The Panel of the Wise: Its Role in Preventing Violent Conflicts in Africa.

Author:Ngandu, Kapinga Yvette

    The insufficient participation of women in formal conflict prevention and at the peace table is an important area of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) that remains poorly implemented. The significant contribution and strong role of women in local mediation and conflict prevention initiatives continue to be largely unrecognized and weakly supported. Thus, since 2010, the African Union (AU) Panel of the Wise--already with a mandate to draw the public's attention to largely overlooked issues--has considered ways to strengthen the participation of women and youth at the peace table and raise awareness of the impact of war and sexual violence against women and children, through a document entitled "Mitigating Vulnerabilities of Women and Children in Armed Conflicts". The report advocates for at least four key actions to be taken by the African Union Commission: a) the establishment of the Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security; b) the launch of the AU five-year Gender Peace and Security Programme (GPSP) 2015-2020; c) the implementation of an Open Session of the Council on Women, Peace and Security; and d) the launch of the African Network of Women in Conflict Prevention and Peace Mediation (FemWise).

    The above recommendations were endorsed by member States through a decision of the AU Assembly in July 2017, which formalized the establishment of FemWise-Africa as a subsidiary body of the Panel. FemWise-Africa is called upon to focus on strengthening the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts in the context of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) by providing a platform for strategic advocacy, capacity-building and networking aimed at enhancing the implementation of the commitments for women's inclusion in peacemaking in Africa. It will ensure that peace processes in Africa are shaped with the contribution of women's leadership and participation. FemWise-Africa has already launched its operations by providing technical and mediation supports to four ongoing peace processes in Africa, and was mandated in July 2017 by the Chairperson of the AU Commission to undertake efforts to fully operationalize its steering committee.


    At the twenty-ninth ordinary session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 3 and 4 July 2017, leaders endorsed the proposals made by the Chairperson to appoint five new members of the Panel of the Wise. As the AU is preparing to inaugurate its fourth Panel of the Wise in October 2017, it is an opportune time to recall its remarkable decade-long journey as a key conflict prevention and resolution instrument, contributing by the sheer will and determination of its members to strengthening the Union's ability to better address the scourge of violence on our continent.

    In keeping with the practice and modalities of operation developed by the members of the first Panel of the Wise appointed in 2007, it is anticipated that the incoming members will continue to strengthen this key pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture through preventive diplomacy and mediation activities, agenda-setting and raising of critical peace and security issues affecting the African continent. It is also expected that they will support the Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the Chairperson of the Commission. The new members of the Panel of the Wise are: Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe from Uganda (for the Eastern Africa Region), Mr. Amr Moussa from Egypt (for the Northern Africa Region), Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from Liberia (for the Western Africa Region), Mrs. Honorine Nzet Biteghe from Gabon (for the Central Africa Region) and Mr. Hifikepunye Pohamba from Namibia (for the Southern Africa Region).

    The Union's expectations for the Panel of such a calibre are, understandably, very high. Each new member has demonstrated unwavering commitment to Africa and to the African Union's quest for peace, stability and development for all peoples of the continent. Their individual and collective experience and knowledge will undoubtedly strengthen the AU efforts in the prevention, management and resolution of violent conflicts. In anticipation of the upcoming inaugural ceremony of this fourth Panel of the Wise a cursory glance at the functioning, actions and operations of this critical pillar of the APSA is appropriate.


    The original mention of the need for a continental Council of Elders can be traced back to the 1991 "Towards a Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Co-operation in Africa (CSSDCA)", adopted by the Organization of African Unity's Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the summit in Kampala, Uganda. It made a specific call for the establishment of an "Africa's Elders Council for Peace" which would become today's Panel of the Wise. The Panel was created through Article 11 of the "Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union", primarily to support the efforts of the Council and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, particularly in conflict prevention. In creating the Panel of the Wise, the African Union recognized the importance of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and their continued relevance in preventing and mediating...

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