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Why I want to Lead Africa – Amina Mohamed
January 14, 2017 | 1 Comments

By Maureen Chigbo *

AMBASSADOR Amina Mohammed, foreign affairs minister of Kenya, is passionate about Africa.  The passion is what is driving her to vie for the position of the chairperson of the African Union Commission, AUC this January.  She is, however, leaving no stone unturned to ensure she succeeds. She has been travelling from one African country to another in search of support, and she is succeeding.  Realnews has reliably gathered that some countries including Nigeria are already supporting her candidature.

Mohamed is vying for the post because of her conviction that Africa is destined to realise its full potential as envisioned by her forefathers’ foresight reflected in the African Proverb; “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far – go together”. “This burning desire to forge an even deeper integration of this great continent is clear in our peoples’ resolve to succeed together, and to create a better future for our children and future generations,” Mohamed said.

Perhaps, this explains the basis for her vision for the AUC anchored on Africa’s blueprint for development: Agenda 2063–The Africa We Want – a destiny of greatness. She views Agenda 2063 as a grand vision whose achievement will be the sum of many acts of courage, vitality and persistence by every African citizen.

Mohamed is of the view that the path for the continent’s sustainable development and prosperity is no longer an aspiration but an unfolding reality. “The ground has shifted on many fronts and Africa today epitomises hope and opportunity. An increasing number of the fastest growing economies are domiciled in Africa. The continent is steadily inching into the global limelight as a strategic partner in global economic growth and development.

“These are exceptional times for Africa. We have, in recent years, witnessed the tenacity, drive, grit and determination of Africa’s youth. Our youth are taking full advantage of advances in information technology and the digital age to curve out innovative and transposable solutions to lift communities out of vulnerability and extreme want. Africa’s growing population is the youngest in the world, it is better educated than previous generations and it will define the future of our continent.”

She believes the progress of Africa has to be secured through an all-inclusive approach that encompasses consultation, cooperation, coordination for the successful implementation of Agenda 2063. “It is also important that we concretise and adopt mechanisms to ensure that available resources are utilised to generate optimum results. Every African citizen deserves a life of dignity free from harm in order to promote social justice and the realisation of their potential. I am optimistic that together we can continue to create a continent that not only embodies our pride and dignity, but is also a hub for peace and stability.”

Mohamed’s conviction is informed by the significant reduction in armed conflicts and internal strife, the improved peace and stability, and the commendable progress in democratic governance. Furthermore, history has repeatedly proved that partial and secluded prosperity does not insulate citizens from the burdens of crises, war and conflict. “For this reason, our common accord will guarantee sustainable peace and stability in all Member States,” she said.

“My vision is that of a Commission that will utilise and build on the current momentum to secure Africa’s rightful place in the community of nations. In order to fulfill this objective, I envision a continent united in both values and outlook, and whose transformation is decisive and inclusive.

“I stand for a Commission that will work for the full realisation of the objective of a ‘people-centred’ African Union that is internationally respected; financially independent; economically prosperous; closely integrated and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of the vast majority in the continent of Africa. I pledge to do my part and serve each member with passion, loyalty, compassion, selfless determination, alacrity and tenacity,” she said.

Her bid to be the chairperson of the African Union Commission is not without precedent. Mohamed, a lawyer, diplomat and politician, is not new to international politics. Over the years, she has traversed the globe working with different international organisations. She became the first female chairperson of the World Trade Organisation’s General Council in 2005.  Also, she previously worked as the assistant secretary and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

From 2001 t0 2005, she was a member of the executive boards and committees of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO, International Labour Organisation, ILO, World Health organisation, WHO, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR and United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS.

Between 2006 and 2007, Mohamed acted as director for both Europe and Commonwealth Countries as well as Diaspora matters. She also chaired the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs’ Committee on Strengthening and Restructuring.

During the 2010–2011 calendar year, Mohamed served as the President of the United Nations Conference on Transnational Crime in Vienna. Additionally, she was the permanent secretary in the ministry of justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs from 2008 to 2011.

Born in Kakamega, Kenya to an ethnic Somali family on October 5, 1961, Mohammed is the eighth of nine siblings.  She married Khalid Ahmed in 2002 and they both have two children and also care for four orphans

Mohamed is multilingual, speaking her native Somali as well as English, Russian and Swahili, with a working knowledge of French.  A graduate of University of Kiev, Ukraine, she also has a Master of Laws, LLM, in International Law, and  Postgraduate Diploma, PGDip, in International Relations from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Her priorities, if elected AUC chairperson, include running an independent and efficient organisation, ensuring predictable and adequate financing resource base for AUC; providing dynamic consultative framework to pursue continental integration by building on achievements of regional economic communities; mobilising resources to improve infrastructure deficit in the continent; work with partners  to ensure Africa’s justice at international negotiation forums; promote peace and security in Africa, and unleash the potential of women and youth among others.

Mohammed exclusively told Realnews that she is a unifier and will unite African countries, erase whatever past division and ensure that African Union is internationally respected, financially independent, economically prosperous, closely integrated, and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of all the people of Africa including the diaspora – leaving no one behind.

