Flood­gates open for AU Com­mis­sion chair post

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/opinion - Fea­ture Love­more Ranga Mataire

THE fail­ure by the three can­di­dates vy­ing for the AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son’s post to garner the re­quired two-thirds ma­jor­ity votes has flung the door open for more can­di­dates to en­ter the race in elec­tions due next year. At the just ended 27th AU Sum­mit in Ki­gali, Rwanda, the three can­di­dates; Botswana’s Dr Pelonomi Ven­sonMoito, Uganda’s Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira-Kaz­ibwe and Equa­to­rial Guinea’s Agapito Mba Mokuy failed to ob­tain the re­quired votes prompt­ing the AU to post­pone the elec­tion to the next sum­mit to be held in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Jan­uary next year.

But why does the top con­ti­nen­tal body’s job mat­ter? Writ­ing for the Daily Mav­er­ick, Solomon A. Dersso, a le­gal scholar and a com­mis­sioner of the African Com­mis­sion on Hu­man and Peo­ple’s Rights, says the AU Com­mis­sion chair po­si­tion bears sub­stan­tive au­thor­ity and the char­ac­ter, knowl­edge and dy­namism of the in­cum­bent strongly shapes not just the agenda but also the course of the de­ci­sion of AU pol­icy bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Gen­eral Assem­bly. The Gen­eral Assem­bly is the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body made up of heads of state and gov­ern­ment of AU mem­ber states.

Dis­count­ing the sub­stan­tive na­ture of the AU Com­mis­sion chair is there­fore the same as ar­gu­ing that the char­ac­ter of United Na­tions Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral is in­con­se­quen­tial to the course of the in­ter­na­tional body.

In his own words, Dersso ad­vances the view that: “The AU Com­mis­sion is more than just a sec­re­tary of the pol­icy bod­ies of AU.

Apart from fol­low­ing up in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the de­ci­sions of the AU, as spelt out in the pro­to­col es­tab­lish­ing the Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, for ex­am­ple, the chair­per­son is vested with the power of tak­ing steps to “pre­vent po­ten­tial con­flicts, re­solve ac­tual con­flicts and pro­mote peace-build­ing and post-con­flict re­con­struc­tion”.

It is there­fore crit­i­cal that the AU en­sures that only the best can­di­date lands the po­si­tion es­pe­cially at this par­tic­u­lar junc­ture where Africa needs strong demo­cratic lead­er­ship to steer the con­ti­nent to prag­matic eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion.

More than just be­ing the driver in shap­ing the con­ti­nen­tal eco­nomic trade, po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity agenda, the com­mis­sion chair­per­son is also re­spon­si­ble for mo­bil­is­ing com­mon African po­si­tions on mat­ters of global gover­nance and cham­pi­ons Africa’s voice in the global scale.

Africa faces a myr­iad of chal­lenges that need only the best minds to dis­sect and find a rem­edy. A vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship with a pan-African conviction is needed in who­ever is aspir­ing for the top post.

The com­mis­sion chair post is such a crit­i­cal po­si­tion that in­volves the mo­bil­i­sa­tion of mem­ber states to pur­sue the con­ti­nen­tal agenda.

The stale­mate that emerged at Ki­gali is not new. It is part of the demo­cratic process that has now be­come a cul­ture within the African Union.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma, who was Sadc’s can­di­date, faced fierce con­test from the then in­cum­bent Dr Jean Ping in 2012. None of the can­di­dates man­aged to garner the twothirds ma­jor­ity and the vote was de­layed un­til the next sum­mit which she even­tu­ally won.

Un­like the Dlamini-Zuma-Jean Ping con­test, this year’s run-up to the elec­tions was not only luke­warm but failed to gen­er­ate much pub­lic and me­dia


Of the three can­di­dates, Botswana’s Dr Ven­son-Moitoi is the old­est at 65 years but prob­a­bly the strong­est of them all.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site of Botswana’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Co-oper­a­tion, which Dr Ven­son-Moitoi heads, the min­is­ter is a former jour­nal­ist and holds a Diploma in Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment from the In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Ser­vice in Con­necti­cut, USA, and also holds a Mas­ter of Science in Ad­min­is­tra­tion from Cen­tral Michi­gan Univer­sity.

She was awarded an hon­orary doc­tor­ate in So­cial De­vel­op­ment based on a re­view of her work and writ­ing on gov­ern­ment and gover­nance.

Be­sides her pub­lic ser­vice, Dr Ven­son-Moitoi also worked as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Kala­hari Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety from 1993 to 1994.

