December 15, 2016-Arusha, as the world celebrated International Anti-Corruption Day, over 75 individuals representing African social movements including youth and faith based organisations, civil society organisations, the academia and research institutions, members of parliament, government officials, African constitutional bodies, the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) and the African Union Commission (AUC), met in Arusha, to deliberate on issues of corruption, which they say has reached crisis levels. Africa is losing at least $100 billion a year to theft, abuse of state resources, and illicit financial flows. This is a massive amount of money that Africa could be putting to good use such as improving education and health systems, which would save the lives of 2.9 million children annually, and ensure better prospects for Africa’s future. The lost resources also means lost opportunity for investment, and job creation in a region whose youth bulge, has become a political tinderbox, especially in urban cities.
“On paper we stand a good chance of utilizing treaties, laws and institution to fight corruption, but in reality we have not been winning the battle due to many reasons, chief amongst which include, lack of political will,” said Don Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Association.
It was not only the extraction of financial resources from government coffers, through theft and grand political corruption that participants raised concerns about. The participants raised alarm at the rise of the practice of term elongation, which they say is rapidly becoming a threat to Africa’s peace, security and developmental aspirations. They stated that corrupt practices were being employed to manipulate constitutions and electoral laws to subvert the will of the people. Countries like Gambia, Burundi, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, featured prominently.
“Corruption is not only about looting public coffers through nefarious activities, but abuse and manipulation of regulatory instruments and institutions such as parliaments, judiciaries, militaries, election commissions to steal elections and maintain oneself, family, and ethnic group in power to continue to control resources”, said Jeggan Grey-Johnson, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator for the Africa Regional Office of the Open Society Foundation.
The meeting, themed: “United against Corruption for Development, Peace and Security,” coincided with the end of the term of the members of the Advisory board on Corruption in Africa, whose headquarters is in Arusha. The board is tasked with a broad mandate to assist AU member states that have ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption to effectively implement the treaty. But this has been a challenge, 37 members of the African Union have ratified the AUCPCC, yet the effectiveness of implementing the very basic aspects of the convention is widely lacking. The AUABC, participants argued, does not have teeth to bite. They therefore called upon the AU to ensure that adequate funding is given to the Board, arguing that if Africa was losing billions in resources, an investment to stop the haemorrhaging would be a first step that needed taking to arrest the crisis. They called state parties to the AUCPCC to each contribute $250,000 annually to finance the mandate of the AUABC. They also want to see a Board whose mandate is realistic and functional, and called for an immediate term extension to six years instead of the 24 months it currently has, something that many felt was grossly inadequate.
“The Board needs to be supported with a strong mandate and financial backing to be able to tackle graft in Africa, and we welcome these concrete and far reaching changes being called for by African CSOs and social movements,” said Dr Daniel Batidam, Chairperson of the AUABC.
Participants stated that it was urgent for AUABC to also promote a culture of an Access to Information policy within the AU Commission and its organs at all times. They urged the African Union Commission to support the call by the AUABC for the AU to declare 2018 the “Year of Combatting Corruption in Africa”.
African Regional Office of the Open Society Foundation- AfRO, works with national civil society organizations to conduct systematic audits of government performance in Elections Management and Combating Corruption. It also does advocacy work and supports civil society better engage with regional and continental Pan African institutions through the following thematic areas: Citizenship and the Right to a Nationality; Elections; International Justice; Youth Participation; and Food Security.
The Advisory Board on Corruption- AUABC, is the emanation of The AU Convention on Combating and Preventing Corruption (AUCPCC) and it was created on 26th May 2009 under Article 22 (1) of The Convention. This organ bases its work on the provisions of this legal instrument and in this regard, it is the unique continental organization mandated by the African Union to deal with corruption and related themes in Africa.
The Pan African Lawyers Union- PALU is a continental membership forum for African lawyers and lawyers’ associations. PALU was founded in 2002 by African Bar leaders and eminent lawyers, to reflect the aspirations and concerns of the African people and to promote and defend their shared interests. It brings together the continent’s five regional lawyers’ associations, over fifty-four national lawyers’ associations and over 800 individual lawyers. PALU’s vision is to see a united, just and prosperous Africa, built on the rule of law and good governance. Its mission is to advance the law and the legal profession, rule of law, good governance, human and peoples’ rights and socio-economic development of the African continent.
Support to state institutions that have the mandate, authority and expectation to address corruption has been lacking generally. Anti-corruption agencies continue to operate with limited mandates, budgets, independence and capacity. Parliamentary oversight remains elusive, as overreaching and overbearing executives dominate decision and appointment making of high level officials to anti-graft institutions, regulatory agencies, the judiciary, and other public and private institutions designed to defend and promote good governance and democratic practice. This forum aims to elevate and prioritize fundamental thematic areas for intervention by state parties and none state actors in the transparency sector and beyond. Faith based organisations, business sector and youth groups are being given particular focus, because they are a critical sector of the population that has not been consistently and effectively involved in the collective strategy in combating corruption, yet these groups are proving to be more relevant and vocal in speaking out against rampant corruption and impunity in Africa.
For more information please contact:
In Johannesburg, Jeggan Grey Johnson – Mobile+ 27 836 200578- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Arusha, Jancelline Amsi – Mobile: email@example.com
In Kampala, Sarah Pacutho email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hashtags: #CSFII2016 & #CorruptFreeAfrica