Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

In and out

Suspension from the African Union is not the same as isolation, writes Doaa El-Bey

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) ended its meeting last week by expressing hope the Egyptian people achieve national reconciliation.

“We are following up the latest developments via the High-Level Panel for Egypt,” the council said in the statement issued after talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Though the statement added that the AU was looking forward to presidential and parliamentary elections being held in Egypt soon the High-Level Panel for Egypt affirmed “the correctness” of the decision to suspend Egypt’s membership of the union following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Suspension automatically applies to any member deemed to have acted unconstitutionally.

Helmi Shaarawy, Director of the Arab and African Research Centre, says that while the decision to suspend Egypt was expected, the speed with which it was done was unseemly. “The decision was taken few days after Morsi’s removal. They should have sent the high-level panel first or followed the implementation of the roadmap before taking such a decision,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The decision, he says, is unlikely to be reversed ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.

Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdi Sanad Loza, disagrees. The suspension decision, he insists, could be lifted following presidential elections.

Loza travelled to Addis Ababa to attend the summit and present a briefing on steps taken to implement the transitional roadmap.

“During the summit I sensed a welcoming attitude to the completion of the constitutional referendum and to calls for the high-level panel to submit its final report,” Loza told a press conference held earlier this week at the foreign ministry.

He dismissed rumours that Egypt had not been officially invited to the summit. “Egypt would not have gone to the meeting had it not been invited. It is only logical that a representative of the country under discussion should attend.”

Loza described his briefing as positive and balanced.

“The address emphasised that recent developments in Egypt reflected the will of the Egyptian people,” he said.

The high-level panel was formed by the PSC after the decision to suspend Egypt was made. The panel visited Egypt twice last year to meet with political figures as well as civil society, business and religious leaders.

The panel presented a progress report containing the details of its visits to the PSC last week. The report, published last Thursday, stressed it was “important that the PSC remain actively engaged with the situation in Egypt to enable it to assess progress towards the full restoration of constitutional order and take the necessary steps in this regard”.

The panel, headed by former President of Mali Alpha Oumar Konare, comprises the former president of Botswana Festus Gontebanye  Mogae and former prime minister of Djibouti Dileita Mohamed Dileita.

The panel ended its report by reaffirming its “commitment to continue discharging its mandate and readiness to further interact with the Egyptian authorities and other stakeholders”. It concluded by expressing hopes the upcoming elections would mark the end of Egypt’s transition process.

The panel is expected to produce a final report following a third visit to Cairo. Loza expects the visit to coincide with presidential elections.

“This would allow the panel to monitor the presidential elections and review the situation in Egypt before completing its final report.” Reversal of the suspension, says Loza, need not wait until the AU summit meeting in July. “Since the suspension decision was not taken in a summit meeting its reversal need not wait for a summit,” he argued.

The PSC is the arm of the African Union in charge of conflict prevention, management and resolution. It was established at the 29th AU summit meeting held in Cairo in 1993.

Before the PSC meeting interim president Adly Mansour sent letters to leaders of AU member states detailing developments in Egypt including the progress made on the implementation of the roadmap.

“Although we underline that we reject the PSC decision to suspend Egypt’s activities within the AU we are keeping communication channels open. We have invited the AU to monitor the coming presidential and parliamentary elections,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti said.

Egypt earlier invited the African Union to monitor the referendum on the constitution. The pan-African organisation sent no observers.

The suspension, says Loza, has not impacted on Egypt’s continental presence. Mansour has been invited to several African states on a bilateral level and the foreign minister has visited a number of African states and met with representatives from others at international forums. He met the Sierra Leone foreign minister in Cairo this week. Egypt has also been invited to take part in the African-European summit in Brussels in April, participated in a conference to support Mali this week and will be represented at the COMESA meeting in Congo at the end of this month.

In addition, notes Shaarawy, Egypt took part in the Arab-African Summit in Kuwait last year. (see p.10)

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