By Allan Olingo*
Rwanda is supporting Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed – but it remains to be seen which way Tanzania and Uganda will lean.
Ms Mohamed was proposed for the job by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who cited her credentials in diplomacy and exemplary performance in her current docket.
She has been Kenya’s ambassador/permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, and served as the assistant secretary general and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi.
Ms Mohamed, who will be standing against candidates from the other regional blocs, stands a better chance of election if she gets support from all EAC member states.
Elections to replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is stepping down after one term to prepare for a stab at the South African presidency, will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January.
On Friday, a committee to vet candidates met in Addis Ababa.
Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican that her country would support Ms Mohamed, ruling out speculation that they would front the former president of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka or former EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera.
“She is the best woman for the job, and she is very much Rwanda’s candidate. She is highly qualified, has incredible diplomatic and managerial experience, and the right heart and mind when it comes to the strategic interests of our continent, as well as Africa’s active presence on the global scene,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
Uganda’s International Relations State Ministry Permanent Secretary James Mugume said the country was yet to decide on whom to support, but would back the candidate the region agreed on between Kenya’s Ms Mohamed and Somalia’s Fowyiso Yusuf Haji Adan.
The nomination process for the chairperson was opened afresh after the AU Heads of State Summit in Kigali in July failed to elect a successor to South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been at the helm since 2012. At the Kigali summit, none of the three contenders for the position – Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, her counterpart from Equatorial Guinea Agapito Mba Mokuy and former vice president of Uganda Specioza Wandira Kazibwe – obtained the required two-thirds majority after seven rounds of voting.
Ms Mohamed is expected to battle it out with Mr Mokuy, Somalia’s Ms Adan and the July elections lead candidate Ms Moitoi. Uganda withdrew its nomination of former vice president Specioza Kazibwe after she did not make it among the top candidates.
The SADC trade bloc, has, however, maintained that it will forward Ms Moitoi’s name because Ms Zuma did not serve her second term. Mr Mokuy had portrayed himself as the Economic Community Of West African States (Ecowas) candidate, yet it was Senegal that instigated the 28 states to boycott the elections due to lack of “high calibre” candidates.
Mr Mokuy had sought the support of Nigeria, the West African economic powerhouse, and Kenya, with a special appeal from President Theodore Obiang Nguema.
Another likely candidate is Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily, who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby, who currently holds the AU rotational leadership, is also believed to have put forth the name of his Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who served as prime minister between 2003 and 2005, and who would present a second candidate for the Central African bloc.
South Africa is said to have great influence on the SADC countries. This week, South African President Jacob Zuma will be in Nairobi for a three-day state visit, and it is expected that President Kenyatta will use the opportunity to drum up support for Ms Mohamed.
In the July elections, South Africa supported Ms Moitoi. Then South Africa’s international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the region would campaign with Botswana, and that South Africa was fully behind the SADC initiative. They have not come up with an alternative candidate.
Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal, which led the Ecowas campaign to postpone the election, have also been pushing for a candidate.
In May, Senegal’s President Macky Sall raised concerns about the candidates with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Senegalese diplomat and politician Abdoulaye Bathily who is currently the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Central Africa was presented as a candidate at the Kigali meeting, but was turned down because the nominations had closed.
In Mr Bathily, in particular, Ms Mohammed is likely to face a veteran of African politics with working experience in West and Central Africa, one whose participation in the Pan African Movement and socialist movements left him with contacts across the continent, including liberation movements in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa.Additional reporting by Daniel Kalinaki and Edmund Kagire.