Egypt chaired the African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) in October for a month-long period that rotates among the PSC’s elected members. Its chairmanship ended with the unanimous approval of the Cairo Roadmap, an Egyptian document outlining ways to reinforce UN peacekeeping on the continent, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry at the end of last month.
In preparation for Egypt’s chairmanship, Cairo undertook extensive consultations with all the involved stakeholders, including the African Union Peace and Security Commission, in order to consolidate a program of work (PoW) that is truly reflective of the African peace and security priorities, and in alignment with Egypt's national peace and security priorities on the continent, Osama Abdel-Khalek, Egypt’s permanent representative to the AU and its ambassador to Ethiopia told Al-Ahram Weekly. The PoW was then submitted to the Council where “it was unanimously endorsed and supported,” he added.
Abdel-Khalek said the chairmanship of the PSC was a new stage in Egypt’s leading role on the continent. The country had been quick to deal with the challenges facing peace and security on the African continent and had focused on reaching tangible outcomes that could be appropriately measured, he added.
The Cairo Roadmap is the outcome of a high-level regional conference held in Cairo in late 2018 and ratified during a meeting of African defence ministers held in the same city in December 2019, Abdel-Khalek said.
Ranking seventh among countries contributing to UN peacekeeping forces in Africa, Egypt had presented in the Roadmap recommendations to protect the interests of African countries contributing most to these forces.
The recommendations were made by various African states and put together by Egypt as chair of the PSC in October in response to an initiative led by UN Secretary-General António Guterres called “shaping peace together”.
The PSC unanimously passed another resolution at the end of October condemning the transfer of foreign terrorist fighters into Africa. The resolution was taken in a session held to discuss the dangerous repercussions of such fighters, Abdel-Khalek said.
“It came as a clear message to countries involved in recruiting and transferring foreign fighters from conflict areas such as Syria and their deployment in Libya in flagrant violation of international as well as African peace and security,” he said last week.
He added that PSC members had unanimously agreed that this phenomenon contributed to the increase in the number of armed conflicts in Africa.
The PSC regards combating terrorism and extremism, including the issue of foreign fighters, as a top priority and recommends that countries build national institutions capable of dealing with these issues effectively.
During Egypt’s chairmanship, the PSC discussed the possibility of establishing an African force to combat terrorism, an issue that had also been discussed during Egypt’s chairmanship of the AU in 2019.
Egypt also co-chaired the PSC’s annual joint consultative meeting with the European Union Political and Security Committee (EU PSC) as part of the AU-EU dialogue and partnership in maintaining peace and security on the continent.
During that meeting, issues like the situations in the Sahel region and in Mali, Sudan, and Somalia were discussed, along with the importance of coordination in achieving stability and security in Africa.
“Egypt’s chairmanship saw the end of the sanctions on Mali and its restoration to full AU membership. The return of peace and security in Mali is likely to boost efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel region,” Abdel-Khalek said.
Given the importance of Sudan’s stability to Egypt and Africa as a whole, the PSC was keen to support the peace agreement concluded there early last month.
"Egypt was able to emphasise the importance of the Juba peace agreement signed on 3 October, as well as the need to extend support to Sudan during its current transitional phase, especially in regard to the lifting of sanctions and on economic recovery. This included calling on the international community to honor their announced pledges to support Sudan facing the humanitarian and economic challenges," Abdel-Khalek told the Weekly.
Giving women a more active and wider role in preserving peace and security on the continent has always been an important issue for the PSC.
Early last month, it held an open meeting called Women in Peace and Security commemorating the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that aimed to ensure that women and girls were systematically and sustainably included in the peace and security agenda at all levels.
The meeting also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action, the fourth World Conference on Women, held in China in 1995. It worked to reinforce the role that women can play in boosting peace and security on the continent and the need to stop all forms of violence against women.
Founded in 2004, the PSC is responsible for enforcing AU decisions and is patterned after the UN Security Council. Its chairmanship rotates among its 15 members, all of which have equal voting powers. All members of the PSC are elected by the AU Executive Council, with five members elected for three-year terms and 10 for two-year terms.
Egypt was elected to membership of the PSC in February this year for a two-year term.
It last chaired the PSC in January 2018 and September 2016.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly