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Reforms loom in AU as the world awaits Madagascar, DR Congo polls



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Tshisekedi and 20 others will face Josep Kabila’s handpicked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary on December 23

As the last month of 2018 begins, a raft of African Union reforms is on course even as elections loom in troubled Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The reforms were articulated during the 11th Extraordinary Session of the AU Summit that ended two weeks ago.

The changes are the handiwork of a team under outgoing AU chairman and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who for the past two years has served as the chairperson of the AU Reforms Committee.

While focusing on institutional reform of the AU, the committee came up with several propositions, some aimed at strengthening peace and security responses on the continent.

Kagame is expected to hand over the AU chairmanship to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in January.

Among developments during the summit was the approval of the mandate of the newly constituted AU Development Agency.

The proposed changes at the AU will come amid anxiety regarding landmark presidential elections in Madagascar and the DR Congo later in the month.

The polls will mark the climax of a dramatic season in the African electoral calendar, with results that are difficult to predict.

The December 19 Madagascar rerun comes after neither candidate won the 50 per cent of votes required for a first-round victory.

Two former presidents — Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana — face off in the rerun.

Rajoelina was in power until 2014, having ousted Ravalomanana, who ruled from 2002 to 2009.

Ironically though, as a result of international pressure aimed at pre-empting a repeat of the violence that shook the island in 2009, Rajoelina, 44, and Ravalomanana, 68, were banned from running in the 2013 election.

They were, however, lucky this time, recording credible performances during the first round early last month.

According to the final results, Rajoelina garnered 39.23 per cent of the ballots cast while Ravalomanana had 35.35 per cent.

The DR Congo election will be on December 23. The country has never had a peaceful power transition since independence in 1960.

In all, 21 candidates are registered to run in the race to replace Joseph Kabila, 47, whose second and final elected term ended nearly two years ago, but who has remained in office thanks to a caretaker clause in the law.

Among the leading candidates will be Felix Tshisekedi, the 55-year-old son of Etienne Tshisekedi, who before his death was the face of the opposition.

Tshisekedi and the other candidates will be facing Kabila’s handpicked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

The AU Development Agency, which will be based in South Africa, will coordinate priority regional projects.

It is also expected to advance knowledge-based advisory support, undertake resource mobilisation and serve as Africa’s technical interface with development stakeholders.

Sadly, the positive changes are coming amid revelations of rampant sexual harassment of women at the AU Commission. Clearly, the union also has housekeeping challenges.