South Africa and the election of AUC Chair: Setting the record straight

Despite her withdrawal from the race, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Extra-Ordinary Inter State Politics and Diplomacy Committee (ISPDC) recently said Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma remains the region’s candidate for the Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission election.
The meeting, which took place on February 11, 2012, declared that Angola, which is the chair of SADC, would represent the region in the African Heads of State ad-hoc committee that would review the electoral process of the Commission, when it meets in March, in Benin.
Mr. Georges Chikoti, Foreign Affairs Minister of Angola said in a communiqué after the meeting that as a region, Southern Africa has not had the opportunity to chair the AUC.


“All SADC members will campaign on the basis of solid arguments for the nomination of Dlamini-Zuma. SADC was not well organized before the election in January and had started its campaign too late.
“With the postponement of the election, SADC will work hard to ensure the success of Dlamini-Zuma,” Chikoti said.
Contrary to Chikoti’s claim that SADC has not had the opportunity to Chair the AUC, it is on record that Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, a Tanzanian, who coincidently was the longest-serving Secretary General of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) which transformed to the AU some 10 years ago, is from SADC.
Salim, the 8th Secretary General and a national of a SADC Member State, served the OAU for three consecutive terms, from September 1989 to September 2001.
The postponement of the elections last January is a serious setback to Africa, which has been struggling to develop and move forward like other continents.
While SADC had 12 years as the Chair of the AUC, why would the same SADC try to impose a single term on the incumbent Chairperson? SADC should bear in mind that the new rule of single term for elected AU Commission officials, as proposed by South Africa, would apply to all sub-regions including the SADC.
If all sub-regions are to be treated equally, the Central African Region which nominated Dr. Jean Ping, a Gabonese, should also be given an opportunity for a second term as provided by AU rules. 
It is a fact that the only sub-region yet to Chair the pan-African organization since its founding some 50 years ago is North African – a country from the sub-region, Tunisia, gave the original name “Afrikia” to our continent.
The election of the AUC Chairperson, which is used to be based on consensus and by geographical rotation, is now trying to divide the continent into two opposing camps.
Although South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, tried to base his argument for Mrs. Zuma’s candidacy on the anglophone/Francophone divide, it is clear that many countries supporting the idea of a second term for Dr. Ping, a Francophone, are Anglophone.
The Anglophone countries that support Chairperson Ping’s bid for a second term include big players, such as: Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and the AUC host country Ethiopia.
Their support is not based on personal considerations, but is a matter of principle and fairness towards the incumbent Chairperson, who has done a lot for the organization, including overseeing the just completed US200 million dollars AU Headquarters, built and donated by the Chinese Government during Ping’s first term in office.
Also, Ping’s support is seen as a gesture to his home country, Gabon and his region, Central Africa, which should be treated equally, just as other regions of the continent.
It should also be noted that all other regional and international organisations, including the UN, have normally offer their Chief Executives the opportunity for a second term, to enable them consolidate the achievements of their first term.
This also applies to many Heads of State across the world.
The system of rotation between the sub-regions after two terms was based on established rules which would ensure equal representation and balanced distribution of power amongst the five sub-regions of Africa.
South Africa, which is a member of five emerging countries of the world also known as BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has by the nomination of Dlamini-Zuma violated the gentleman’s agreement by the Union’s leaders that the big five African countries should not contest for the Chair of the Commission.
The big five, as they are called, which are the five main financiers of the Commission, include Nigeria, South Africa, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.
The agreement was to ensure that smaller countries which were usually dominate at the RECs level, were not dominated at the centre, as such they would be given leadership roles and sense of belonging.   
The ability of the ad-hoc committee, which is comprised of the representatives of the five regions of the continent, plus Presidents Zuma and Alli Bongo of Gabon and Mr. Boni Yayi, the current Chairperson of the AU, to address issues associated with the electoral process would raise the hopes of many Africans who believe that the AUC electoral deadlock has put the Commission into a comma.
The failure of the committee to do what is right at the right time, will send a bad signal and prevent Africa’s development efforts, especially considering the theme of the January 2012 Summit – “Enhancing Intra-African Trade’’.
If no concrete solution is proposed by the committee, Ping, his Deputy Mr. Erastus Mwencha of Kenya and the eight AU Commissioners may end up getting another six-month extension during the Malawi Summit in June. This would mean that the continental organisation would remain paralysed for a long time.

Ojo is a political analyst based in Nairobi Kenya

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