The State of the Union (SOTU) Coalition has received with deep shock and is utterly saddened by the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 which occurred on Sunday, March 10, 2019. The incidence has indeed thrown the entire civil society space across Africa into disarray as occasioned by the loss of lives of passengers and crew members making contributions in their respective fields to various aspects of human development on the continent and indeed across the globe.
SOTU is particularly further demoralized by the revelation that some passengers on board ET 302 were billed to participate in a scheduled meeting of the AU ECOSOCC which was to take place in Nairobi. We by this means commiserate with the entire Permanent Committee and the members of the organ of Civil Society and the Diaspora (CIDO) and use this medium to express our deepest sympathies on the mishap just as we extend condolences to all who have lost loved ones in the crash.
In solidarity. State of the Union (SOTU).
From July to December 2018, the State of the Union (SOTU) collaborated with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) the National Chapter of Transparency International and the coalition member of SOTU based in Nigeria in implementing the project “Towards Enforcement of Africa’s Commitments Against Corruption” (TEA-CAC).
The project which ran across 10 African countries (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Morocco, Tunisia, Mozambique, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria) saw SOTU contributing to national implementation in Nigeria through the provision of technical and strategic support for effective implementation of the project at the national level.
The Goal of the project was to “Strengthen African civil society’s contribution to the AU’s anti-corruption efforts and commitments during the 2018 African Anti-Corruption Year and beyond”.
A major focus was on the level of compliance at various country levels with the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). The AUCPCC was adopted in 2003 by AU member states and ratified by Nigeria in 2006.
The Convention on the whole expressly details commitments of respective national governments and parties to the Convention to combat corruption and promote the culture of democratic governance and rule of law across the continent.
The State of the Union (SOTU) Coalition in collaboration with the Pan African Citizen’s Network (PACIN) and the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) organized the 8th Citizens Continental Conference (CCC). The Conference held from the 4th – 6th of February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and was organized on the margins of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the meeting of the Heads of States and Government of the African Union (AU).
The 8th CCC afforded SOTU a platform to advance advocacy engagement of the Coalition, strategically repositioning the Coalition towards developing key messages to the AU during the 32nd Summit. The CCC further provided a platform for debate and dialogue, and promotion of interface for SOTU to contribute to engaging African citizens in decision-making processes at the continental level.
A meeting of the Coalition members held on the margins of the 8th CCC. The meeting had in attendance the following members:
- Okeke Anya, CGT Chair.
- Alexis Nkruziza, Member CGT.
- Corlet Letlojane, HURISA, South Africa.
- Paula Monjane, Moazambique
- Cyrille Roalnde Bechon, Cameroun.
The meeting also had in attendance:
- Louisa Kwapata: Eye for Development, National Platform member from Malawi;
- Gisele Fifi Uwineza, SOTU Club, Rwanda, and
- Augustine Erameh, Secretariat Support.
The meeting was declared open by Okeke Anya, Chair of the Coalition Governance Team (CGT) who in his remarks appreciated the resilience and commitment of members of the SOTU. He briefed the gathering on the developments made so far from the end of the project to include:
- Registration of SOTU in Nigeria: SOTU has been registered as the African Initiative for Citizen’s Engagement and Development (AICED). The name was informed by constraints in registration requirements of the regulatory body with the mandate for registering all legal entities which he observed also played out in the attempts to also register the organization in Kenya.
- Provision of Support Services to the Secretariat: CISLAC was currently providing support to host the Secretariat and ensure it is fully functional and operational since SOTU gained legal status.
- Advancing Visibility to SOTU: A consultant has been engaged to manage the internet presence (website, Facebook and Twitter accounts) and visibility materials have been developed which were also shared during the 8th Additionally, through a project implemented by CISLAC titled “Towards Enforcement of Africa’s Anti-Corruption Commitments (TEA-CAC)”, the SOTU brand was given extensive recognition and promotion as the project was in line with the SOTU goal.
