Lobbying for the position of the African Union Commission chairperson, which fell vacant at the end of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s term, has intensified, with three leading contenders: Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Agapito Mba Mokuy, Botswana’s Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and former Ugandan vice-president Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.
Even so, Senegal is reportedly lobbying for a postponement as it is proposing a late candidate of its own in response to concerns that the candidate from West Africa — Agapito Mba Mokuy — could be a hard sell to the rest of the world due to the poor human-rights record of President Theodore Obiang Nguema.
Senegal is now proposing the former deputy special representative of the secretary-general to the United Nations Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali Prof Abdoulaye Bathily, while there is growing talk that former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete could throw his hat in the ring, even though he did not apply by the April deadline.
Observers say that the choice will be crucial at a time the continent is redefining its economic and political relations with the rest of the world, plus the challenge of implementing Dr Zuma’s Agenda 2063 socio-economic development blueprint to mark the continental body’s centenary.
According to Solomon Dersso, a commissioner with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the chairperson should not only be a person capable of shaping the continental economic, trade, political and security agenda, but also one who can mobilise common African positions on matters of global governance and champion the continent’s voice on the global stage.
Mr Mokuy is the best-funded among the three candidates, with unlimited financial support from President Nguema. Mr Mokuy has been visiting various African capitals campaigning for the post –he has already sought audience with the Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
Dr Venson-Moitoi, who is the candidate for Southern African Development Community, is also likely to face resistance because of Botswana’s support for the International Criminal Court against the wishes of other African leaders, who are resisting the trial of sitting presidents at The Hague.
And to add on to Dr Venson-Moitoi’s hurdles, on June 20, the AU Peace and Security Council resolved that the UN peacekeeping missions should not assist in the enforcement of ICC arrest warrants because it would undermine the ability of African member states to contribute troops to peacekeeping operations.
This year’s election is mainly a contest between West Africa–which has been seeking to regain the post for the first time since 2008 when Alpha Oumar Konaré left–and Southern Africa, which is lobbying to retain the seat on the grounds that Dr Dlamini-Zuma opted to quit without seeking a second four-year term for which she is eligible.
Though Dr Dlamini-Zuma is leaving voluntarily despite having the second four-year term, diplomats in Addis Ababa say that she had no choice because her performance was wanting.
First, after winning a highly contested election that spanned two summits and three rounds of voting, Dr Dlamini-Zuma continued with the rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria–that supported the then incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon.
Then her tenure saw the withdrawal of major donors from the European Union (EU) and Nordic countries. One of the issues was that the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has not been transparent with the donors.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma also presided when the AU proved to the world its inability to intervene in various conflicts in Africa that included South Sudan. Failure by the AU to send peacekeepers to Burundi despite a resolution by the Peace and Security Council, opened up the leadership of the continental body for scrutiny.
South Africa and Nigeria maintained suspicious relations throughout Dr Zuma’s tenure because the former (in 2012) broke AU’s unwritten agreement that the “Big Five”–the major contributors–are not supposed to provide the commission leadership because of conflict of interest. The Big Five are Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Algeria. Libya used to belong here.
Dr Kazibwe, despite receiving endorsement from President Yoweri Museveni, is yet to receive the same from other members of the East African Community. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was in Botswana recently, where Gaborone agreed to ease conditions of work permits for skilled Kenyans among other deals. It is not clear if they agreed on support for Dr Venson-Moitoi.
Yacin Elmi Bouh of Djibouti, Ibrahim Ali Hussein of Somalia, Thomas Kwesi Quartey of Ghana, and Emmanuel Djomatchoua of Cameroon have offered themselves for the deputy chairperson’s position.
Countries will also be bidding for the eight commissioners of the AU Commission.
When it comes to political power plays at the AU, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) takes precedence over the EAC because Tanzania votes with SADC, while Burundi and Rwanda are historically allied to the politics of Central Africa.
Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (Botswana)
The Botswana foreign minister has held high profile ministries including trade, transport, communications, and public administration and defence.
She is the candidate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which is arguing that Dr Dlamini-Zuma left even when she could still run for another term, — SADC has the right to be given the chance to complete the term.
Born in 1951, Dr Venson-Moitoi, who did her Masters in Science Administration at the University of Michigan, started her career as a journalist for a private publication in 1970 until 1973 when she joined the public service, where she served for 20 years between 1973 and 1993 and went up to the level of Permanent Secretary .
A veteran member of the Botswana Democratic Party, Dr Venson – Moitoi, 65, began her political career in 1999 when she was elected as Specially Elected Member of Parliament. She has been a minister since 2001.
Diplomats in Addis Ababa say he stands the strongest chance of winning the election if he can rally the 16-member Ecowas countries and other allies from Central Africa. West Africa and East Africa are both eyeing the seat on rotational basis after it moved from Central to Southern Africa.
Born in 1965, Mr Mokuy went to the US on a scholarship and graduated in 1991 in economics with a specialisation in agricultural economics at Louisiana State University.
After a brief stint in the private sector, Mokuy joined the Unesco in Paris in 1993 till 2010, when he returned to Equatorial Guinea to take up the position of chief adviser to the president. In 2012, he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation.
He speaks English, French, and Spanish. He has published several books on economics.
Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe (Uganda)The former vice-president of Uganda, has already been endorsed by President Yoweri Museveni but is yet to receive the same from the rest of the East African Community.
She has served in various ministries, among them agriculture, gender and community development.
Dr Kazibwe is synonymous with women rights in Africa. Working with the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, she founded the African Women Committee on Peace and Development to help enable women’s participation in peace and development processes on the continent.
In 1998, the Food and Agriculture Organisation awarded her the “Ceres Medal” for her “contribution to food security and poverty eradication”.
She has chaired several national interest groups, including the Senior Women’s Advisory Group on the Environment, Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd, Uganda Women Doctors Association and Agri-Energy Roundtable Uganda.
Party leader Raila Odinga has jetted back to the country after leading African Union Observers in the just concluded Lesotho Elections.
He has been received by CORD Principal Kalonzo Musyoka, ODM Chairman John Mbadi together with Hundreds of his supporters who made their way to JKIA.
In the entourage was John Silas Ouko Jakakimba of the vanguard wing of ODM who accompanied the party leader to Lesotho for the observer mission.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga at JKIA with Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, Chairman John Mbadi, John Silas Ouko Jakakimba among other supporters.
Party leader Raila Odinga wearing matching hats with John Silas Ouko Jakakimba in Lesotho before jetting back in the country.