Mauritius and the African Union

We Are All Africans

Africa! Africa! That’s the new continent

Wherefrom today we start a new journey

It’s here, the continent of Revival

The continent of the New Renaissance!

Of course, it could never be otherwise!

We remember Granddad Tumai in Chad

We think with love of our Grand Aunt Lucy.

We don’t forget how we left Africa.

 

Some sixty thousand years ago, we went

Up north, some reached Europe, some went Eastward

To India and China, or the Behring

And down the coast of both Americas.

We’re here and everywhere with our genes!

Africa is the world! The World is Africa!!

Africa! Africa!

Africa! Africa! You are a continent

With savannas, forests and lakes bubbling

With animals, birds, fruits and a belly

Packed with riches enough to feed the world.

 

Africa! Africa! Unnamed, faceless millions

Displaced by floods and drought, hunger and wars

Diseased with malaria, HIV, you name it

No job, no money no future! Written off!

How can some sleep while the rest go hungry?

And drown helpless below poverty line?

Why should our countries’ wealth migrate abroad

Where it grows fat in private banks accounts?

 

Can somebody tell us what’s wrong with you?

Is there no one to want to change all this?

African Renaissance!

Africa! Africa! Shed no more tears

Your children are awake, fully awake.

First we had the vision that brought Nepad

Signposting our march to the new dawn!

Make no mistake; there is no going back!

Today we know exactly what we want.

We want good governance at all levels,

Access to health and wealth for everyone!

A new era has now begun and all

Over the place, new leaders now stand up

Fired with the same zeal to move ahead

With their people whose hopes and dreams are theirs!

We’re all active in the new narrative!

You’re witnessing African Renaissance!

AU Summit: Absence of Mauritius

Is Mauritius losing sight of its duties and obligations towards the Number One organization to which it belongs, the African Union-AU? Do we care about our most precious overseas asset today? Last week, on 30 and 31 January, the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union met in Addis-Ababa, as they do end-January every year. AU presidents and ministers were looking forward to see the new leader of Mauritius, as has been the practice, whenever a new leader appears on the African scene. Soon after his election as President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina’s very first trip abroad was to attend the Summit of the African Union in Addis-Ababa, where he was recognized by his peers, acclaimed and welcomed. Similarly for the President of Egypt, Abdel Fatah Al-Sissi, whose very first trip abroad was to attend the Summit of the African Union, at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where he too was recognized by his peers, acclaimed and welcomed.They seized the opportunity to explain to the world the new policies and directions of their countries. Unfortunately, the new Prime Minister of Mauritius, Hon Anerood Jugnauth did not attend the Summit of the African Union and be recognized by his peers, acclaimed and welcomed.

This no-show may be considered of no importance in insular Mauritius but not so in the international context where it constitutes a diplomatic faux-pas. But equally regrettable, for the new Prime Minister himself, it was a missed opportunity to show the new face of Mauritius embarked on a new course of economic revival. And we should not forget that whatever Mauritius does is closely watched and is of interest in African circles.

Equally if not more shocking is indeed the absence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs who ought to have been present to represent the Prime Minister and deliver a message in his name. And yet Mauritius is not a newcomer on the international scene! How come we commit such blunders? Is it ignorance, negligence or low esteem of ourselves? Have we forgotten that Mauritius has solid and unquestionable credentials to be present at the AU Summit, earned by SSR, when he first approached Leopold Sédar Senghor, went to Kinshasa to ensure our admission into the EAMA, then invited OCAM and OAU to hold their General Assemblies in Mauritius in 1973 and 1976 respectively? And now that Africa is on the rise, is it proper to treat your mother organization without which Mauritius will stand nowhere tomorrow?

No Ambassador either

When I arrived in Addis-Abba and heard that there was no delegation coming from Mauritius, I asked about the Ambassador, I was shocked to hear that he had left on the eve of my arrival. I could not believe it! An ambassador is an ambassador for the country and nobody cares who or which party appointed him. Or which party he sympathizes with. There is not the least justification for recalling him on the eve of a General Assembly, leaving the seat of Mauritius with no ambassador. This is poor governance, poor statesmanship! Should political vendetta take precedence over the affairs of State? The Ambassador was not to be allowed to stay. Your order him to stay at his post and do the job! That’s not a favour you do to him. He has to serve his country, our country!

