The winner of the post of the African Union Commission chairperson will be decided on the floor of the AU assembly on January 30 after lobbying across the continent over the past six months failed to produce a frontrunner.
Diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa told The EastAfrican that the outcome will depend on how the presidents of the five countries that have presented candidates — Kenya, Chad, Senegal, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea — engage their counterparts at the summit to be held in Addis next week.
The winning candidate must garner two-thirds, or 37 of the 54 members.
Lobbying and horse-trading among the five states has been complicated by the new development that Guinean President Alpha Condé is the likely to be next chair of the African Union, taking over from Chad’s Idriss Deby.
Guinea’s Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy and his Chadian counterpart Moussa Faki Mahamat are in the race for the AUC chair.
This also complicates the candidature of Senegal’s Prof Abdoulaye Bathily, and Nigeria’s designs for the post of chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council.
The common practice is that the key posts of the AU chairperson, AUC chairperson and the deputy, and that of the Peace and Security Council cannot come from the same region.
Also facing similar complications is Kenya’s candidate, Amina Mohammed who, according to sources from the Foreign Ministry, has secured 20 assured votes from the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, plus individual countries from four other regional blocs.
But Djibouti’s support for Ms Mohamed remains shaky, given that the country is also contesting two posts — that of deputy chair of the AUC and political affairs commissioner. A win for Ms Mohamed would lock out Djibouti from the deputy’s post.
Djibouti Foreign Affairs Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, while on a visit to Nairobi on Thursday, said it was time for the East African region to clinch the AUC top position. But Djibouti will require Kenya to lobby for it to get the post of Political Affairs Commissioner should Ms Mohamed win.
Kenya may also not bank on Burundi, which normally allies itself with the Francophone countries.
Ms Mohamed is also banking on votes from the Sahrawi Arab Republic, Gabon and Egypt, besides extracting individual promises from Togo, whose President Faure Gnassingbé declared support for her during his visit to Kenya last year.
The other candidate for the AUC chair is Botswana’s Foreign Minister Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
Chad’s Mr Mahamat is emerging as a strong candidate, with President Deby using his position as the AU chair to lobby other leaders. He is also getting support from France, which always takes interests in the AU elections, given that Paris has substantial interests in the Francophone economies.
Mr Mokuy is eyeing the support of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has crisscrossed the continent drumming up support for his man.
Dr Venson-Moitoi of Botswana enjoys the full support of the Southern African Development Community — which, like the Economic Community of West African States, has 15 votes.
Dr Venson-Moitoi is banking on South Africa to use its weight to shift support to her. Kenya has also been wooing South Africa behind the scenes.
Senegalese President Macky Sall is known for his lobbying ability, having convinced 28 members to boycott the voting at the Kigali summit in July 2016, on the grounds that none of them had the pedigree to lead the continental body.