Why Africa’s powerful fight to replace Dlamini-Zuma
AU Chair, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
As Africa Union Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma prepares to leave office next year after expiry of her four-year term in Addis Ababa, regional powerhouses are intensely lobbying for their preferred candidates to occupy the continent’s top diplomatic post.
The campaign by eastern, western and southern Africa blocks – bedrocks of Sub-Sahara, have been vivid at the past AU Summits coupled with public endorsements by individual heads of state – a vivid indication of the crucial role the post holds.
During its July Summit in Kigali, AU leaders extended Dlamini-Zuma’s by six months to give potential candidates for the position time to canvass for votes after she opted to step down.
At the event voting for Dlamini-Zuma’s successor failed to produce a two-thirds majority for any of the three candidates that were up for nomination forcing AU to postpone voting to January next year in Addis Ababa.
Despite the incumbent being from southern Africa, the region under the umbrella body of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) – an influential body is busy campaigning for Botswana’s Education Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi.
It’s believed that insiders may not be comfortable with the aspirant given that her boss President Seretse Ian Khama rarely attends AU meetings and is in conflict with member states given his position to remain in ICC against majority will.
It was expected that SADC would throw their weight behind another region’s candidate to enable smooth regional rotational basis of the coveted post.
West Africa is yet to choose between Agapito Mba Mokuy – the current Foreign Minister of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and Abdoulaye Bathily, a former Senegalese minister and diplomat. It’s believed that the image of Equatorial Guinea as a repressive state could disadvantage Mokuy’s candidacy.
It’s reported that while meeting Nigeria’s President Buhari during the Abuja summit on security in May 2016, Senegal’s President Macky Sall personally appealed to his counterpart to support Senegalese choice to front a formidable ECOWAS candidate.
Meanwhile, Kenya has recently capitalized on the elimination of former Ugandan Vice President Specioza Wandira Kazibwe asked to step aside on past corruption charges. President Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed his Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed last week to host East Africa Community flag. Mohamed is formerly Under-Secretary at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).
In a statement recently released to the press, State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said President Uhuru Kenyatta has been lobbying his colleagues in the continent before and after making Amina’s nomination public.
“President Kenyatta has reached out to a number of his colleagues, including President Zuma, before and after the candidature of CS Mohamed was made public,” said Esipisu.
But why is the position so important to them?
According to Solomon Dersso, a legal scholar and analyst of peace and security and African affairs, the substantive authority vested in the chairperson, and discounts how the standing and dynamism of the person shapes not only the agenda but also the course of the decision of AU policy bodies including the AU Assembly, the highest decision-making body made up of the heads of state and government of AU member states.
“The AU Commission chair is more than just a secretary of the policy bodies of the AU. Apart from following up on the implementation of 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,” he said.
As he rightly pointed out, the chairperson of the AU Commission is responsible not only for shaping the continental economic and trade, (but) political and security agenda. The chairperson is also key in mobilising common African positions on matters of global governance and represents and champions Africa’s voice on the global stage. The implementation of Agenda 2063, Dlamini-Zuma’s signature legacy and Africa’s political and socio-economic development blueprint, will now be the key responsibility of the next chairperson as well.
Abdul Mohammed is the chair of InterAfrica Group agrees, saying that this woman or man will lead the AU Commission and guide the continent for the next four years, or possibly even eight, “They will be in charge of realising Africa’s Agenda 2063 and implementing all current programmes, including overseeing the African peace and security architecture, the African governance architecture, and ensuring the AU is adequately financed. It’s a hugely important post and Africans should care who fills it.”
Dersso said: “Today more than at any previous time, what the continent needs is a AU led by the very best. In this age of globalisation, the AU needs a leader who aggressively pursues the negotiation of African partnerships and international engagements by African states as a bloc.
“Promoting the structural transformation of African economies and fast-tracking regional economic integration is the only path for a prosperous economic future. Ours is also an age of transnational and regional security challenges, calling for effective continental cohesion and leadership.”
Today, he said, Africa is faced with a plethora of challenges. Many countries, including the so-called regional anchors, are lurching from one crisis to another. Almost all are consumed by internal pressures and crises as well as major political and economic troubles, many of them self-inflicted. A common thread running through all of them is the lack of visionary leadership with pan-African conviction.