Of course, there was a Chargé d’Affaires, indeed a most capable one, hardworking and competent, but he is not an accredited Ambassador with the full authority to represent the country.

What was also most shocking was to see a foreigner squarely seated behind the nameplate of Mauritius. When I asked him what he was doing there, he answered that he had been authorized by one of our ministers!!! Our Ambassador is not there, but a non-Mauritian occupies the seat! That’s a disgrace and a sad day for Mauritius.

Decisions taken at AU

It’s not my job to evoke the hundreds of subjects discussed and of relevance to the development of the country. Here I must add, to be fair and objective, that all previous regimes have been indifferent to bringing the important decisions taken at the AU in Addis to the attention and knowledge of the Mauritian people.

I wonder how many Mauritians heard about the Golden Jubilee of the AU celebrated in Addis in 2013. When I saw the reporting of the event in Mauritius, the emphasis was the presence of the Prime Minister, which was quite important, of course. But what was most shocking, as is the case of visits by Prime Ministers or the Minister of Foreign Affairs to international gatherings like the UN General Assembly, is that the emphasis is on the protocol or prestige aspect of such visits – no reporting being made at all on the substantial matters or the important decisions taken there for the welfare of the Mauritian people. We should change our mentality, stop treating the Mauritian people as children, and as a good start for the new government, to feel itself accountable to the nation and having to report to the people, not simply to Parliament but through press briefings and government institutions like the municipalities, district and village Councils, so the population is informed and educated. That is in fact the essence of democracy. It high time the Mauritian people are treated as adults and are involved in the life of the nation.

At the Golden Jubilee, which was also celebrated by an Africa Week in New York, no reporting or information was communicated to the Mauritian people either via Parliament or the media. There was no mention at all of the great decisions of the African leaders to lead the Continent to new heights; nothing either about the African Diaspora coming from the US, nor any mention of the most important decision taken by the Heads of State and what is now known all over Africa as: African Agenda 2063:The Africa we want.

How can we be so insular and marginal?

The Weight of The Past: Prejudices

Mauritians of Asian origin still have cultural links with their cultural homelands. But the truth is that they are not Chinese or Indians. They are Mauritians. The Mauritian population is made up of the Indian diaspora, the Chinese diaspora and the forgotten diaspora from Africa. The former two diasporas have fairly been well documented and analysed. There remains the African diaspora that seems to be in a sort of limbo with no one daring to look at it in its face.

The African diaspora became oblivious of its origins and was never aware of its identity as a group, unlike the Indians who celebrated the centenary of their arrival in 1935, with Indian personalities from India to give them ideas and inspiration on how to improve their conditions. The Afro-Mauritians had no leaders either on spot or from the Continent, to remind them of their African roots or to celebrate the centenary of the abolition of slavery. Dispossessed of their African Identity, the Afro-Mauritians came to be called the Creole community.

Since the early days of European arrivals with slaves from Africa, the Dutch, French and British were called the White and the slaves black, which marked the beginnings of racial, and social divide, prejudice and discrimination. Slavery was officially abolished in 1835, and the indentured labourers brought in to replace them found themselves in the same social context of prejudices of race and colour, legally established and in force for some one hundred and twenty years.

These prejudices outlived the period and survive today in the social and economic structures of the country. Mauritians genially inherited the prejudices of the white masters against everything having to do with Africa. It should, however, be added that the African leaders in general did not all behave in a way to draw respect or admiration from the Mauritians who were used to a certain level of decency and respect for human rights even under the British colonial rule.

The prejudice toward the African continent became unsaid but solidly established. While the leaders of India or China, leading their countries to independence, were acclaimed by their diaspora overseas, there has not been the same admiration and enthusiasm either from the African diaspora or from the non-African diaspora. The African leaders that emerged after the accession to independence of African countries did not inspire respect and were derided in Mauritian circles and were seen as whimsical, grotesque, tyrannical and backward. But our leaders at Independence were able to see beyond the prejudices of the times and the advantages of being part of Africa in the future.

