Gaddafi may cost AU – in terms of cash

2011-07-09 16:07

The divergent views of the African Union and the European Union have raised fears in African diplomatic circles that the Europeans may withhold AU funding.

According to Mehari Maru, head of the African Conflict Management programme of the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, there are serious concerns about how the African position on Libya affects the funding which the AU receives from the EU.

“From the AU commission there are fears that the African position on Libya will end up withholding funds that were already agreed upon by the EU.”

The EU, together with other donors like China and the United States, is set to contribute over R1 billion to this year’s AU budget.

At its recent summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, African leaders were urged to think of new ways to get the AU in the black.

“The assembly recalled the dire financial situation of the Union caused by delays in honouring assessed contributions by member states and complexities of accessing partner funds. This underscores the need to identify additional sources of financing the activities of the Union,” the AU said in a statement.

For the current financial year, African countries are supposed to collectively contribute $122 million, but the budget has not been approved yet.

Germany is funding a new building for the Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Addis Ababa to the tune of R100 million, according to diplomats, while other countries are contributing to the new planned headquarters for the AU.

However, this is not the AU’s biggest funding headache.

The Libyan crisis resulted in insecurity on whether the Libyan government will continue to pay its contribution, which makes up a large chunk of the AU’s funding.

In addition to paying its own contribution, which constitutes 15% of the budget, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi also paid the dues of smaller countries like ­Niger and Togo, Maru said.

“He did this when Libya needed political support at the summit that year. It looked as if Gaddafi felt Libya was too small for him and he was meant to rule ­Africa. So he was buying support.”

Gaddafi often hosted the second AU summit for the year, and wanted the AU to take a formal decision to officialise this tradition, something the AU constantly resisted.

With the endgame nearing for Gaddafi in Libya, questions are being raised about whether the AU will cope without the generous funding from his coffers.

South Africa pays R218 million annually in AU subscriptions, according to the annual report of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

According to figures provided by the Institute of Security Studies, Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt contribute the same amount, while the remaining chunk of the AU budget which the member states are responsible for, is supposed to be split among the remaining 47 members.

The rest is covered by donors.

A European diplomat briefed on Nato discussions on the matter, said there was no disagreement between Nato and the African Union on their assessment of the political situation in Libya.

“We agree that a political solution is the only way out, but the problem is how and where you start with that,” he said.

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