.

Jason Patinkin is a freelance writer and photographer from Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from Columbia University in New York City, he taught middle school science for three years to some extremely brilliant young adults on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Jason is now based in Nairobi, Kenya where he believes he has found the world’s best cup of coffee. Blog:, follow him on twitter @JasonPatinkin.

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