Friday, August 28, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Rumbek, South Sudan
August 26, 2009

The African Peer Review Mechanism is facing a litmus test. The grapevine among the donor community across the continent is something to worry about. Apparently they have consulted widely and come to a consensus that the once lauded African success story may be gradually facing its demise.

Talking to one prominent donor and an APRM expert in the UN circles, he had this to say:

“There are currently no champions and as long as there are no sincere champions; the likes of Meles will use it to their own advantage. Although grassroots are excited, the top leadership does not care about it. Meanwhile corrupt bureaucrats at the Secretariat, will always grow fat on ignorant "leaders" and donor largesse. This is exactly what is happening.

Ross Herbert, a South African researcher has always posed this question: "who is policing whom within the APRM set up?"

The UN official continues: “The panel members who are supposed to be the moral arbiters are not doing that and the leaders, who don't care anyway, are looking the other way except what APRM can do for their insecure regimes. And donors, wanting quick returns for their money are looking for something else, as NEPAD and APRM appear to be folding up. It is the same old story. Academics, Africans, are also standing on the sidelines doing nothing.”

These sentiments got a boost from another academic researcher based in South Africa who has done extensive work on NEPAD and APRM in the last five years. He too had this to say:

“There does not seem to be a great deal of interest in the subject continentally. Donors, who might ask pointed questions, seem concerned not to look pushy, although in my conversations with them, I think they show that they have drawn fairly negative conclusions about what the fates of Nepad and APRM say about commitment to reform.
“With Mbeki and Obasanjo gone, there are no powerful patrons to ask questions about APRM. Within SA there is a unit within the department of foreign affairs that would like to see APRM strengthened but they strictly avoid the implications of how SA conducted its APRM and don’t engage with how or if it is following through on its APRM commitments.

“Here the APRM review touched on all the key issues but no one wants to take forward reforms under an APRM umbrella. Each issue, whether company law, human rights, aids or crime, has its own players and dynamics. It is not that APRM was ineffective; just that it is a relatively small thing in the national consciousness and has no real power to accelerate reforms in any of those areas.

“As for the secretariat itself and the panel, there is an effort to hire consultants to propose better ways of managing the process but this remit does not include governing the panel or secretariat. It seems there are no real interested parties putting pressure on now that Mbeki and Obasanjo are gone.”

Several worrying developments point to this direction. First, since one Dr. Bernard Kouassi left the secretariat almost two years ago, no substantive replacement has been recruited despite the fact that the post was advertised long before his departure.

Second, the number of eminent persons has been dwindling with time with no immediate replacement such that today, the only active and available persons are Professor Adedeji who also doubles as the chairman. He got his term renewed under questionable circumstances. Some pundits allude his unprecedented second term as chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons to his closeness with Melles Zenawi during his years at the ECA in Addis Ababa.

The other members are Dr. Graca Machel of Mozambique and a new comer, Mrs. Domitila Mutantaganzwa from Rwanda who is believed to be Bethuel Kiplagat’s replacement. There is also Prof. Mohammad Barbes, from Algeria, who owes his re-nomination to the panel from his country’s President, Abdoulaziz Boutefleka, one of the founding fathers of NEPAD.

As it is now, the panel is three members short of the initial seven members appointed by HSIC in 2003. To complicate matters, there is no word on when and how the vacancies on the panel will be filled.

Adedeji is said to have circulated a document during the last NEPAD Steering Committee meeting in Sirte, Libya, which proposes a full panel of nine members with only five of them nominated by each of the sub-regional groupings of the AU while the other four are head-hunted, presumably by Adedeji himself.

As an inter-governmental body, the notion of head hunting close to 50% of panel members runs contrary to all principles of collective self-monitoring that underlie the APRM process.

However, the biggest challenge facing the APRM is the apparent lack of direction from the APRM Forum as used to be under Olusegun Obasanjo. It is what seems to be compounding its problems. For this reason many qualified and experienced officers have either left for greener pastures or have been forced out by Prof Adedeji who is more comfortable dealing with cronies at the Secretariat than harnessing the expertise he found there.

The crux of the matter is, soon after Kouassi left as the Executive Director of the Secretariat, Adedeji who was the serving chairman of eminent persons quickly assumed the ED position even though the panel had appointed an Ethiopian due to his seniority status to act in the interim.

It may be remembered that a few months ago, Prof Adedeji decided to reorganize the entire secretariat. He hired a consultant who together with him came up with a new organogram that also created several new posts with the APRM. Following this new reorganization, Adedeji terminated the contracts of all existing staff and went ahead to advertise the jobs in some West African publications published in London. He also posted the same ad on the APRM website.

It is still not clear whether the AU Structures Committee of the Permanent Representative Council (PRC) made of African Ambassadors accredited to the AU have even deliberated or approved Adedeji’s organogram. Neither has the AU Chairperson, Jean Pean, who is expected to oversee the new APRM structure directly, approved it. According to close sources, he is either too busy or is disinterested and afraid to offend his host-government of Ethiopia.

The only two individuals who apparently have given their blessings to this new structure are Adedeji and his boss, Prime Minister Meles.

However, information coming from the Secretariat indicates that when other eminent persons got wind of what was going on, the recruitment drive was put on hold pending further consultations. What is not clear is the fate of the old employees whose contracts will be terminated at the end of September by Adedeji.