The Africa Connection – Mauritius Initiatives

The major initiatives to connect with Africa came from Independent Mauritius. It needs be pointed out that this had nothing to do with any sentimental attachment of Mauritius to the Continent, but it was a bold, cold and courageous move to ensure the survival of the people of Mauritius.

The first move was made by former Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR) when, at the termination of the International Sugar Agreement, Mauritius badly needed a new market for its sugar and could not piggy-back on the UK to take Mauritius into the EEC – French President General de Gaulle having then decided to say to no British entry into the Common Market.

For Mauritius to be able to sell its sugar into the EEC, it needed the backing of France and the African French-speaking countries to accept Mauritius as a member of EAMA. Mauritians at the time could not understand why SSR should decide to invite OCAM and the OAU to hold their Summit meetings in Mauritius in the 1973 and in 1976 respectively. Apart from taking Mauritius into the EEC, the upshot of these initiatives was to throw open up the gates to the African market thereby enabling Mauritius to join regional organizations like the SADC or COMESA.

The second extraordinary move was made by the Government of Sir Anerood Jugnauth in July 2003, when Mauritius joined the 15 members of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The purpose of the setting up of the APRM is to encourage good governance in African countries in four sectors, namely government, private sector, economics and social development. This is done through a study of the country by a team of specialists led by a panelist that examines the performance of the country in different areas and that is called peer-reviewing.

Mauritius was peer-reviewed in Kampala on 24 July 2010, that is the Country Report on Mauritius was discussed and examined by the Forum of Heads of States for implementation and integration in the national development plan. After staying in the government drawers for some time, the Report was finally launched on 11 December 2013. But still only a handful of people may have studied it. It is a fantastic report with a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of our social and economic set-up, with many suggestions for improvement. The APR process makes it an obligation on the Government of Mauritius to submit a Progress Report to the Secretariat in January 2015. Unfortunately, this Report is not ready.

It must be pointed out that the Country Report identifies some good practices of the Mauritian government in the first three sectors of governance, namely governance in the government sector, the corporate sector or economics. But there is a sector under the critical assessment of the Review and this relates to the plight of the least favoured section of Mauritians, who is at the bottom of the social ladder, which should be of direct and immediate interest to the African diaspora.

Unfortunately Mauritians are still ignorant of the recommendations of the APRM Report or of the positive impact it can have on of their own circumstances, through the application of good governance in different sectors of Mauritian society. Mauritius has still to reap the benefits of this exercise because unfortunately they are generally uninformed.

Credentials and Obstacles

The future of Mauritius is a matter of relevance not only to Mauritians of African origin. First and foremost the economic survival of Mauritius lies with Africa. Mauritians generally have to be reminded that our economic success and prosperity, starting in the mid-1970s and for the next thirty years, were due to our membership of the ACP countries that negotiated and obtained the Lomé Convention and the Sugar Protocol.

We would never have been able to achieve this without the support of the African countries of EAMA, which was obtained thanks to the intervention of two Presidents, French General De Gaulle and Senegalese Leopold Sédar Senghor, who readily and positively responded to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who had the vision and sagacity to seek their help. Mauritius is fortunate to have been anchored since then on to Africa. The result is that today our African credentials are most powerful, and unquestionable as member of the continental African Union- AU, and its regional organisations like SADCC or Comesa. Now, in order to fully take advantage of all that the African Union has to offer especially in the African Renaissance, Mauritius has to assume fully its African identity.

Involvement in the Making of the African Renaissance

With our insular mindset we in Mauritius know little about the positive things being done in Africa today. The media only reports the negative events because good and positive items are rarely newsworthy. We have to own the great programs and projects in the field of good governance in Africa.

I will confine myself to three items that are indispensable in our reconnection exercise with Africa. There are three items that should become buzzwords as we do so: NEPAD, APRM AND AGENDA 2063.

