BY LENIN NDEBELEDespite financial and logistical support in conflict-ridden Africa, the US is yet to contain the situation.
Civic society suggested a rethink in the implementation of programmes on peace, security and democracy in Africa.
The Democracy Summit got under way when autocracy was gaining ground across the world.
Although the US can't be held responsible for ongoing conflicts in Africa, the fact that many of the disputes in which it offered financial and logistical support for peacekeeping are ongoing, indicates that its efforts have been far from successful.
Following the inaugural US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, the US provided an estimated R43.5 billion (about US$2.4 million) to the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali, Somalia and South Sudan, according to figures from a 2014 US Peace and Security report.
Under US President Joe Biden, there have been two such summits - one in December 2021 and another in December 2022 - as coups became endemic in the Sahel Region of Africa and conflicts in places such as Ethiopia and the DRC have surged on.
According to information from Statista - an online platform that offers statistics and reports - in 2021, there were about 20 000 fatalities from war zones in Africa, with Ethiopia recording the 8 600 deaths, followed by Somalia with 2 119.
Conflicts also resulted in the displacement of 32 million people, with the most significant numbers shared by the DRC, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Mozambique.
Hard pressed for solutions in 2021, the US developed the 21st Century Partnership for African Security (21PAS), among other civilian-led engagements, such as the Democracy Summit, currently under way in Zambia, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and the Republic of Korea.
The initiatives include the following:
For the next three years, the 21 PAS was allocated R1.8 billion (US$100) million for security sector capacity building and reforms in selected African countries.
The Civil Society Partnerships for Civilian Security was given a purse of R36 million (about US$2 million). The money went towards civil society engagement in the security sector.
Peace and security, democracy, and governance initiatives in the Sahel region were allocated R3.15 billion (US$175 million).
According to the Open Society Foundations, the relationship between Africa as the beneficiary and the US benefactor was not working in the best interests of Africa in its current form.
"Monetary commitments are offered by the US while Africa is seemingly happy to serve as a beneficiary in a donor-recipient relationship. Overall, the AU, regional economic communities and countries should apply the principle of African agency, sifting through the agreements to propose tangible ways in which Africa can be a true implementation partner for each peace and security issue and sector," reads the brief.
As such, the Open Society Foundations suggested the AU should take a comprehensive strategy and draw on its peace and security architecture to address the relationship between the conflict's primary causes.
Despite strongly worded statements and decisions against countries under authoritarian rule where there are shacky democracies, of late, the superpower has been engaging with some countries instead of imposing sanctions.
At the US Africa Leaders Summit in December last year, some countries, such as Cameroon, were invited, despite damning human rights and democracy records.
It's the same this time around at the Democracy Summit.
India, one of the countries represented, has seen leader Rahul Gandhi expelled from parliament, and there are reports that he could be jailed ahead of next year's polls - a clear violation of democratic principles.
The Open Society Foundations suggested that the US should only deal with those countries that are showing signs of adherence.
A recommendation to the US is that engagement with dictatorial leaders during the December 2022 summit should be treated as a once-off strategy intended to bring them to the discussion table.
"Forthwith, such engagement should be based on adherence to the principles of good governance, including respect for human rights," the organisation added.
This year's summit took a big tent approach, accepting a broad range of views, reportedly due to concerns that democracy has been declining in many countries.
According to Freedom House, this is the worst period in the past 17 years, as autocratic rule has increasingly spread across more countries.
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