AFRICAN Union (AU) leaders meeting in a summit in Kigali, Rwanda have failed to choose a new African Union Commission chairperson to replace South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
She was due to end her term and to return to South Africa within weeks. But at the AU summit on Monday, none of the three candidates who had been nominated to take her place could muster the necessary votes from the continent’s leaders.
This meant the election had to be postponed until the next summit, in Addis Ababa, in January next year, while new candidates are found.
Meanwhile Dlamini Zuma will stay at her post, sources at the summit said.
The three candidates were Botswana’s foreign affairs minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, representing southern Africa, Equatorial Guinean foreign minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, representing central Africa, and former Ugandan vice president Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe, representing east Africa.
According to an official who witnessed the elections, none of the three nominated candidates could muster the necessary two-thirds majority.
“First the Ugandan candidate was eliminated, then Botswana did not get enough votes and lastly Equatorial Guinea faced a massive 30 abstentions necessitating a suspension of the vote,” she said.
“Now everything is thrown open to new candidatures.”
Well before the summit, South African officials were saying that none of the three official candidates were considered good enough and so a search had already begun for new ones to run in an election next January.
Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete was to be approached to run, but it is not clear if he was in the end approached and whether he agreed.
Abdoulaye Bathily, a former Senegalese minister and diplomat, has also thrown his hat into the ring, according to News24.
SA officials also mentioned Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra as a possible candidate. He had been expected to run against Dlamini-Zuma at the Kigali summit if she decided to go for a second term, which she eventually did not.
It is not quite clear why Lamamra did not put his name forward, although his candidature did face potential technical problems.
One was that he has already served two terms as AU peace and security commissioner and the AU’s two-term limits might have barred him from standing for a third term as chairperson.
The other reason speculated on for him standing back was that no country may have more than one commissioner at one time and Lamamra’s compatriot Smail Chergui had been nominated for a second term as peace and security commissioner.
But SA officials had said that if the elections for the AU chair were postponed until next January, Lamamra might be persuaded to contest.
It is not clear how staying on until January will impact on Dlamini-Zuma’s political plans at home. It was widely speculated that she declined to run for a second term at the AU as she wanted to contest the ANC presidency next year.
This would still be theoretically possible if she only returned to South Africa in January though it might reduce her campaigning time.
Botswana is reported to be unhappy that South Africa did not put enough effort into campaigning for Venson-Moitoi, the official candidate of the
Southern African Development Community (Sadc) of which SA is a member.
But SA officials said her chances were always poor because her president Ian Khama is disdainful of the AU and rarely attends its summits, and because he takes foreign policy positions contrary to the AU’s, including open support for the International Criminal Court. – ANA