The African Union Chair Calls for Respect of Democracy in Zimbabwe

In talk at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, Moussa Faki Mahamat says U.S. and Africa share in the fight against terrorism.

November 20, 2017

By B.L. Wilson

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chair of the African Union Commission, stopped by the Elliott School of International Affairs along with a high-level delegation Thursday afternoon before a scheduled meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Dean Reuben Brigety II introduced Mr. Faki, who prior to assuming the chair of the AU, served as the foreign minister and prime minister of Chad and held governmental positions in a career that has spanned over 30 years.

“[The chairperson] has made a formidable reputation as a peace broker in his career and placed a central focus on peace and security in Africa,” Dr. Brigety said.

The visits between the African Union and the United States are held alternately in Washington and Addis Ababa to exchange views on peace and security, issues of governance and trade, investment and development. It comes at an auspicious moment in affairs on the African continent, particularly in Zimbabwe where the military appears to have taken control and in Niger where four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush by terrorists.

Regarding the situation with President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Mr. Faki said, “We stand by and conform to the AU’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. We are opposed to any rebellions, military coups or overthrow of any legitimate government by unconstitutional means.”

Zimbabwe, he said, is special. There are divisions within the ruling   party that outsiders should are not equipped to deal with. He said the AU would defer to the regional group Southern Africa Development Community that has sent representatives to the country.

Mr. Faki said he brought the AU delegation to the United States with an open mind. “I hope to move forward our relations with the United States with whom we have many things in common including the fight against terrorists,” he said.

“After the weakening of Isis in Iraq,” he said, “militant fighters began pouring into Africa, which has unfortunately become a haven for terrorists.”

The continent was already contending with Al Shabab in the horn of Africa, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and Somalia. He added that terrorists often operate out of Libya, which has no central government and thousands of miles of coast and borders on the Sahara that are difficult to control.

“It has become a threat to peace in Africa,” he said.

The AU has taken the initiative to fight terrorism in the Sahel by creating a peacekeeping force with members from the countries of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Mr. Faki said that among other issues on the agenda of the high-level dialogue between African ministers and U.S. officials would be trade and investment that comes under the framework of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.  

He said the AU would seek greater access to U.S. markets for African products that should not be limited to oil and mineral resources.

An element of partnerships with the United States and European countries and Africa, he said, is that it is in all their interests to increase resources to build the continent’s science and technological capacity in order to create opportunities for young people in Africa.

“There are shocking images of young people trying to leave the continent crossing the desert and dying in the Mediterranean,” he said.

Also attending the event, cosponsored with the Institute of African Affairs, was the U.S. Ambassador to the African Union Arikana Chimbouri–Quao, who is known internationally for her efforts to improve health care systems, particularly in Africa, and to promote women’s rights around the globe.

 

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