Af­ter reach­ing an im­passe in July, the AU votes again for its com­mis­sion chair

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - Mark An­der­son

A new chief in Ad­dis

The African Union’s (AU) ex­ec­u­tive branch is ex­pected to elect a new chair­per­son at its an­nual sum­mit in Ad­dis Ababa on 30-31 Jan­uary. In­cum­bent com­mis­sion chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma will step down to pur­sue her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in South Africa. The bloc is look­ing to move be­yond the im­passe that pre­vented the elec­tion of a new chair­per­son in July. At that time, none

of the three can­di­dates in the run­ning man­aged to se­cure the two-thirds ma­jor­ity needed to win af­ter seven rounds of vot­ing. This time around, there are five can­di­dates in the run­ning. Sene­gal’s can­di­date, Ab­doulaye Bathily – the United Na­tions (UN) sec­re­tary gen­eral’s spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Cen­tral Africa – is the only one who is not a for­eign min­is­ter. The oth­ers are Botswana’s Pelonomi Ven­son-moitoi, Chad’s Moussa Faki Ma­hamat, Equa­to­rial Guinea’s Agapito Mba Mokuy and Kenya’s Amina Mo­hamed. “At the mo­ment [Chad’s] Ma­hamat is the fron­trun­ner,” Elissa Job­son, an ad­viser on African Union re­la­tions at the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, tells The Africa Re­port. “This is largely be­cause it seems it will be dif­fi­cult for [Kenya’s] Mo­hamed to win be­cause the AU’S deputy chair­per­son has been a Kenyan for the past eight years.” Ma­hamat says that de­vel­op­ment and se­cu­rity would be his pri­or­i­ties if elected to of­fice. He told our sis­ter mag­a­zine, Je­une Afrique: “The con­ti­nent is poorly man­aged and un­der-rep­re­sented at the in­ter­na­tional level. We are not even mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. How­ever, we are ev­ery­where un­der an in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist threat with many ram­i­fi­ca­tions that en­dan­ger peace and thus de­vel­op­ment.” Other can­di­dates are fac­ing chal­lenges gain­ing sup­port. “Bathily, the Sene­galese can­di­date, will find it dif­fi­cult to get a two-thirds ma­jor­ity be­cause of Sene­gal’s sup­port for Morocco [to re-join the AU],” Job­son says. Morocco has not been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the con­ti­nen­tal body be­cause the AU recog­nises the sovereignty of West­ern Sa­hara, an area that Morocco claims as its own. Some have bet that Kenya’s can­di­date, Mo­hamed, will win be­cause of her vast ex­pe­ri­ence in in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, start­ing from her role as Kenya’s am­bas­sador to the UN in Geneva. Since then, she has also worked for the UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme, where she was both an as­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral and deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. But mem­ber states are not nec­es­sar­ily con­cerned about the can­di­dates’ track records. Stand­ing up for re­gional and na­tional in­ter­ests at the AU Com­mis­sion is of para­mount im­por­tance. “Th­ese elec­tions are po­lit­i­cal – it’s not nec­es­sar­ily about the best can­di­date,” says Job­son, “al­though I think the can­di­dates that we’ve got this time round seem more cred­i­ble than what we had in July.” It’s not even cer­tain that fron­trun­ner Ma­hamat will be able to get a two-thirds ma­jor­ity,” Job­son says, “al­though he’s the one I’d put money on.”

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