President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea has given a speech saying that the existing African Union (AU) structure is “a carbon copy of the European Union,” appealing for reforms at the African body.
As reported by the Eritrean state information ministry, “President Isaias stated that the existing African Union structure is a carbon copy of the European Union; it is not in consonance with the realities of the continent.”
“It is thus timely to restructure the African Union to ensure optimal alignment with the aspirations of the African populations and that is responsive to the changing international order. Eritrea is naturally ready to play its modest part in this effort,” the president added.
Isaias’ remarks suggest that he has been following developments on the European continent where recently the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, while nationalist movements elsewhere are seeking the same, portraying Brussels as out of touch with local realities and insensitive to nationalist identities.
The African Union is headquartered in Addis Ababa, capital of Eritrea’s rival Ethiopia, which means it is viewed with considerable suspicion in Asmara.
President Isaias’ government withdrew its envoys from the AU from 2009-2011. However, Eritrea has been engaging with the AU recently in several areas, including in talks over a disputed border area with Djibouti, following the withdrawal of a Qatari monitoring team.
Eritrea is also engaging with the AU’s Horn of Africa Initiative in an effort to stem the flow of illegal emigration out of the Red Sea nation toward Europe. Many young Eritreans have fled from their country owing to forced conscription and lack of economic opportunities.
In his speech earlier this week, President Isaias referred to the challenges of emigration and “economic malaise” facing his country, and the continent in general, saying,
“Africa can only extricate itself from these trends that are fraught with breeding neo-colonial realities if the African Union and other regional institutions in the continent assume appropriate structures and mandates that promote the real aspirations of the African populations. The restructuring task must, therefore, be mapped out through collective endeavours.”
Isaias’ remarks come at a time when Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame is seeking to reform the AU, following on a report earlier this year in which he recommended limiting external financing of the AU, among other changes.
President Isaias says that his government has recently sent messages to various African countries to express its views on AU reform.
Isaias “stressed that regional cooperation is not a matter of choice but necessity and that reforming and restructuring the African Union should be a priority task.”