An internal inquiry at the African Union Commission (AUC) has confirmed that sexual harassment is prevalent at the continental organisation.
The inquiry came after an anonymous letter was sent to the AUC office early in the year. Chairperson Moussa Faki instituted a High-Level Committee to investigate the claims.
The High-Level Commitee I established in May to investigate allegations of #harassment against women at the AUC, has submitted it’s findings and recommendations. I will meet staff tomorrow to discuss their important findings and the actions I will take. https://t.co/eJloMOPhuS
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— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) November 22, 2018
The Committee not only looked into the sexual harassment allegations but also investigated claims of “of abuse of authority, bribery, bullying, corruption and corrupt practices, fraud, discrimination, intimidation, misconduct, retaliation, victimization. It also addressed issues of impunity, whistle-blowing and due process.”
According to the preliminary report of the committee, many women in the organisation faced some form of harassment and the lack of a policy and reporting mechanism made it hard to find recourse.
According to the report:
Evidence presented suggests that this form of harassment perpetuated by supervisors over female employees in their charge, especially, but not exclusively, during official missions outside the work station. The absence of a sexual exploitation and abuse policy compounds the adverse effects of this vice. The category of staff most vulnerable and exposed to this form of harassment are short-term staff, youth volunteers and interns. It would appear that the vulnerability of this category of staff is exploited on account of their insecurity of tenure. Senior departmental staff, who position themselves as “gate-keepers” and “king-makers”, are well-positioned to make believable promises to young women that they will be offered contracts, are the identified perpetuators of this vice. Interviewees claim that these cases are not reported as this would be counter-productive to the victim, because there is no sexual harassment policy in the Commission, and therefore no dedicated, effective redress and protection mechanism available to victims or whistle-blowers. According to interviewees, the young women are exploited for sex in exchange for jobs.
The committee also found other gaps at the commission including human resource malpractices and irregularities; corruption and fraudulent practices; and governance issues such as abuse of authority and unresponsiveness.
Some of the recommendations by the committee included a human resource policy; guarantee to short-term contract holders to prevent abuse; gender audit to ensure total parity; and the strengthening of oversight and dispute resolution mechanism.
The chairperson is set to constitute a commission to look into the recommendations by the committee.