6 FEBRUARY 2022
Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan have all been suspended from the AU. At a summit in Addis Ababa, AU delegates decried “the wave of unconstitutional changes of government.”
The African Union on Sunday “unequivocally” condemned a wave of military coups and attempted putsches across the continent.
An unprecedented number of member states have been suspended from the bloc as a result of the military power grabs.
West Africa’s recent surge in coups began in Mali in 2020, followed by another in Guinea the following year. Meanwhile, gunmen recently tried to overthrow the president of Guinea-Bissau in an attack that lasted hours but ultimately failed.
Last month Burkina Faso joined Guinea, Mali and Sudan in being shut out from the union, after disgruntled soldiers in Ouagadougou toppled President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Sudan has been under suspension since June 2019, when the country was banned from all AU activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority. But the country’ military intervened once again in October last year and detained the civilian prime minister, although the military leaders insisted the move should not be described as a coup.
Unprecedented number of suspensions
“Every African leader in the assembly has condemned unequivocally… the wave of unconstitutional changes of government,” Bankole Adeoye, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, told the media.
“Do your research: At no time in the history of the African Union have we had four countries in one calendar year, in 12 months, been suspended,” Adeoye added.
Addressing African foreign ministers ahead of the summit, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, denounced a “worrying resurgence” of such military coups.
Israel debate on hold
Meanwhile, African leaders suspended debate on Faki’s decision to accept the accreditation of Israel, postponing a potentially divisive vote.
Faki’s decision last July attracted criticism from influential member states, including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that granting Israel observer status contradicted AU statements supporting the Palestinian Territories.
Both South Africa and Algeria failed in their efforts to place the issue on the two-day summit’s agenda.
As the summit got underway on Saturday, Faki defended Israel’s accreditation, saying it could be “an instrument in the service of peace” while calling for “a serene debate.”
He also said the African Union’s commitment to backing Palestinian independence was “unchanging and can only continue to grow stronger.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Saturday said Israel’s accreditation should be revoked, saying the country “should never be rewarded” for its “apartheid regime.”
Conflict in Ethiopia avoids scrutiny
The two-day summit is hosted in the Ethiopian capital, but it was unclear how much attention was given to the 15-month war in Ethiopia. The conflict sees Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government pitted against fighters from the northern Tigray region. Abiy had received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, before launching the Tigray offensive.
The fact that Ethiopia hosts the AU makes any intervention by the bloc particularly sensitive, and Faki waited until last August — nine months after fighting began — to assign Olusegun Obasanjo as a special envoy tasked with seeking a cease-fire.
Ethiopia also held a seat on the Peace and Security Council throughout the conflict, though it failed in its bid to stay on the 15-member body for the next term, diplomats said.
On Saturday, Ethiopia’s Abiy called for the African Union to be given a more significant voice at the UN’s international peace and security organization. Abiy said the continental body should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, alongside the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.