Saturday, May 28, 2022

Botswana not carrying its weight at AU ÔÇô US envoy

Outgoing American Ambassador to African Union (AU) this week spoke out against wealthy African countries which are not contributing enough to the AU coffers and singled out Botswana as one of the culprits.

In his valedictory comments to Business Day in the Ethiopian capital, US ambassador Michael Battle took issue with South Africa’s growing financial support to the commission and expressed concerns over the increasing influence of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her inner circle of advisers as they extend South Africa’s influence over the body, to the detriment of other African nations’ interests.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma took office as chairwoman of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa last October after winning a bruising election campaign when she was portrayed as a leader who would bring efficiency and independence to the struggling organisation.

Mr Battle said South Africa with Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria jointly cover 75% of Africa’s contributions to the AU budget.
Other well-off countries pay little.  He named Botswana, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as others that could contribute more to the AU.

“If the AU commissioners, the PRC (permanent representatives committee) and heads of state do not act … to drive the direction of the AU, it runs the risk of being driven by a set of advisers to the chairperson,” Mr Battle said.

The envoy is due to leave his post after four years that saw significant changes at the AU. Mr Battle said Ms Dlamini-Zuma has surrounded herself with a kitchen cabinet of key advisers who are either from South Africa or other Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries.

“The principal advisers who have very close one-on-one consultation time with the chairperson are persons who are Sadc -inclined, who are South Africa -inclined and who are ANC-inclined,” Mr Battle said.

“South Africa is paying the salaries and expenses for those advisers, which automatically means that (it) has a much larger presence at the AU.”

Paul-Simon Handy, a senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, said Mr Battle’s views were shared by many in Addis Ababa. “I am not surprised by (Mr Battle’s) comments because they are widely shared by diplomats in Addis.

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