How to book an ex-president

2015-05-22 10:46
Former president Thabo Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki (Nelius Rademan/Foto24; Gaut)

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What does it take to get a former president to attend your event? Six to nine months’ notice at least.

Former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), John Kufuor (Ghana) and Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) were all approached to attend a workshop in Gabarone, Botswana, on how Africa’s leaders assess their governments’ performance, but they needed more time.

Shola Akinbade from the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) secretariat said Mbeki was approached to attend the workshop, held on Wednesday and Thursday, but his foundation said he needed about six to nine months’ notice. The same applied to Obasanjo.

“I know they would have come, you could see how apologetic they were,” Akinbade said.

Chissano would have come to the workshop, but he fell ill.

Mbeki and Obasanjo are considered to have been the founding fathers of the APRM in 2003, and it is possible that they could be roped in again to help pick up its flagging momentum.

Akinbade said it was “in the pipeline to [employ] those founding fathers who are members of the [Africa] Forum of former heads of state and government” to reach out to countries that have signed up to the APRM to discuss how to keep it going.

“It is one method being planned to get the forum going again,” he said.

He said heads of state would listen better to their predecessors.

Akinbade said it was not possible to give a timeline for this process, but it would happen in the “short term”.

Senior leaders such as Mbeki, Obasanjo and Chissano had attended the two-day meeting celebrating the tenth anniversary of the APRM’s founding in Addis Ababa two years ago. This meant the initiators of the review still took it seriously, said Mustapha Mekideche from the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons.

The APRM has been suffering from a lack of funds because not all of the 35 member states that have signed up to it so far, have been paying their $100 000 annual dues.

There are also fears that the initiative might be losing momentum, as it has been two years since the last country review was done.

One of the workshop organisers, Steven Gruzd from the South African Institute of International Affairs, said the APRM “needs momentum, it needs re-injection”. He said many of those who provided the impetus for the establishment of the APRM were not the current heads of state any more.

“We need champions, committed heads of state, who will carry this forward,” he said.

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Open Society Foundations were among the other workshop organisers, which was the first one to bring members of the APRM administration and civil society together.
Read more on:    joaquim chissano  |  olusegun obasanjo  |  thabo mbeki

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