As these problems continue to dog the secretariat, the Ethiopian review is going full steam. What makes the Ethiopian review a test case is that for the first time in the history of the APRM, a country whose leader is the chairman of the APRM will be reviewed by the chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the same leader. Obasanjo, who also served as Chairman of the APRM Forum never had his country reviewed before leaving office and kept stalling the review apparently due to his third-term bid in 2007.

In a strange move early this year, Melles Zenawi renewed Adedeji’s chairmanship after it expired.. Now Adedeji has allocated himself the role of team leader for the Ethiopian country review by removing then Panel Member Ambassador Kiplagat, who was originally assigned Ethiopia. If this is not conflict of interest then we may never know what is.

Whether we like it or not, Adedeji owes Melles Zenawi big. Technically Zenawi is his immediate boss and supervisor.

Since 2005, Meles has been under the international donor community watch list following human rights abuses during that year’s elections. Many Ethiopian watchers believe that he needs Adedeji to give him a passing grade as he goes into an election next April.

When the report is tabled, Adedeji will find it a challenge to present an honest and credible report about his boss to the African Heads of State and Government whose chair will be the same Zenawi.

Both Adedeji and Zenawi will find it very difficult to be detached from the report while forum members, if they are sharp shooters like Abdulahi Wade or Paul Kagame, may have problems believing the authenticity of the Ethiopian report.

This is why if Zenawi and Adedeji are truly interested in preserving the credibility of the APRM, another eminent person such as Graca Machel should be appointed to lead the review team in Ethiopia because as of now, Adedeji at age 80 who recently suffered a mild stroke is physically unfit to endure an assessment schedule in the rough terrain of a huge country like Ethiopia while in a wheelchair. It is not too late to salvage the situation.

This brings me to my next point.

A few weeks ago, the newly constituted Kenya APRM Governing Council had a retreat at the Kenyan coast to chat the way forward. This came soon after the planned visit by Graca Machel to launch the second round of the Kenya review was abruptly postponed indefinitely by the government of Kenya.

It is true Kenya is due for review after it successfully completed the first round in June 2006 in Banjul the Gambia. However, another Kenyan review at this point in time may be ill-advised and serve no useful purpose. Not because of the resources needed but rather the relevance and necessity of the exercise at this point in time.

The reasons for this are many and varied. Top among them are the overarching issues that Graca Machel raised in Banjul in June 2006. She listed rampant corruption, ethnicity, landlessness, a failed judicial system, political violence, poverty, inequality, Youth joblessness, insecurity, police brutality, extrajudicial killings, press freedom and credible electoral system among others as issued that the Kenya government needed to address urgently to avoid social unrest.

Kenyan observers believe that had Kibaki heeded the APRM warnings in Banjul and took genuine steps to reform the Judiciary and the Electoral Commission of Kenya; Kenyans would not have gone to war in 2007. Had the sensitive land issue in Rift Valley been addressed soon after Banjul, the Kalenjins would not have taken their bows and arrows to drive away “foreigners” from the midst.

During the 2007 elections, corruption put democracy on sale. The most moneyed, the most corrupt and the most violent of the warlords carried the day. Everything and everybody was up for sale from the election commissioners to the priests, journalists, civil servants, the police, the justice department and returning officers in the field.

Because of this mess, Chairman Kivuitu lost control to his juniors. Politicians became warlords and dictated who to elect to parliament. Elections were rigged by all political parties right from the nomination stage. The most violent politicians were nominated by their parties. All these problems could have been avoided had we reformed the ECK and the Judiciary.

Because we have not put our house in order, it may be pointless and a waste of time and resources to embark on another futile exercise.

However, a more plausible reason against the second review is the fact that since the beginning of 2008, Kenya has conducted the Kriegler and Waki Commissions whose reports are currently under implementation. These two commissions dealt at length and in detail with our electoral challenges and impunity in Kenyan politics that has become our way of life.

As I write this article, there is a bill in Parliament trying to establish a local tribunal to try perpetrators of the 2007 post election violence that left 1500 Kenyans dead. The political arena is too charged to allow for another APRM.

The other mitigating factor against a Kenyan review is that at the moment the Kenya Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has just been launched. This commission will interrogate past injustices and crimes that have taken place in Kenya since 1963.

Central to this commission will be land problems, political murders, inequality and ethnicity, powers of the president, corruption in public service, a failed judiciary, police brutality, state terrorism and the rot in our political system.

It will be so comprehensive that to conduct another parallel public dialogue will be to duplicate efforts. This Commission is led by Bethuel Kiplagat, the immediate former Panel member of the APRM.

The comprehensive Kenya Constitution Review is currently putting the final touches in its draft report. If all goes well, Kenyans may vote for a new constitution in a referendum next year. Common sense would therefore inform someone that this is not the time to conduct a second APRM in Kenya even if the AU timetable says it is due.

As I write this article, Kenya has just launched two important strategic plans; Vision 2030 and the Prime Minister’s Strategic Plan. Both plans are under the Prime Minister ‘s office where the Planning Ministry is based. Incidentally the Planning Minister is also the man in charge of APRM in Kenya and as things stand, it will be a miracle if he pays attention to another review because it definitely will not be his priority.

Under the circumstances, the APRM Continental Secretariat may find it sensible to focus on countries like Angola, Egypt Malawi, Tanzania, Sudan and Zambia that are yet to go through the first round as Kenya puts its house in order.