AU chair elections quandary as doubts rise over pedigree

Thursday July 14 2016
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Dr Dlamini Zuma, AU Chairperson in Kigali. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Planned elections for a new African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson may not happen as scheduled this week, after influential members called for postponement until “high calibre” applicants are got.

According to the official agenda, elections of AU leadership including replacement of the current Commissioners are supposed to take place at the ongoing 27th Summit in Kigali.

Dr Mehari Taddele Maru a member of the AU High Level Advisory Group, said in a statement on Wednesday that a sharp decline in the pedigree and profiles of the various candidates, particularly the chairperson, is a crucial concern that should lead to a postponement of the election.

“The first step for this reform would be to postpone the Commission elections to January 2017, and re-open the nomination process again with necessary reform in the national level nomination process,” he said.

However, well-placed sources at the summit, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The East African that so far, none of the candidates who applied for the highest post, have the pedigree to replace outgoing AUC chair, South African politician, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

It may be postponed to the summit in January next year in Addis Ababa, as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which comprises of 15 states has insisted on the postponement. The ECOWAS stand makes it difficult for any of the candidates to reach one third of the votes needed.


Opinion also remains divided within Southern Africa Development Community with 15 member states as it has not officially endorsed any of the candidates as a bloc.

“Most delegates believe that all the candidates who applied for the AUC chair do not make the profile of who should head the union, despite the fact that submission for candidature closed earlier in March,” a source said.

Eastern Africa bloc

Candidates already known include Uganda’s former vice president, Dr Specioza Kazibwe.

Although she received backing from the president of Nigeria’s senate, Dr Abubaker Bukola Saraki, sources revealed that the western African bloc, ECOWAS, sent in an official request to have the elections postponed.

The other candidate is Dr Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi, Botswana’s current Foreign Affairs Minister, who two months ago spoke about her confidence of winning the coveted seat.

No open lobbying for votes is ongoing at the summit; but some members from the eastern Africa bloc believe that if the elections are indeed postponed, their chance to head AU will be blown out.

“Postponement of the elections does not serve in the interest of EAC since we already have a strong candidate in Dr Kazibwe,” a source at the summit said.

Other than the AUC chairperson, other open positions include the deputy chairperson, as well as four commissioners.

“The leadership experience and professional profiles of some of the current candidates are somewhat less impressive.”