Pri­ori­tise con­flict res­o­lu­tion

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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THE CUS­TO­DIAN of the AU is a crit­i­cal post but the cam­paign for the next chair has been un­der­re­ported if not ig­nored, the vote for which takes place in 10 days. This is in con­trast to 2012 which saw a vo­cif­er­ous cam­paign when South Africa went all out to lobby for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The AU failed to agree on her re­place­ment at the last sum­mit in Ki­gali, Rwanda, and another vote with three ad­di­tional can­di­dates will take place on Jan­uary 30 and 31. South Africa has backed the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity’s (SADC) choice of can­di­date – Botswana’s For­eign Min­is­ter since 2014 Pelonomi Ven­son-Moitoi. The pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion has likely been that it re­mains SADC’s turn to have one of its rep­re­sen­ta­tives fill the po­si­tion of chair given that it has only held the po­si­tion once since 1963, com­pared to east Africa which held it twice, cen­tral Africa which held it three times, and west Africa which held it seven times.

Ven­son-Moitoi has not proved to be a dy­namic can­di­date, how­ever. She has min­i­mal online pres­ence and is not well known on the con­ti­nent. She is also con­sid­ered to have lim­ited in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. Ven­son-Moitoi’s cam­paign last time around was not con­vinc­ing, and she failed to get two-thirds of the votes in the AU to se­cure a win. Thirty African states had ab­stained from the 7th round of vot­ing as they were un­happy with the list of can­di­dates.

While Ven­son-Moitoi will prob­a­bly pri­ori­tise ed­u­ca­tion, women’s em­pow­er­ment and di­a­logue, she has no real ex­pe­ri­ence in con­flict pre­ven­tion or res­o­lu­tion, or com­bat­ing the scourge of ter­ror­ism. She would not be an ad­vo­cate of with­draw­ing from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) – an is­sue Botswana is at odds with South Africa about. It seems un­likely that she will se­cure the po­si­tion of chair­per­son.

One of the keys to suc­cess is strong and ac­tive regional back­ing, and in the case of west Africa, the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States has said Ab­doulaye Bathily of Sene­gal is its can­di­date. Bathily is a for­mer min­is­ter and for­mer spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral for cen­tral Africa. The ac­tive lob­by­ing of Ghana and Nige­ria for Sene­gal would be im­por­tant. A com­pli­cat­ing fac­tor is that if Sene­gal were to win, it could scup­per Ghana and Nige­ria’s bid to win deputy chair of the AU and com­mis­sioner for

With dissension be­ing among the AU’s great­est chal­lenges, its new chair must be a veteran at find­ing a so­lu­tion to such is­sues

peace and se­cu­rity.

What also makes Bathily a con­tentious choice de­spite his ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the con­ti­nent, is the fact that he seems more in tune with the views of West­ern coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly France, and would sup­port Morocco’s join­ing the AU. This is a po­si­tion not shared by many on the con­ti­nent given their sol­i­dar­ity with the Sahrawis for lib­er­a­tion from Morocco’s oc­cu­pa­tion. South Africa, Nige­ria, and Ethiopia have been vo­cal about sup­port­ing the Sahrawi cause. This will make it dif­fi­cult for him to se­cure the chair­per­son­ship. Bathily is also against the AU’s with­drawal from the ICC.

Pos­si­bly the least favoured can­di­date is Equa­to­rial Guinea’s For­eign Min­is­ter Agapito Mba Mokuy. Dur­ing vot­ing in Ki­gali he re­ceived the low­est score, pos­si­bly ow­ing to his low vis­i­bil­ity and pres­tige and lim­ited in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. The govern­ment has en­sured he has a well-funded cam­paign, but this is un­likely to suc­ceed in en­sur­ing his suc­cess.

Kenya has launched a strong cam­paign to sup­port the can­di­dacy of its for­eign min­is­ter, Amina Mo­hamed, who is a Kenyan So­mali lawyer who chaired the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion on Mi­gra­tion. She has been en­dorsed as Com­mon Mar­ket for Eastern and South­ern Africa’s can­di­date, and she is fer­vently backed by Rwanda. Mo­hamed will drive the cam­paign to get the AU to pull out of the ICC, which is not a po­si­tion that all African states agree with.

Mo­hamed’s weak­est link is the fact that a pe­ti­tion against her was filed in Kenya’s na­tional assem­bly last month, al­leg­ing massive fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety, de­mand­ing a probe. One of the al­le­ga­tions against her is that since 2013 her Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs hired pri­vate jets at ex­ag­ger­ated prices from 748 Air Ser­vices – a firm owned by her brother Rashid Jib­ril.

It is also al­leged that se­ri­ous cor­rup­tion and un­con­trolled ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture marred the two in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences she presided over – the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion in De­cem­ber 2015, and UN Con­fer­ence on Trade and Devel­op­ment in June 2014. She has also been ac­cused of tak­ing So­ma­lia’s side in its mar­itime row with Kenya dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions. So­ma­lia was claim­ing nearly half of Kenya’s mar­itime wa­ters.

It may seem risky to mem­bers of the AU to elect a can­di­date who will start hav­ing to de­fend her­self against ma­jor cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions, de­spite the fact that the govern­ment is push­ing her can­di­dacy hard across the con­ti­nent, with Kenyan min­is­ters punt­ing her.

That leaves the fifth and fi­nal can­di­date – Chad’s For­eign Min­is­ter Moussa Faki Ma­hamat. He has served as prime min­is­ter, and as for­eign min­is­ter for the past nine years. Ma­hamat’s great­est as­set is his wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence on con­ti­nen­tal mat­ters, par­tic­u­larly in con­flict res­o­lu­tion and the bat­tle against ter­ror­ism. Given the chal­lenges the con­ti­nent faces, it may be just this type of can­di­date Africa sorely needs.

Chad re­solved its po­lit­i­cal un­rest after con­flict be­tween armed groups in the coun­try, and did so without out­side in­ter­fer­ence. Ma­hamat has played a ma­jor role in fight­ing ter­ror­ism in Mali, Nige­ria and the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, and speaks English, Ara­bic and French.

He was in­stru­men­tal in the es­tab­lish­ment of a mul­ti­lat­eral force to com­bat Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin. When Chad presided over the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in De­cem­ber 2015, Ma­hamat fo­cused on the threats to in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity as be­ing ter­ror­ism and cross-bor­der crime.

He was a ne­go­tia­tor of the Doha peace agree­ment in Dar­fur since 2009, and was also part of the the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Author­ity on Devel­op­ment Plus group which worked to­wards the re­turn of peace to South Su­dan. He par­tic­i­pated in ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, and was part of peace talks in Mali.

With con­flict con­tin­u­ing to present one of the great­est chal­lenges to the AU, it would be pru­dent for AU mem­bers to elect a can­di­date who is a veteran at con­flict res­o­lu­tion. Ma­hamat has the right pro­file and has pri­ori­tised the need to make the AU self-re­liant. This is crit­i­cal if Africa is to truly start re­al­is­ing African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems.

UN­CON­VINC­ING: Botswana’s For­eign Min­is­ter Pelonomi Ven­son-Moitoi isn’t a par­tic­u­larly dy­namic can­di­date for the po­si­tion of AU chair­per­son, says the writer.

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