AU chair debate flounders on ICC
BOTSWANA Venson-Moitoi (65) is Botswana’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation. After a three-year stint as a journalist, she joined the public service. She has headed several ministries over the past 15 years.
She described the African Union (AU) initiative, Agenda 2063 – which sets out a long-term development plan for Africa – as a project which would make the continent a “better place for all”. She was the strongest candidate in the last round of elections, held in July, for the next AU Commission boss. However, Botswana’s President Ian Khama, who never attends AU meetings, weakens her candidature and is not taken seriously by the organisation. CHAD Mahamat (56) has served as Chad’s foreign affairs minister since 2008 and claims to be passionate about peace and security on the continent. Last year, he urged world leaders at the UN General Assembly to be more committed in supporting Africa’s fight to eradicate terrorism.
He studied law and was served as prime minister of Chad for two years, from 2003 to 2005. He speaks French, Arabic and English. His country’s perceived relations with a faction in Libya goes against the AU’s efforts at establishing a negotiated settlement and government there.
Defining the role of AU Commission chair as doing whatever it takes to implement decisions, he has expressed his willingness “to sacrifice my life for this continent”. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, for the AU Commission position.
South Africa is officially obliged to support the Southern African Development Community candidate, who is VensonMoitoi. But a South African official with knowledge of the lobbying said President Jacob Zuma might ultimately cast the country’s secret ballot in favour of Jibril – partly out of solidarity with Kenya’s stance on the ICC – or even vote for the Senegalese candidate, Abdoulaye Bathily.
South Africa is, however, uneasy that Senegal might support the readmission of Morocco to the AU, while South EQUATORIAL GUINEA Mokuy (51) has been Equatorial Guinea’s foreign minister since 2012. Described as a Pan Africanist, he champions Africa’s independence. He holds a master’s degree in business administration and claims to have first-hand experience of what Africa’s youth need to prosper.
He worked for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for 20 years and speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Fang. He calls himself “an Afrophone” who believes in free movement, saying the African passport – launched last year – should be held by Africa’s denizens, not just heads of state.
Mokuy’s bid for the post failed in July, and his country’s dismal human rights record counts against him. KENYA Jibril (55) is Kenya’s secretary for foreign affairs. She has held office since 2013. She worked with international bodies such as the UN and the World Trade Organisation, and served as Kenya’s ambassador to the UN.
With 30 years’ experience in public service under her belt, she continues to campaign for Africa’s rights in the UN. Kenya plays a prominent role on the world stage, which strengthens her candidature.
However, it is tempered by the fact that Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, has been deputy chair of the AU Commission for the past eight years. Africa strongly supports Western Sahara’s independence from Moroccan rule.
The first round of voting – at the July summit in Rwanda – failed to produce a new chairperson because too many states abstained, with many saying none of the candidates was qualified enough.
The other two present candidates are Agapito Mba Mokuy, foreign minister of Equatorial Guinea, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, foreign minister of Chad.
Even though the debate has attracted much popular SENEGAL Bathily (69) is a UN special envoy. He has presided over the body’s regional office in Central Africa for the past two years and has helped mediate conflicts in several countries.
He calls himself “a citizen of this continent”, having clocked up 40 years’ experience as a politician, academic and conflict management specialist. He is the oldest of the candidates and is fluent in English and French. He has strong networks across Africa and started campaigning for the post before the last round of voting ended.
However, Senegal has been sympathetic to Morocco’s current bid to rejoin the AU, while most member states support Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco. interest, something the AU was hoping for with its #MjadalaAfrica trending on Twitter, many observers doubted this would have an effect on voting.
According to November’s Peace and Security Council Report, published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), many factors play a role in the secret ballots, including the personal connections and networks of the heads of state, regional solidarity, regional alliances, linguistic and historical links between countries, and the personal stature of the candidates, the ISS said in its report.