African Union Commission: Who will be the next chair?

Electing the next new chair for the AU Commission, what type of leader is required to take the continent forward?

The African Union, the 54-member state continental body, is to elect a new leader this week [AP]

The African Union, the 54-member state continental body, will on Monday elect a new commission chairperson to replace outgoing leader Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is not seeking a second term after finishing her four-year-tenure.

Heads of states and dignitaries have been arriving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where the AU is based, to attend the continental summit and to lobby for their preferred candidate for Africa’s top job.

Five candidates are in the running to replace Dlamini-Zuma, a former South African minister and first female AU leader, who is thought to be seeking to replace her former husband, President Jacob Zuma, as South Africa’s fourth democratically elected president since the end of apartheid in 1994.

So who are the candidates seeking to lead the AU over the next four years?

Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s foreign minister

Widely seen as a front-runner for the job, Amina has the backing of almost all Anglophone countries. 

[Rainer Jensen/ AP Photo]
[Rainer Jensen/ AP Photo]

Amina, who was UNEP’s deputy executive director before she took her current post, is well-known as one of the most vocal critics of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since her appointment as Kenya’s top diplomat in 2013, Amina has continually criticised the Hague-based court on how it handles African cases, especially those involving sitting heads of state.

Her anti-ICC stance has won her many supporters. She successfully campaigned to get the ICC to drop its cases against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto.

Amina, 55, also served in the World Trade Organization and is seen by many as the candidate to obtain for Africa better trade agreements with the rest of the world.

Abdoulaye Bathily, Senegalese diplomat and academic

Bathily is seen by many analysts as a strong candidate for the AU chair seat. He served as a UN mediator in the Central African Republic and Burundi. Bathily has strong support from Morocco, which could complicate his bid.

Morocco, the only country in the continent that is not part of the AU, withdrew from the union in 1984 to protest against the admission of disputed Western Sahara territories.

Ghana would also prefer to see someone else other than Bathily as AU chair. Accra is campaigning for its former Deputy Foreign Minister Thomas Kwesi Quartey to get the deputy chair position. Quartey cannot obtain the position if Bathily becomes the chair because AU protocol forbids two candidates from the same region from holding the two most senior posts of the organisation at the same time.

Another headache for Bathily’s bid is that Nigeria – the West African powerhouse and the continent’s biggest economy and most populous country – is seeking the position of Peace and Security Commissioner, which Abuja will not get due to protocol if Bathily gets the AU chair post.

Algeria, Morocco’s foe, would also rather have anyone at the AU’s top table rather than Rabat’s man. But Senegal can still count on the support of many fellow Francophone countries.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chadian foreign minister

Mahamat is another candidate showing a strong possibility of snatching the seat from the favourites, Amina and Bathily. The 56-year-old and father-of-five is not new to the workings of the AU after previously serving as the body’s chair of the AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council.


Before taking up his current post, Mahamat was his country’s prime minister. His boss, Chadian President Idriss Deby, who has ruled the country since coming to power in 1990, is the current chairperson of the AU.

As the AU chair, Deby, who is not on the good books of rights groups for alleged repression of critics, wields great power within the organisation.

The candidacy of two Francophones – Chadian and Senegalese – for the top seats will also not help Faki or Bathily as it could potentially lead to a split in Francophone countries’ votes.

Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a veteran politician from Botswana

A veteran politician from Botswana and a close ally of President Seretse Khama, Venson-Moitoi is also in the running to be the AU’s chairperson, although it is predicted she has only a small chance of winning the seat.

Venson-Moitoi, 65, is the current foreign minister of the diamond-producing southern African country.

The former journalist-turned-politician has served in her country’s cabinet since 2001.

Mba Mokuy, Served as a senior adviser to Equatorial Guinea’s President

Mokuy’s chance of becoming the chairperson is believed to be even slimmer than Venson-Moitoi’s. 

Before landing his current post, Mokuy, 51, served as a senior adviser to President Teodoro Obiang.

Mokuy’s boss, President Obiang, has ruled the former Spanish colony for the past 37 years and is the continent’s longest-ruling leader.

Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa

Source: Al Jazeera