OUTGOING Chadian foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat will, in April, take over from Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the New African Union Commission chairperson, after beating four other candidates to the position yesterday.
Mahamat was elected chairperson after seven rounds of voting to garner 28 votes with Kenyan foreign affairs minister Amina Mohamed coming second with 26 votes.
Other candidates for the position included Botswana’s foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Equatorial Guinea’s foreign minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, who were both eliminated in the first round of voting, as well as Senegal’s Bathily Abdoulaye, who came in third.
Mahamat, 56, has served in public service for some 26 years and in various high profile positions in the Chadian government, including as prime minister between 2003 and 2005.
He was fronted by Chadian president Idriss Deby for the position last year after the postponement of the elections for the AU commission held in July in Kigali.
Ghanaian former deputy minister for foreign affairs Thomas Kwesi Quartey was elected as the deputy chairperson of the Commission, taking over from Kenya’s Erastus Mwencha.
Nigeria’s Fatima Mohammed was elected as commissioner for peace and security, replacing Smail Chergui.
The outgoing chairperson, Dlamini-Zuma, served only one term despite being eligible to run for a second term.
The AU Commission chairperson heads an organ involved in the day to day management of the Union, defending its interests and elaborating position of the Union on various matters.
Other than the chairperson, the commission is made up of a deputy chairperson, eight commissioners overseeing various sectors as well as staff members.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s stewardship of the Commission saw some milestones but the Union was also largely seen as failing to progress in other aspects.
Among the progress she will be remembered for is Agenda 2063, an AU blueprint for socio-economic progress that aims at eradicating poverty, and achieving sustainable development all the while achieving integration.
Also during her tenure, the African Union launched the continental passport, which is expected to eradicate visas and facilitate free movement of citizens.
It was also during her tenure that reforms process to make the Union more effective and efficient in addressing concerns of African citizens commenced.
However, Dlamini-Zuma failed to address some of the continent’s long pressing challenges such as timely and impactful deployment of peacekeepers to intervene in conflict situations.
Although the AU’s self-financing mechanism was adopted during her tenure, Dlamini-Zuma’s reign will, like her predecessors, be remembered for continued dependence on donor funding to finance AU activities and operations.
UN at AU summit
The AU Heads of State Summit was also attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said he looks forward to strengthening cooperation with Africa in multiple aspects such as promoting peace and security as well as working with the various regional economic communities.
Among the aspects he said he would work on improving is peacekeeping operations such as readiness and mandate.
“Africa provides the majority of UN peacekeepers. I take note of your concerns about the challenges faced by several peacekeeping missions in countries where there is effectively no peace to keep and also African countries and sub-regional organisations to be ready for peace enforcing operations, provided that they have the appropriate mandate from the Security Council and resources necessary to implement the operations,” Guterres said.
At a time refugees and immigrants are facing a plethora of challenges to resettle, he said, African countries have a lesson to teach some developed countries on keeping borders open for the needy.
“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees. African borders remain open for those in need of protection, when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Summit has readmitted Morocco to the Union after 33-year ‘self-exile’. Morocco left AU predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, in 1984 after the latter recognised the independence of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
Morocco submitted its bid to rejoin in 2016, reportedly in the hope that being inside the AU would bring it diplomatic gains against Western Sahara’s independence movement, Polisario Front.