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Who Will Replace Dlamini-Zuma At the African Union? 0

As the African Union gathers for its 27th summit in Kigali in July, the agenda is likely to be dominated by the race to elect a new chair of the African Union Commission. Yet much of the anticipation is around whether the election will be held and any of the candidates will receive the required vote to win.

After four years at the helm of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s time in Addis Ababa has come to an end. Dlamini-Zuma chose not to seek a second term, which means AU member states have to choose her replacement.

According to AU rules, candidatures should be deposited with the AU Legal Counsel three months before the elections. When the list of candidates was finally circulated to AU member states, it carried three candidates for the position of AU Commission chair: Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of Botswana, Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda and Agapito Mba Mokuy.

Why the job matters

Does the identity of the next chairperson matter? In a recent article for African Arguments, Babatunde Fagbayibo argued that it doesn’t. This view, however, is simplistic, and comes from a position of ignorance.

It ignores both the substantive authority vested in the chairperson, and discounts how the standing and dynamism of the person shapes not only the agenda but also the course of the decision of AU policy bodies including the AU Assembly, the highest decision-making body made up of the heads of state and government of AU member states.

Would any informed observer say that the identity of the next secretary-general of the United Nations, another intergovernmental body, doesn’t matter?

The AU Commission chair is more than just a secretary of the policy bodies of the AU. Apart from following up on the implementation of decisions of the AU, as spelt out in the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council, for example, the chairperson is vested with the power of taking steps “to prevent potential conflicts, resolve actual conflicts and promote peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction”.

I could not thus agree more with Abdul Mohammed’s well-reasoned view that the choice for the next African Union chairperson is too critical to get wrong. As he rightly pointed out, the chairperson of the AU Commission is responsible not only for shaping the continental economic and trade, political and security agenda. The chairperson is also key in mobilising common African positions on matters of global governance and represents and champions Africa’s voice on the global stage. The implementation of Agenda 2063, Dlamini-Zuma’s signature legacy and Africa’s political and socio-economic development blueprint, will now be the key responsibility of the next chairperson as well.

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By Solomon A. Dersso

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