She also headed the In­sti­tute for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (INLOGOV) in Cape Town, South Africa, from 1994 to 1998 and also car­ried out pri­vate Con­sul­tancy work in Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod she did short projects for UNDP in Zimbabwe and Gam­bia as well as GIZ in South Africa. Given her ex­cel­lent pro­fes­sional back­ground, Dr Ven­son-Moitoi se­ri­ously has an edge over her op­po­nents. Dr Ven­son-Moitoi’s mi­nor set­back seems to be no clear re­gional con­sen­sus over her can­di­da­ture. Hope is, how­ever, high that Dr Ven­son-Moitoi who had the high­est votes of 23 will lend the post in the sec­ond round. The hope is hinged on the in­ter­na­tional lever­ag­ing she will get from former Botswana Pres­i­dent Fes­tus Mo­gae who is a re­cip­i­ent of the Moi Ibrahim Foun­da­tion’s $5 mil­lion Lead­er­ship Awards in 2008 for demo­cratic ex­cel­lence. The youngest and most in­ex­pe­ri­enced but well-funded can­di­date is Equa­to­rial Guinea’s Mba Mokuy (51) who de­spite his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in his cam­paign, is old enough to romp him to v i c tor y come Jan­uary next year.

Mba Mokuy is the Equa­to­rial Guinea’s cur­rent For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter, In­ter­na­tional Co-oper­a­tion and Fran­co­phone Af­fairs.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial web page of the Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Equa­to­rial Guinea, Mba Mokuy is said to have vis­ited sev­eral coun­tries on the con­ti­nent ex­plain­ing his mo­ti­va­tion for want­ing to be the AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son.

He is said to have held talks with the pres­i­dents of Guinea (Con­akry), Liberia, Benin and Ghana.

If the is­sue is about ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure, then Uganda’s Dr Wandira Kaz­ibwe Specioza has all the cre­den­tials.

Hav­ing been the first fe­male Vice Pres­i­dent of a coun­try on the con­ti­nent, Dr Specioza boasts of hav­ing been the UN spe­cial en­voy on HIV/AIDS and serves on one of the com­po­nents of the Africa Peace and Se­cu­rity Ar­chi­tec­ture, the AU panel of the wise.

Ac­cord­ing to her web­page, www.specio­sawandira. com, Dr Wandira Kaz­ibwe lists her­self as the East­ern African can­di­date who ad­vances a gen­der di­men­sion to her cam­paign say­ing it was “de­sir­able for women to take top po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship po­si­tions in Africa’s gov­ern­ments”.

She says she has par­tic­i­pated in strate­gic peace in­ter­ven­tions in­clud­ing me­di­a­tion in the Bu­rundi con­flict some­thing that has helped her in­ter­nalise Africa’s se­cu­rity and how to si­lence guns.

Be­fore her ap­point­ment as Vice Pres­i­dent of Uganda, Dr Wandira Kaz­ibwe Specioza had served in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties as a cab­i­net min­is­ter.

A sur­geon with a Har­vard Doc­tor­ate in Global Health and Pop­u­la­tion from the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health, she says she is highly skilled with the ca­pac­ity to “tri­an­gu­late so­cial, eco­nomic and bi­o­log­i­cal data for pol­icy, plan­ning, and re­source mo­bil­i­sa­tion.

She has led a team of plan­ning ex­perts and tech­nocrats to mo­bilise Ugan­dans for the re­quired health sys­tem changes for a health­ier and pro­duc­tive Ugan­dan pop­u­la­tion.”

She is also the founder and sit­ting mem­ber of the Board of the Coali­tion for Di­a­logue on Africa (CODA), an in­de­pen­dent Africa-owned think-tank that iden­ti­fies and dis­cusses is­sues of im­por­tance to Africa’s de­vel­op­ment, within a global con­text.

But de­spite the ex­cel­lent re­sume’ of the three can­di­dates, it seems del­e­gates at the Ki­gali sum­mit were not im­pressed re­sult­ing in none of the can­di­dates be­ing able to garner the re­quired two-thirds ma­jor­ity votes. The dis­cord seems to have been ini­ti­ated by the Sene­galese Pres­i­dent Mackay Sall who in April this year at a Tana High Level Fo­rum on se­cu­rity in Africa held in Bar Dar, Ethiopia, em­pha­sised “the need for the emer­gence of a good can­di­date for the chair­man­ship of the soon-to-be va­cant African Union Com­mis­sion in view of the de­ci­sion of Mrs Dlamini-Zuma not to run for the sec­ond term.” In to­tal de­fi­ance of the April dead­line for the sub­mis­sion of can­di­dates’ names, Sene­gal an­nounced that it was field­ing Pro­fes­sor Ab­doulaye Bathily as the AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son well af­ter the ex­piry date. Prof Bathily is the cur­rent Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral for Cen­tral Africa and Head of UN Of­fice to the re­gion.

Sene­gal’s sen­ti­ments seem to be shared by ECOWAS which be­fore the Ki­gali sum­mit had called for the post­pone­ment of the elec­tions.

Be­sides Prof Bathily, there is strong ex­pec­ta­tion in diplo­matic cir­cles that Al­ge­ria will also present its cur­rent Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs, Ram­tane La­mamra for the top job. La­mamra is a re­spected former AU peace and se­cu­rity chief.

So un­til the next elec­tion in Jan­uary 2017 to be held in Ad­dis Ababa, Ethiopia, it is en­vis­aged there will be height­ened in­ter­est from the pub­lic and the me­dia in scru­ti­n­is­ing the can­di­dates so that the best is elected. The post is too crit­i­cal to hand to a per­son of av­er­age ca­pac­ity — Zim­pa­pers Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vice.

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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