Only time will tell if she will be elected to fulfill these noble aspirations of hers for a continent in dire need of firm and focused leadership.

Mohamed, in an exclusive interview speaks to Realnews on topical issues affecting African and how she intends to make Africa a strong and influential regional player if elected into office. Excerpts:

Realnews: Why do you want to become the chairperson of the African Union Commission?

Mohamed: In the course my career, which spans over three decades, I have worked with many colleagues from the continent on issues of importance to Africa including; mega projects on infrastructure development, international and regional trade notably negotiating amendments to the Trade-Related, Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, agreement which allowed Africans to access affordable medicines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, climate change, biodiversity and desertification, governance, rule of law, democracy and human rights, youth and, peace, security and cohesion. I have been intimately involved with all issues African, both soft and hard and have chaired many African meetings at the highest level. I therefore intricately know the state of our Union.

At this defining moment in Africa’s history, everyone is aware of the massive opportunities that the African Union presents and understands the challenges that need to be resolved by all of us, collectively.

I am known as a unifier, a consensus builder, a team player and a pan Africanist who believes in the African Union project. I deliver on mandates entrusted to me and know that I am ready, able, passionate and willing to commit myself to the African Agenda.

My vision for the African Union Commission (AUC/the Commission) is that of a Commission that will utilise and build on the current momentum to secure Africa’s rightful place in the global community.

In order to fulfil this objective, I envision a continent united in both values and outlook and whose transformation is decisive, inclusive and conclusive. I stand for a commission that will work for the full realisation of the objectives of a people-centred African Union that is internationally respected, financially independent, economically prosperous, closely integrated and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of all the people of Africa including the Diaspora ̶ leaving no one behind.

We have an obligation to shape the common destiny of our people. Our heritage, our history, our African views and our shared values can and must craft the solutions to many of our most pressing challenges.

We must work in solid partnership and our goal must be straightforward – to empower our people and to afford them real opportunities to grow, to prosper and to live in dignity.

We already have a roadmap for Africa’s development. Agenda 2063 provides us with a continental framework. It will take a visionary, strategic and determined leader at the helm of the AUC who can bring consensus among all the member States and who can spearhead interactions and synergy among organs and platforms necessary for the speedy unification of the continent.  I believe that I am that leader.

Realnews: African Union have been perceived as a toothless bulldog. How can you make the organisation more effective if elected as the AUC Chairperson?

PRESIDENT BUHARI RECEIVES KENYA DEPUTY PRESIDENT 3. R-L; FCT Minister Alhaji Muhammad Musa Bello, Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, Kenya Cabinet Secretary Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb (Dr) Amina Mohamed, Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, President Muhammadu Buhari, Special Envoy of President of Kenya, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President of Kenya Hon Williams Ruto, Kenya Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Silas M. Kiragu and Principal Administration Secretary Coordination, Operation and Protocol, Abdul K. Mwasserah at the State House in abuja. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE. NOV 11 2016

Mohamed: The African Union has had its share of challenges. That has, however, not dampened the spirit of our continental unity and shared prosperity. Challenges enable institutions to self-evaluate to discover areas of possible improvement. Our African people are today more committed to continental unity and prosperity than ever before. This is an opportunity, to tap into our collective goodwill to strengthen the organisation and deepen our union. There is also the converse narrative that is seldom celebrated: that of a continent, under a union that has responded to crises within the continent, and on time. The African peace and security architecture and the mechanisms of response is a clear example of solid and effective response and action.

As a continent, we evaluated the strides made over the past half century, recognised the gaps and together, put in place a vision to guide our engagement for the next 50 years. Agenda 2063, which is our roadmap to achieving “The Africa We Want”, is a testament that we are aware of our journey and our desired destination. So my role, if elected chairperson of the AUC, will be to faithfully implement Agenda 2063. I will catalyse this common resolve by the African people to realise their destiny. This requires the entire continent, including the diaspora to work in concert ̶ something that is and will continue to happen.


Realnews: Funding has always been a great challenge to the African Union. What will you do differently to shore up revenue flows to the AU?

Mohamed: Africa must take responsibility for the growth of its economy and institutions.  We have the means to do so.  In order to realise the vision that we have set ̶ Agenda 2063, we must ensure effective, inclusive and optimal use of available resources.

Implementing Agenda 2063 will require resources, planning, evaluation and reporting.  The formular accepted by African Heads of State and Government to contribute 0.2% import levy towards the financing of the African Union and its programmes is a solid indication that we are committed to Africa’s financial autonomy.

In order to fully implement this commitment, my role, if elected, will be to work with governments on implementation.  Financing the agenda will be easier if member states align their development policies to Agenda 2063.  We must reinforce our political will to deliver on this promise.

Over the years, we have created institutions and organs that support Africa’s development. The African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa already have in place programmes that are in line with Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030. In order to harness the output generated by our development agencies, we must ensure that we create synergies to allow resource maximisation, reduce duplication and eliminate resource wastage.

We also need to put together an African Business Council that will deeply integrate the private sector into the African development agenda.  The Ebola epidemic offered invaluable experience in working with the African private sector to raise funds for development and we will continue to build on this partnership.

