AU elects Chad as new Chairperson, while the outgoing calls out Donald Trump and reminds him about America’s history with African slaves. As we welcome her successor, we ask, will he keep up with Dlamini Zuma’s gender agenda?
Although not officially confirmed at time of writing, the jubilation by Chadian delegates in the lobby of the African Union headquarters , gave it all away. it is Chad’s Foreign Ministers: Moussa Faki Mahamat who will succeed Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who despite that it was not an agenda item at the AU Summit, her opneing shot was to call out Donald Trump, as Africa grapples with the new dispensation coming out of the “land of the free”.
Touching on a number of issue both domestic and international, she began by decrying Trump’s America as it relates to Africa both now and historically:
“The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade, has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries…What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity,” she said before moving on to address other issues close to home including honouring African heroes, such as the late African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo at the centenary of his birth this year, and the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro: “ for the role played in the global struggle against colonialism and imperialism”
“Our greatest tribute to Fidel Castro, is to continue our friendship and solidarity with the Cuban people, for the full lifting of the economic embargo and the return of Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban people,” she added.
After a week of parallel pre-summit events, the highly anticipated and charged 28thAfrican Union Summit today officially elected its new AUC chairperson to succeed Dlamini Zuma, who bows out amid mixed views on what legacy she leaves behind.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma, did not seek a second term after her 4-years ended in July last year. But she held on to the post for another 6 months after the Kigali Summit failed to elected her successor when none of the candidates managed to win the mandated two-thirds majority vote, throwing it all open to new candidates.
“The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade, has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries…What do we do about this?
Many reasons and speculations still abound as to why the vote fell through, with the most rife being that the candidates were considered not qualified enough for the job – a view AU officials vehemently denied. The issue of bias by sub-region blocs – for and against candidates – was another slant that did the rounds in Kigali.
This view has refused to go away even at this summit. And it did not stop two of the Kigali candidates, Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign affairs Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy and his counterpart from Botswana Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, resubmitted their candidature for the election taking place today between 3 and 6pm Addis Ababa time.
Joining in this enforced duel, are Foreign Ministers: Moussa Faki Mahamat ( Chad), Amina Mohamed ( Kenya) and Abdoulaye Bathily a former UN special envoy to Central African Republic and Senegalese Environment Minister.
Amidst all the din at the AU HQ which has over 1000 delegates and officials cramming its glinting corridors, many were not sure who would image a clear winner in this race. But consensus is that it is was a tight one and may filter down to Chad, Kenya, Senegal in that order as the final three. “These may be the top three”, says one delegate explaining further: “It is tight, but my money would be on Chad. Many of us are still wondering why after Kigali, Botswana could be in the race again. When last did we see President Ian Khama at the AU? He has not supported some of crucial decisions the AU has taken, such as its stance on the ICC. She will be the first one out. However, although their candidate seemingly weak and polled poorly in Kigali, Equatorial Guinea is one of the strongest supporters of the AU, even financially, so he may be the underdog who surprises us all.”
However, a repeat of Kigali is one thing many want avoided. “there has got to be a winner, Chad, Senegal and Kenya are very strong candidates. The AU needs a key team that is in it for the long haul, not temporary staff,”
The day will also see the election of 8 new African Union commissioners, of which there are no less than 50 candidates vying for the 4-year, two term posts.
The position of African Union Commission Chairperson is one of Africa’s most prestigious and sought-after posts, but comes with a immense responsibility and challenges too.
Paradoxically, Africa is a continent on the rise, but still largely beset by a myriad of problematic issues that still hold its rise back.
Youth unemployment being one of the major ones on a continent where between 60-75 per cent of the population is reported to be under the age of 30. And 60 per cent of the unemployed in Africa are the youth.
Ostensibly and amid a glaring lack of any youth attending the summit, the AU’s rather loaded theme for this year is: “Harnessing The Demographic Dividend Through Investing In the Youth.” The first responsibility the new chairperson will take on and see it yield fruit during his or her tenure.
In her opening speech this morning Dlamini Zuma was passionate about the theme: “The continent has 200 million young men and women ages 15 to 24 years. By 2025, a quarter of the world’s youth under 25 will be African. As the rest of the world ages, Africa will remain a young continent. This is the comparative advantage we have, which must be translated into a demographic dividend.” She added:
“To harness this resource, we must provide all African boys, girls and young people with opportunities to be in school, complete secondary education, have access to vocational training and universities, and to expand their knowledge of science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Within this, we must pay special attention to creating opportunities for girls and young women, so that we use the full potential of all our resources.”
Imperative as the theme may be, it is likely to be overshadowed not only by the election result of the new AUC leader other key issues among them:
Where is the money?
The perennial issue of who and how the African Union can and should finance itself. The Head of State, many of whom arrived in the “state-of-emergency” enveloped Ethiopian capital this weekend, will discuss and review the Financing The African Union report which was adopted at the Kigali summit;
The Continental Free Trade Area and elimination of non trade barriers ;
Morocco the Prodigal State
The request by Morocco to re-join the African Union. Morocco left AU’s predecessor the Organisation of African Unity ( OAU) in 1984, when the pan-African lead body then, recognised the independence of Western Sahara – the still disputed territory between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The AU is openly and strongly in favour of SADR’s total sovereignty. In her opening speech today, she made no reference to the issue, but on the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the SADR last February Dr Dlamini Zuma declared with vim: Africa will not be free, until the last of its colonies, Western Sahara, is liberated, free and independent.”
How the AU resolves this Morocan/SADR stalemate is therefore keenly being observed.
Libya, South Sudan et al – again
The prolonged Libyan crisis has not ebbed, 6 years after the killing of Muammar Gaddafi. A few days before the AU summit, a mini one was organized in Congo Brazzaville to once again look into the ever-escalating situation, in a country that was once at peace with itself. Presidents of Chad – Idriss Deby, Niger – Mahamadou Issoufou, South Africa – Jacob Zuma and Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz of Mauritania, and the host nation’s Denis Sassou Nguesso met with leaders of Libya’s Presidential Council headed by Faiez Serraj.
A statement is expected at the end of the Addis summit.
Conflicts in South Sudan, and other simmering hotsposts on the continent as well as reviewing lessons learnt from the Gambian elections impasse and lessons learnt on how it was peacefully resolved,
The Dlamini-Zuma term begat the much-heralded Agenda 2063, a 50-year blueprint that seeks a “peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa,” by the year 2063. This is broadly considered one the main legacies of Dlamini-Zuma, besides the issue of gender-sensitizing the African Union in the last 4 years – in which she dedicated two annual themes to issues affecting women and gender rights and empowerment.
It will be the onus of the new AU Chairperson, to push this further.