The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the African Peer Review Mecha (APRM), Professor Eddy Maloka, is delivering a clear message during United Nations Africa Week here this week that “We’re back in force and we’re here to stay”.

Maloka, who was appointed to lead the APRM in January after years of the mechanism’s decline, says its proper integration as a specialised agency of the African Union (AU) is now complete as the focus shifts to reviewing African nations which have joined the APRM as members.

In am interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on the side-lines of discussions at the UN, Maloka argued to retain the voluntary nature of APRM membership and for the mechanism to be at the centre of all efforts to strengthen good governance on the continent.

He is at the UN to make the case that the APRM is not only back, but must be recognized as the central node through which to channel international efforts to improve governance in Africa.

“Because of our history and the circumstances, especially with the structural adjustment, people in some countries still see governance as an external imposition and the APRM mechanism is intended as an antidote to that,” he notes.

“It’s a self-assessment, a self-led, self-owned process. So, the country itself reviews itself, sets benchmarks for itself, sets targets and then you work with that country. It’s a much better way to move the governance agenda on the continent than coming as external players, as countries see that as interference, they see that as conditionality and in some cases, they even see that as a regime change agenda.”

Thirty five African countries have joined the mechanism and while universal access is a goal, Maloka insists that its voluntary nature should not be downplayed. “When you voluntarily accede, you sign instruments of accession; you commit yourself that saying, ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to open my country to peer teams to come and review me’.

“So, it should be universal, but it should not be automatic. There must still be the voluntary element to it so that we can then have the right as the APRM to go into countries, to have certain expectations. That eliminates the argument around sovereignty.”

He believes countries which join the mechanism will be sending a clear message of intent. He believes that by remaining outside of the review mechanism, broadly, a process that invites states to review another’s progress or lack thereof, countries deny themselves the opportunity to hear from friendly peers who don’t have external agendas.

Maloka says the APRM has already reviewed Chad and Senegal in 2016. Kenya will be reviewed for the second time in coming weeks and Namibia hopes to deposit it’s accession materials by January 2017.