ARTICLE 19 welcomes the recent election of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta as the chairperson of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), and his promise to revitalize the mechanism. This is critical as poor governance continues to undermine poverty-eradication and development in most countries in Africa.
“Chronic poor governance continues to plague many African states-not least to members of the APRM. The peer review process has potential to be a unique and effective process to promote good governance as it aims to scrutinize governance by different actors including parliament, the judiciary as well as the private sector,” Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected chairman of the African Peer Review (APR) Forum, succeeding Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 13th June 2015, and takes over the leadership at a time when the mechanism’s ability to fulfill its watchdog mandate is in question.
Over the years, the mechanism has lost much of its appeal as an innovative tool for transforming governance on the continent, and its diminishing credibility and clout can be attributed to three key factors: receding political will among member states, lack of financial resources, and limited public participation among non-state actors.
The 12 year peer review mechanism is deemed to be stalling: only 17 of the 35 acceded states have so far completed their first review cycle. Some of the first states to accede to the mechanism have not undergone their initial reviews, mainly due to lack of political will and lack of resources the support the assessment.
Furthermore, the last country review mission took place in 2012 and the last country review report to be discussed was in January 2013. However, it is noted that four states-Chad, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire- have acceded since then. In addition, most of the 17 countries reviewed have not submitted their annual progress reports on the status of implementation of the recommendations received during the assessment. So far not one of the pioneer countries like Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Mauritius have undergone their second reviews.
But all is not lost. APRM retains a distinct and recognizable identity and has not lost its promise. It has spurred legal and policy reforms in some member states and promoted south-South cooperation. Its reports have been comprehensive and have been able to foreground critical issues such as ethnic tensions and electoral deficits in Kenya, delicate political concessions in Mozambique, and xenophobia in South Africa. It continues to have the capacity to ignite public debate on governance affairs at national levels.
With the necessary structural and institutional change effected within the APRM, the transformative idea behind mutual accountability between African states can still bear fruit and have the envisaged impact of improved governance.
This has however been unattainable given the limited participation of Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) and other citizens. In particular, lack of awareness and ownership of the process has led to criticism that the mechanism is elitist and state-centric.
The APRM also handles sensitive political issues and African leaders and governments have therefore shown reluctance to challenge the sovereignty principle and censure each other. This has affected states’ acquiescence to its assessments and the implementation of its recommendations. It has also had an effect on its funding and sustainability capacities as it draws most of its resources from the member states.
The (APRM) was founded in 2003 as a voluntary peer review mechanism acceded to by the member states of the African Union. In doing so, Africa became the only region in the world where states voluntarily agreed to peer reviewed. To date, 35 countries in Africa have signed up for peer review and are assessed on four key areas including socio-economic governance, corporate governance, democracy and political governance and economic governance and management.
ARTICLE 19 recommends that President Kenyatta during his leadership of the review:
a) Immediately address the seemingly stalling APRM process by restoring firm political leadership and ensure that most of the participating countries show commitment at the highest political levels by attending subsequent APR Forum sessions;
b) Implore all member states that have not initiated the first Country Self-Assessment Reports to start the process;
c) Require all National Governing Councils to develop clear mechanism for public participation and consultations to ensure effective engagement of citizens and civil society in the APRM, as it is only through active participation in monitoring and oversight mechanisms that citizens can ensure the recommendations are implemented to bring about long lasting governance reforms;
d) Encourage all member states to duly pay their annual contributions of US$ 100,000 to the mechanism’s sustainability;
e) Advocate for intra and inter-country progress monitoring mechanisms. This will ensure that state parties develop adequate human, financial and technical resources for evaluations and implementation of the recommendations.