By the Editorial Board of Africa Oil+Gas Report
With its negative reaction to the conclusions in the report of the ethics committee of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United States has made a clear symbolic move against the re-election of Akinwumi Adesina as the Bank’s Chief Executive.
Adesina is running for a re-election in which he is his own opponent. Many believe he has done a good job, especially in the energy sector, but being a lone candidate isn’t a surefire guarantee he will return.
The poll was moved by the administrators from May to August 2020.
Elections to the Presidency of the continent’s top development bank is often fraught.
It is instructive that it is in this election year that a group of “worried employees” came up with a list of grievances to the Office of Integrity and the Fight against Corruption (PIAC) as well as the Chairmen of the Ethics Committee and Audit Finance Committee, alleging that Mr. Adesina has violated the code of ethics, citing a number of questionable contracts and dubious appointments on Adesina’s watch. The Ethics Committee investigated the allegations and declared that “the President is totally exonerated of all allegations”.
That clean bill should ordinarily provide the wind behind his sail.
But in a letter sent on May 22 to Kaba Nialé, the Ivorian Minister of Planning and Development and the president of the board of governors of the AfDB, Steven Mnuchin, the American secretary of the Treasury, says that the United States “urges the initiation of a full investigation into these allegations by using the services of an independent external investigator”.
To continue on the job, Adesina must win a double majority of African and non-African shareholders in a maximum of five rounds.
As of February 2020, Adesina had obtained the unanimous support of the Executive Council of the African Union, composed of 55 foreign ministers.
On the strength of his personal charisma, he was coasting to victory.
But there has to be other ways to stop him, the Trump administration, in its tendency for bringing down talented Africans at the helm of supranational institutions, thinks.
The whistleblowers who reported him to the ethics committee, had been suspected, all along, to have been instigated by the United States. As they were laying down the accusations, they were charging the ethics committee of an inability to be neutral.
And you could read, from Mr. Mnuchin’s letter, that these allegations are the US’ ammunition to stop Adesina from getting a re-election.
“Given the scope, gravity and detail of the allegations against the sole candidate for leadership of the bank for the next five years, we believe that further investigation is necessary to ensure that it has broad support, trust and a clear shareholder mandate,” Mnuchin writes.