Uganda will tomorrow be rallying behind Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohamed, the candidate for eastern Africa for the hotly contested African Union Commission chairperson job.
The AU is seeking to replace South Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma who, at least for now, is seeking to succeed her former husband Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president.
The commission is responsible for running and delivery of the AU agenda aimed at advancing greater continental integration for a more prosperous Africa.
All member states that make up the top leadership at the AU Commission have reached their first or second term limits or resigned, hence the need to appoint a new team. As per the AU Commission Constitution, the terms are for four years, renewable once.
Uganda’s team lead by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa and Permanent Secretary James Mugoya pitched camp in Addis Ababa early in the week for the preliminary meetings including campaigning for Dr Warren Namara who Uganda fronted for the post of commissioner for Social Affairs, one the eight administrative positions available besides the chairperson and deputy which are all up for competition.
Diplomatic sources described the campaigns for both Ms Amina and Dr Namara, as “intense”, more hysterical for the former after the experience in Kigali, Rwanda at the 27th Summit where Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe whose bid government had supported with Shs1b was knocked out in the first round of voting and rendered “a non-starter.”
Uganda eventually withdrew her candidature to allow the region stand a chance of snapping up the job by fronting a more “favoured and well-regarded” person in a new candidate.
Ms Amina, 55, has been a public servant for 29 years, rising to an assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, chairperson of the International Organisation for Migration and the World Trade Organisation’s general council and Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN Mission in Geneva, Switzerland.
Other candidates in the race include Senegal’s Abdoulaye Batily, the choice of the 14-member Ecowas bloc, Chad’s Mousssa Faki Mahamat and Equatorial Guinea’s Agapito Mba Mokuy for Central Africa, and Botswana’s Pelomi Venson-Moitoi for Southern African Development Community.
The race, sources say, is likely to be tighter unlike the last time when Dr Kazibwe and Equatorial Guinea’s Mokuy were panned as non-appealing right from the start but still Botswana’s Foreign Affairs minister Ms Venson-Moitoi failed to secure an outright win.
A winner, according to the rules, should garner at least two-thirds of the votes by the 53 members, excluding Morocco, which is expected to make a return to the African Union after a 36-year ‘self-exile” from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in protest over the body’s support for the Polisario Front and its recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as an independent state.
AU was formed in 2002 and has 54 member states. It succeeded the OAU set up in May 1963 by 32 African states that had achieved independence at the time.
At the last summit, voting was suspended at the fourth round after Botswana’s Venson-Moitoi polled 23 votes, which, although the highest, still fell below the 35-vote threshold to bag the job but remains a key competitor in tomorrow’s race alongside Ms Amina, and Ecowas’ Bathily, an accomplished diplomat – currently serving as UN secretary-general’s special representative for war-ravaged Central African Republic.
Those vying for the position of deputy AU chair include Djibouti’s Yacin Elemi Bouchi for eastern Africa, Ghana’s Kwesi Quartey for Ecowas and Libya’s Abdul-Hakim El Waer for northern Africa.
Other issues on agenda
According to the draft programme, the heads of the state, will launch the theme “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth” as one of the ways to propel the continent’s mostly young population to realise development.
Youth constitute 70 per cent of Africa’s population and remain a critical part of the continent’s most precious resources but untapped.
Reforming the AU commission
The summit will also receive and deliberate a report by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on reforming the AU Commission which was commissioned last July.
The idea to reform the AU follows a decision made during the 12th AU summit held in Addis Ababa in 2009 where it was agreed to set up a committee to look into the modalities of turning the AU secretariat into an authority.
The restructuring also seeks “to make the organisation cost effective and impactful in addressing citizenry concerns”.
The resolution was mooted as a conciliation step towards creating a continent-wide government. The suggested authority would have a wider mandate than the existing commission.
Free trade zone
Also on agenda is the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area, which would constitute the largest free-trade area in the world of more than a billion people and a combined GDP of more than $3.4 trillion, by 2017.
The trade agreement was launched in Egypt in June 2015, establishing a single market for 26 African countries.
It will only come into force once ratification is attained by at least two thirds of member states.
The leaders are also expected to consider the motion on Moroco’s readmission to the membership of the continental body, bringing the total number of countries to 55.
Other reports to be adopted include, the report of the peace and security council on its activities and the state of peace and security in Africa presented by Sierra Leonean president Ernest Bai Koroma, African Peer Review Mechanism by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, coordinator of the committee of African Heads of State and government on Climate Change will also present his findings.
At least 37 heads of state attended the last summit in Kigali including Gambia’s Yahayah Jammeh who was forced out last week.
It is unlikely that this will be discussed although the political emergencies in DR Congo and South Sudan are likely to be mentioned in passing.
Absent: The proceedings will be without one of Africa’s strong men who was kicked out last week after threatening to hold onto power since December when he was defeated by Adama Burrow. Burrow was sworn in a Gambian embassy in Senegal.
Election of chair: The summit will seek to elect a new AU Commission chairperson to replace South Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma who, at least for now, is seeking to succeed her former husband Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president.
Reforming the AU commission:
The summit will deliberate a report by Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame on reforming the AU Commission which was commissioned last July.
Free trade zone:
The establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area will also be discussed.
Heads of stated are expected to consider the motion on Moroco’s readmission to the membership of the continental body, bringing the total number of countries to 55.
©Alleastafrica and Daily Monitor