Remarks by Paula Monjane and Alexis Nkruziza appreciated the spirit of the SOTU family, acknowledging the challenges of sustainability faced by institutions. They noted that the leadership of the CGT had done extremely well in weathering the storm and encouraged all members to contribute in whatever means possible within respective institutional constraints to promote the SOTU brand.
Following extensive deliberations, members:
- Commended the current leadership and members for sustaining the SOTU spirit and Pan African agenda.
- Encouraged Coalition members to deliberately mainstream SOTU as a brand and its objectives at respective country levels, working at all possible times to ensure project development and implementation stages carry the SOTU brand.
- Requested respective member organizations to submit reports of work done in light of 2 above to Secretariat.
- Reiterated the need for members to also share information and opportunities with the Secretariat for pursuing grants.
- Urged members to support the Secretariat towards revamping the “My African Union, My Voice” Campaign. In this regard, Secretariat will further support the consultant to update the SOTU website, and redesign the country logos developed during the Campaign to reflect the theme of the AU Year for 2019.
- Considered the option of working electronically, using web-based options to organize meetings and strategically reposition the Coalition.
Meeting with the Regional Desk Officer – Peace Movement, CIDO | Office of Chairperson | African Union Commission.
On the 7th of February 2019, a SOTU delegation paid a scheduled visit to the William Carew, the Regional Desk Officer – Peace Movement, CIDO | Office of Chairperson | African Union Commission. The delegation comprised Alexis Nkruziza, Member CGT, Cyrille Roalnde Bechon, Cameroun, Paula Monjane, Gisele Fifi Uwineza, and Austin Erameh.
The meeting which was the maiden meeting between SOTU and the AU CIDO office afforded SOTU the opportunity to commence engagement with the CIDO mechanism of the AU which the Desk Officer informed also played host to the AU ECOSOCC Secretariat. According to him, this formed the background of misconception for CIDO and the ECOSOSCC.
The outcomes of the meetings included:
- That members establish linkages with national representatives
- SOTU members actively engage at the country level, looking towards working through a CBO where the establish criteria of funding limitations were a hindrance to membership of the ECOSOSCC.
- Be on the lookout for the new Secretariat of the ECOSOSCC to be established in Zambia.
Training on Understanding The African Union (AU)
7th February 2019
On the 7th of February 2019, SOTU participated on a Training organized by the Pan African Office of Oxfam. The 3 objectives of the training were to:
- Provide an Understanding of the AU, the Reforms and the Implications on Citizen Engagement;
- Enhance capabilities of CSO Leaders and Activists to Engage with the AU;
- Identify opportunities for enhanced coordination within civil society, and
- Clarify the linkages between Policy Formulation and Implementation at the National Level.
The workshop provided extensive insights for SOTU members to engage with the AU and relevant organs and mechanisms.
A major two day meeting of African editors, managing editors, media owners, representatives of journalists’ unions and African media organisations has concluded in the Ghanaian capital Accra, with concrete agreements on how the media can use its agenda setting role to tell the story of Africa to the continent and internationally.
Bringing together over 30 top level African media personalities from all five regions of the continent, the forum from 11 to 12 June was organised and sponsored by the State of the Union (SOTU) and Oxfam, with support from the African Media Initiative (AMI) and the African Union Commission.
The selection of senior level participants was therefore meant to enable the meeting not only to discuss, but also to make decisions on the way forward in communicating about developments on the African continent. The forum provided opportunity for frank interaction between the AU and the media, with a combination of information sharing, discussions, brainstorming and planning.
To support the discussions, the AUC delegation distributed copies of the African Union handbook and the first ten year implementation plan of Agenda 2063 as key resources. Media took the opportunity to highlight the challenges they face in reporting on the African Union’s activities and to suggest ways of improvement. However, throughout the debates, all the participants underscored their total commitment to playing their part in the development of the continent through objective reporting and analysis of the African Union’s work through Agenda 2063.
