by Jean-Jacques Cornish
President Cyril Ramaphosa had his work cut out when he took on the chairmanship of the African Union this year.
He is committed to steering the continental body along its final bumpy stretch of road to the ambitious goal of silencing the Guns in 2020.
More importantly, the bean counters argue, he has to oversee the final implementation of the African Free Trade Agreement.
Both of these face an existential threat from COVID 19.
Silencing the guns means ending all wars, civil conflict, violence conflict, and gender-based violence on the continent.
Herculean does not being to describe this task.
Since their inception, African conflicts have gobbled up the lion’s share of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Deploying the blue helmets currently takes up an amount approaching $8 billion a year. That is $1 billion more than the overall budget of the world organisation.
Of the 13 active UN peacekeeping operations around the planet, no fewer than seven – Western Sahara, Darfur, Central African Republic, Abyei, South Sudan, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are in Africa.
The latter is the largest and most expensive blue helmet operation, taking up 20 000 of the 100 000 UN peacekeepers deployed worldwide.
To put some perspective on this, the number of UN troops deployed in the DRC is half the number of US troops stationed in Germany.
The United States currently picks up 28% of the UN peacekeeping tab which is less than one percent of total US defense spending – about as much as Washington spends in a month on its military operation in Afghanistan.
African leaders have for a time sought to pay more for peacekeeping in their determination to give credibility to the principle of African solutions for African problems.
The best they can manage is a 25:75 split in costs with the UN and this has yet to be inked.
As the battle with the COVID 19 pandemic turns the G7 economies on their heads, African countries know that they will feel the cost even more keenly.
They are having to go to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for money simply to feed their people.
The Bretton Woods institutions are obliged to make their assistance conditional on the recipients adhering to strict austerity policies.
Silencing the Guns and implementing an African Free Trade Agreement are undeniably desirable.
Silencing the Nevertheless AU chairman Cyril Ramaphosa will be hard pressed to convince the lenders that these projects take priority over fiscal discipline and financing the bare necessities.