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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 7th November 2019

Multilateralists fight back

Blue Lines

Multilateralism might get another lease of life if some of Africa's top bureaucrats have their way. One of the few advantages of Africa's balkanisation into 54 states is the voting power that this gives the continent in such organisations as the UN General Assembly and the World Trade Organisation. It also gives Africa heft – as the region with the largest number of member states – in outfits such as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the Commonwealth. 

African states have had a strong influence in both organisations.

Later this month, OIF Secretary-General Louise Mushikiwabo, former Foreign Minister of Rwanda, and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, former Attorney General in the United Kingdom, are to join forces on a mission to promote dialogue and rapprochement in the worsening crisis in Cameroon. Approved by President Paul Biya, the mission will meet with opposition figures and, for now, has modest aims of bridge-building between the anglophones and francophones.

The linguistic bases of the OIF and Commonwealth may allow them a role in resolving the crisis that has been closed to others. Despite the deepening conflict, President Biya has so far insulated his regime from any serious pressure from multilateral organisations such as the African Union and the United Nations. With a low-key approach, and the widest possible base of collaborators, this new initiative might break the log-jam. The alternative is a quickening pace of national breakdown.