African heads of state and their ministers of foreign affairs are currently meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the 28th African Union Summit, where they are expected to elect the new AU Commission chairperson.
While there are other important activities expected to take place during the summit, which will run from 22 to 31 January, the election of a new commission chief is top of the agenda since the outgoing chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is on borrowed time after AU members extended her term to allow for the selection of a new leader, according to VOA.
Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of the current president of South Africa Jacob Zuma, will be stepping down in a few days after she declined to serve as the commission’s chair for a second four-year term.
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The candidates contending for the prestigious position include Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of Botswana, Moussa FAki Mahamat of Chad, Agiapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Amina Mohamed of Kenya, and Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal.
The new chairperson will be expected to tackle numerous challenges that are currently dogging the African Union including civil wars, terrorism, hunger, unemployment, poverty, migration, and much more.
Tightly Contested Election
Candidates have spent the last couple of months travelling across Africa to marshal support from member states.
In Kenya, the government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, has been running a serious campaign, canvasing for votes for Ambassador Amina Mohamed, who is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs.
President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have been calling in favors to get as many member states as possible to rally behind Mrs. Mohamed.
The election, which will happen on Monday, 30th January, will be done behind closed doors and only the 54 heads of state and government will cast their votes.
As usual, this election has exposed the rift between Anglophone and Francophone countries, with most candidates from East and West Africa appearing to be the top contenders.
Traditionally, the post has been rotating between Anglophone and Francophone states and since the outgoing chairperson is from an English-speaking country, many analysts predict that candidates from Chad and Senegal, which are French-speaking countries, are likely to emerge winners if this principle is to be observed once more.
Many expect it to be a tightly contested election, as was witnessed four years ago when Dlamini-Zuma emerged the winner after several rounds.