Faki Mahamat (l) and P. Kagame (r) (Courtesy photo)

A promised investigation into gender discrimination at the African Union appears to be idling on the back burner, according to the South African Mail&Guardian.

Some 37 women employees at the African Union Commission (AUC) have complained of “ill-treatment and humiliation,” investigators at the South African paper found.

The women, who work at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, appealed to Moussa Faki Mahamat, the new AUC chair, and Rwanda President Paul Kagame, the AU chair, in a signed letter obtained by the paper.

“We, female employees of the AU Commission, are totally appalled by the entrenchment of professional apartheid against female employees in the commission… Morale across the commission, especially among us female employees, is at its lowest and will continue to fall for lack of remedy in sight.”

“Our contracts are being terminated in a manner that cannot be explained while women are not considered for available senior posts. There are also those who have served in the commission for years but are not promoted or considered for senior postings,” they said.

The memo claims this problem is most pronounced in the peace and security department.

A second letter, signed by five senior officials from the department’s administration and human resources wing, a month later, describes a “poisonous” situation in the department, which is “too male-heavy in the upper layers.”

Mr. Faki Mahamat responded: “I have ordered an investigation to get to the heart of these allegations. Gender parity is at the heart of this Administration. This is my personal conviction and professional duty to all staff.”

The complaints come at a time when the AU itself is being criticized for turning a blind eye to African leaders whose quest for power caused violence and economic slowdown.

“The AU always defends African leaders when their stay in power is being questioned but is not quick to react to challenges met by ordinary Africans such as the asylum seekers stuck in the treacherous desert, leaving their homes in Nigeria, Niger or Eritrea, said Kenyan writer and activist Nanjala Nyabola.

“The AU is a bureaucratic body that has no immediate answers for the widespread support for third-termism by African leaders today,” said Dr. Confort Ero of the International Crisis Group. “The body is missing in action in the matters of its member countries (and should) champion the aspirations of ordinary Africans.”