The African Union has condemned a recent “wave” of military coups that has seen an unprecedented number of member states shut down by the bloc, a senior official said on Sunday, the last day of its annual summit.
The coups were among the most important issues expected to be discussed at the summit, along with the AU’s ties to Israel and its response to a grinding war in the northern host country of Ethiopia.
Less than two weeks before the summit began on Saturday, Burkina Faso became the fourth country to be shut down by the AU after dissatisfied soldiers overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Guinea, Mali and Sudan are also currently suspended.
“Every African leader in the House has unequivocally condemned … the wave of unconstitutional changes of government,” Bankole Adeoye, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, told a news conference on Sunday.
“Do your research: At some point in the history of the African Union, we have had four countries suspended for a calendar year, in 12 months,” Adeoye said.
Speaking to African Foreign Ministers ahead of the summit, Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the African Union Commission, condemned a “worrying resurgence” of such military coups.
But the AU has been accused of an inconsistent response, especially by not suspending Chad after a military council took over after the death of longtime President Idriss Deby Itno on the battlefield in April last year.
And while Adeoye praised the AU’s use of suspensions to punish coup leaders, analysts say the body needs to be more proactive in preventing putts.
“It is only when the crisis strikes that we say, ‘Geez, how come this country is collapsing so fast?'” Solomon Dersso, founder of the AU-focused think tank Amani Africa, told AFP this week.
Israel debate paused Also on Sunday, leaders agreed to suspend the debate on Faki’s controversial decision to accept Israel’s accreditation, postponing a potentially divisive vote.
Faki’s move in July last year sparked protests from influential members, including South Africa and Algeria, who claimed that it flew in the face of AU statements supporting the Palestinian territories.
Both countries pressed to get the issue on the agenda for the summit.
When the summit began on Saturday, Faki defended Israel’s accreditation, saying it could be “an instrument of peace” while calling for “a calm debate”.
He also said that the AU’s commitment to the Palestinian pursuit of independence was “unchanging and can only continue to grow stronger”.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Saturday called for Israel’s accreditation to be revoked, saying it “should never be rewarded” for its “apartheid regime.”
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The AU normally praises consensus, but it was unclear how a vote would have gone, with a two-thirds majority required to override Faki.
Instead, a six-country committee will study the issue, diplomats told AFP on Sunday.
Together with South Africa and Algeria, the committee will include Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which supported Faki’s moves, as well as Cameroon and Nigeria, diplomats said.
Israel’s foreign minister said the AU had “rejected attempts by Algeria and South Africa to revoke” its accreditation.
“The Committee’s conclusions will be presented at the African Union Summit in 2023,” the ministry said in a statement.
Ethiopia’s peace effort It was unclear whether the summit, most of which took place behind closed doors, specifically addressed the 15-month war in Ethiopia, which pits Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against fighters from the northern Tigray region.
The fact that Ethiopia is hosting the AU makes any intervention from the bloc particularly sensitive, and Faki waited until August last year – nine months after the fighting began – to appoint Olusegun Obasanjo as a special envoy with the task of trying to mediate a ceasefire.
Ethiopia has also had a seat on the peace and security council throughout the conflict, although it failed in its attempt to remain in the body with 15 members during the next term, diplomats said.
Adeoye said on Sunday that it was not true that the AU had been slow to respond to a war that had left thousands dead and, according to the UN, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.
“There was no way that the AU would not engage in such a situation given its exact location in Ethiopia,” he said.
Obasanjo will head to war-torn areas this week, and the AU will provide “experts from the African continent” to support his pursuit of dialogue, Adeoye said.