The 22 July quiet and unceremonious granting of Israel an observer nation status within the commission for Africa Union (AU) by its chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat is in violation of the organisation’s charter and founding principles.
South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria have joined Libya, Tunisia, Namibia and many others in rejecting the move by the commission chairman accusing Faki of not consulting with AU members state particularly as Israel’s previous request for observer status had been rejected three times in recent past.
In diplomatic terms, observer status means that a country can attend meetings but not vote on any issue. However, such status gives legitimacy for an observer state to reach out to member countries to lobby them on issues.
Israel did have such status before it was revoked after the AU was established in Libya, in 1999 and ratified in South Africa in 2002 to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Faki justify his decision to include Israel in AU in a statement saying that Israel already enjoys diplomatic relations with two thirds of AU members. The statement reiterated the AU’s pro-Palestinian position through the two state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as the only peaceful resolution to the conflict.
However, that has not satisfied many AU member states which reject Faki’s “unilateral” decision and accuse him of going against the principles, spirit and letter of the AU Charter.
South Africa, which is particularly sensitive to the colonial nature of apartheid Israel and its violations of Palestinian rights and its occupation of Palestine, has issued a statement through its department of international relations confirming that it is “appalled” by the move in a year in which the “oppressed People of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements” by Israel.