Ambassador Jean Mfasoni- Special Advisor to the AUC Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, made a presentation on Understanding the African Union, taking the editors through the aspirations and major expected outcomes of Africa’s Agenda 2063, as well as key successes that have been achieved under the Agenda to date. Examples were drawn from the areas of peace, stability, good governance, democracy and human rights; agriculture, natural resource management and food security; inclusive economic development and industrialization; health, education and employment; resource mobilization; a people’s African Union; and institutional capacities and relations with regional economic communities, AU organs and partners. Participants welcomed the information, saying that it had shed light on some issues they had not been aware of before. “Our media needs to reflect the true Africa as it is, in an accountable and transparent manner, with its positive achievements and negative aspects to be corrected in order to reach better levels of performance for the benefit of all African peoples”, said Ambassador Mfasoni, adding “your sustained efforts can greatly facilitate public awareness of the Africa we want, around its seven aspirations”.
Ms Osai Ojigho, SOTU coordinator explained that her organisation is committed to working with the AU Commission to popularise the work of the African Union and the impact it is making on the continent. “SOTU is pushing African voices in support of the AU”, she noted. Explaining why SOTU decided to fund the editor’s forum, she said, “We want to bring the AU closer to the people” and we need dialogue to see how best we can do it together”. Ms Ojigho presented an analysis of the status of ratification and domestication of key instruments of the African Union, adding that SOTU is engaged in lobbying for the ratification of all AU instruments continent wide as they had been adopted by Heads of State and Government to advance Africa’s development.
Mr Eric Chinje of the African Media initiative announced the impending launch of an information exchange platform, which would greatly benefit attempts to collate and share information coming from different media houses for more effective distribution to the African continent. He urged media to feel a sense of commitment to the continent, and play their part in achieving the goals of the AU, while at the same time urging the African Union to fully recognise the place and role of the media. He particularly pointed to the responsibility of the gathered editors, saying the outcomes of the meeting should be more concrete and practical than those of previous meetings. He presented an analysis on media coverage of AU summits, and led a discussion on areas where the media felt more support was required.
Mrs Wynne Musabayana, the AUC’s Deputy Head of Communication and Information presented a technical paper on the spaces available to the media to interact with the AU. These include a media center, interviews and press conferences, an agency service, publications, website, social media, live streaming, multi-media, and branding. She provided information on the main communication entry points, giving contact details of officers responsible for each function; from the office of the Chairperson to the general Commission. She also took the participants through planned activities to enhance the work of the media such as the proposed AU media awards, improved functions on the website, and proposed the formation of an editors’ database.
The ensuing debate shed light on the media’s work processes and requirements. She highlighted the necessity for a long term, substantive relationship with key African media editors- one that has clear strategies and an action plan so as to effectively tell the story of Africa. She also informed participants of the upcoming editors’ forum to be held in Kigali, Rwanda on the side lines of the summit of the African Union, using it as an example of the Commission’s commitment to work with and through the media.
Ms Marceline Nyambala of the Association of Kenya Media Women took the meeting through the topic ”News sources; What makes news and what does not- the role of media in making the news”. After the discussions, the editors agreed that “everything that happens at the AU is newsworthy”. It all depends on how it is packaged. Ms Sophie Mokoena of the South African Broadcasting Corporation presented a summary of the first day’s proceedings, emphasising the need for practical and serious efforts at telling the African narrative. She highlighted the need for leaders across the continent to avail themselves to the media in order to project the continent correctly. “Give us the story and we will provide the platform to communicate with audiences”, she said. Ms Jane Godia – Editor of the African Women and Child Features Services discussed “Media’s role in showcasing women leaders across the continent”- a topic that led to positive pronouncements on the need to not only profile high flying women, but also to shed light on those performing critical functions in lower positions as well as on supporting the girl child to have equal status and opportunities in life.
Mr Emmanuel Bensah of the Africa in Focus Show led a session on “African civil society organisations and the media; effective use of media and managing relations”, while Mr Victor Nyambok spoke about SOTU’s “My African Union” campaign- an effort by the organisation to promote the African Union. T
he meeting came away with what it identified as concrete proposals that are expected to lead to more robust reporting on the AU.