NEPAD – New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

At the beginning of this new century, African leaders were beginning to have enough of the miseries of their peoples and were determined to change their fate. So the AU Heads of State came up with what is known as NEPAD, the New Partnership for African Development,

To put it briefly: The NEPAD, an African Union strategic framework for pan-African socio-economic development, was spearheaded by African leaders, to address critical challenges facing the continent: poverty, development and Africa’s marginalization internationally.

NEPAD provides unique opportunities for African countries to take full control of their development agenda, to work more closely together, and to cooperate more effectively with international partners. NEPAD manages a number of programmes and projects in six theme areas. These themes are:

  • Agriculture and Food Security.
  • Climate Change and National Resource Management.
  • Regional Integration and Infrastructure.
  • Human Development.
  • Economic and Corporate Governance.
  • Crosscutting Issues, including Gender, Capacity Development and ICT.

It soon became clear that states, like individuals, tend to forget great resolutions and without a structure to follow up, and ensure implementation of NEPAD, little or nothing would be achieved.

APRM -the Africa Peer Review Mechanism

The Heads of State meeting in Abuja in March 2003 came up with a most original idea, an initiative that would allow Heads of States to review each other’s governance of their individual countries, a home-grown and unique instrument called the African Peer Review Mechanism – APRM, Africa’s Self- Assessment for Good Governance.

The objectives of the APRM are primarily to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through experience sharing and reinforcement of successful and best practices, including identifying deficiencies and assessment of requirements for capacity building. Its mission was to measure Performance and Progress in four substantive areas:

  • Democracy and Political Governance
  • Economic Governance
  • Corporate Governance and
  • Socio-economic Development

The APRM is used by member countries to self-monitor all aspects of their governance and socio-economic development. The exercise is not limited to the Executive. It includes the Legislative and Judicial branches of Government as well as an assessment of the private sector, civil society and the media in the areas of governance and socio-economic development.

The overall review process provides a national space for dialogue on governance and socio-economic indicators in the Member State, and the opportunity to build a national consensus on the way forward. The National Programme of Action prepared at the end of the review process actualizes the roadmap agreed upon by all stakeholders.

Once a country adheres to the APRM, it means that it accepts to be peer-reviewed. In other words, it opens its doors to a team of experts that come with a series of questionnaires that try to evaluate the achievements and weakness of the country and come up with a set of remedies that are inspired by successful experiences of the peer countries.

APRM is headed by the Forum of Heads of States, assisted by a Committee of Focal Points, one from each country and serviced by a continental Secretariat. The reviewing of countries is done by a team of African experts led by a member of the Panel of Eminent persons appointed by the Forum.

“Agenda 2063: The Africa we want”

Agenda is a continuation of the African drive and African Renaissance for self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity. Agenda 2063 was adopted in 2013 during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of OAU/AU in Addis-Ababa. Agenda 2063 emanated from a desire to chart a new chapter in Africa’s socio-economic development and transformation. Following extensive discussions with key stakeholders within and without the continent, including the private sector, African academics and think-tanks, government planning expert and development specialists, civil society organisations, African Diaspora REC’s and AU organs, youth women, media groups and web-based consultations, the following is what the African peoples want:

  1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth.
  2. An integrated continent, politically united based on the ideals of Africanism
  3. An Africa of Good Governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and rule of law
  4. A peaceful and secure Africa
  5. An Africa with strong cultural identity, values and ethics
  6. An Africa where development is people-driven, relying particularly on the on the potential of youth and women, and
  7. Africa as a strong and influential global player and partner.

Unfortunately the information was not taken to Mauritius, as official participants in overseas meetings and forums do not consider it their duty to report to the people, so the Mauritian people are kept in absolute ignorance of what is going on in the world, especially of what is going on in Africa and is of utmost importance for the development and the future of Mauritius.

Conclusion: Reconnecting with African means participation in the African Renaissance. Let us not miss the opportunity. Let us be part of the Renaissance, as sung in the sonnets above.

* Published in print edition on 6 February  2015

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