Kigali– African Union leaders extended Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s term as chairperson of the continental body by six months to give potential candidates for the position time to canvass for votes after she opted to step down.
“‘Black smoke billows’ from the 27th AU Summit as no winner emerges,” Jacob Enoh Eben, Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesman, said on his Twitter account, referring to the gathering of African leaders taking place in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Elections have been postponed until the next summit in January, he said.
Former South African Home Affairs Minister Dlamini-Zuma didn’t seek re-election after one term in office at the AU’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Heads of State abstain
Voting for Dlamini-Zuma’s successor failed to produce a two-thirds majority for any of the three candidates that were up for nomination.
The session was suspended and is awaiting the advice of legal counsel. AU spokespeople, however, said this meant the elections would be postponed to the January summit.
It is believed that fifteen heads of states abstained from voting when the first round of votes were cast, and 20 during the second round, which an insider said was a “no vote of confidence” in all the candidates. It is believed that the high number of abstentions is being considered by legal advisers in plotting the way forward.
Uganda first out
Uganda’s former vice-president, Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, was the first to be eliminated, meaning she got the least amount of votes. Should voting continue, the race would be between Botswana foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi – officially supported by South Africa – and the foreign minister of Equatorial Guinea, Agapito Mba Mokuy, who is considered to have the strongest campaign behind him with the most money.
Venson-Moitoi was the most popular candidate in the first round, but with 16 votes it was barely more than the number of abstentions. Mokuy got 12 votes and Kazibwe 11.
Should either of them fail to get a two-thirds majority, the election would be postponed to the January summit and nominations would be reopened.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) expressed concern during the summit that none of the three candidates up for nomination were suitable for the job, and pushed for the elections to be postponed.
No legal precedent
But AU legal counsel and director of legal affairs Vincent Nmehielle said it was against the rules of the body to postpone the elections on such grounds, which meant elections went ahead this morning.
There were questions about Kazibwe’s nomination as she was previously convicted of abusing state funds.
Some also questioned the suitability of Mokuy because Equatorial Guinea is a repressive state, while there were also questions about Venson-Moitoi, given the fact that Botswana’s president Ian Khama hardly ever comes to AU summits and holds views that are contrary to positions of many AU member states – such as withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.
Senegalese politician and diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily, a former Senegalese minister and diplomat, is eyeing the position when a fresh round of elections is held in January.
It is not clear whether Dlamini-Zuma would be required to stay on until January should this process kick in, or whether her deputy, Erastus Mwencha, would be able to act in the position. Nmehielle said there was a process that would kick in to consider this.