Illicit financial flows deprive Africa of valuable resources necessary for development. These flows are a global phenomenon whose solution requires a global coordinated response.  If elected, I will coordinate the African response to work with national governments in order to put in place legislation and mechanisms in line with agreed and mutually reinforcing global response initiatives.

Realnews: Crisis is brewing in Gambia over its current president’s refusal to step down after losing the last election. How can this problem be resolved?

Mohamed: Great effort has been made by Regional Economic Communities, RECs, to manage regional conflicts in the continent. We have seen the way Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, managed the conflict in West Africa and the way the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, and the South African Development Community, SADC, have dealt with the conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region respectively.

Regional Economic Communities and the conflict response mechanisms already in place are critical in instances where peace, security and stability is threatened. The African Union Commission’s role should therefore be to ensure that the necessary responsive mechanisms are facilitated and coordinated to find sustainable solutions to existing and emerging conflicts in Africa.  Our aim should be to ensure that Africans feel and are secure.

Realnews: Corruption has been said to be the bane of development in Africa. What do you think?

Mohamed: Corruption is a challenge. However, we are seeing reforms in the form of legal and policy enactments in national constitutions.  Effective responses ought to be conceived within the African model but principally embracing good governance, rule of law, and institutional independence.

Institutions are critical in addressing corruption. So we must strengthen them and our capacity to manage public, private and societal affairs. Corruption exists in many forms. Economic and financial corruption and corruption of values are the main forms compromising our development in Africa. A targeted response would therefore engage leadership and management of our institutions and our national and continental values. Education, mentorship, law and policy and home-grown intrinsic values and principles will be critical in addressing this persistent problem.

Realnews: Weak natural resources governance has also marred the exploitation of natural resources in Africa. What can be done to improve the situation to fast track development in Africa?

Mohamed: Africa must and should be empowered using African resources. Minerals, oil, gas, agricultural land, forests, blue economy, wind and solar generation and biodiversity among many others are factors that drive development.

Africa’s natural resources should be leveraged for inclusive and sustained growth. Our regional organisations including the African Development Bank have set up mechanisms to support policy makers and governments in managing Africa’s natural resource management − the African Natural Resources Centre, ANRC, is a good policy support tool.  What remains now is to ensure that these institutions and programmes communicate and collaborate with governments, Regional Economic Communities and the African Union Commission to find solutions to exploitative and harmful resource extraction.

Africa’s wealth, resident in natural resource exploration and trade needs to be ploughed back to the continent. We, therefore, need to work together, across all sub-regions and countries to track: our natural resource wealth and our countries’ and people’s gains from it. Investing in concrete natural resource economic policy, institutions, Regional Economic Communities’ capacities and a legal framework will guide our intervention in this area. As we continue to integrate, so must our approaches to natural resource management. We must share best practice and reinforce our common interests as far as development is concerned.  For this to effectively happen, collaboration, cooperation and coordination is critical.

Realnews: Youth unemployment has been described as a time bomb in Africa. Can you comment on this?


Mohamed: There is no doubt that Africa’s demographic versatility is our core strength. 65 percent of Africa’s entire population is below the age of 35 making Africa the world’s youngest continent.  This is Africa’s greatest opportunity. But we have to ensure that it is properly harnessed to provide positive output to the continent. This demographic dividend can only bear on our development aspirations if we nurture, tap and mainstream the youth into our development matrix.

Policy and decision-makers have the enviable responsibility to harness Africa’s talents and human capacity into one force that works in harmony to solve the continent’s greatest challenges.

Brain drain, though unavoidable in most cases because of economic considerations, is depriving Africa of many professionals and other abilities that could be used to realise the African dream. That is why innovative approaches to leadership development and education are critical to ensure that our youth and professionals explore their potential and gain the intellectual flexibility to conceive solutions to our challenges. Deliberate youth engagement, consultation and involvement is essential in all spheres of governance.

We must also integrate to ensure that the youth have access to wider professional and economic markets to work and do business. Free movement of goods, services people and capital will greatly unlock this demographic dividend.

Realnews: Terrorism is spreading in the continent. How can this problem be tackled?

Mohamed: Terrorism and violent extremism have emerged as the major threats to international peace and security. The expansion of internet access and the growing sophistication of extremist and criminal groups render these threats increasingly transnational, thus requiring a collaborative response. Indeed, the fact that no nation can consider itself immune from its dangers implies that no society can remain disengaged from efforts to combat it.

The strength of terrorist groups lies in their hybrid nature, which allows them to develop flexible and adaptive approaches that exploit conventional military attacks and asymmetric warfare. Their evolving nature presents a problem for state apparatus, which are often rigid and reactive. Their transnational dimension is also a challenge for law enforcement agencies which by nature are used to working in national contexts.

Faced with this challenging scenario, it is imperative to put in place fully comprehensive multi-pronged response strategies. However, our strategies in Africa tend to lay emphasis on security solutions with less resources being dedicated to prevention which entails the fight against radicalisation and political and economic integration of marginalised regions among other socio-economic measures. We need to collectively finance response mechanisms and within our individual national capacities.

A comprehensive strategy involves the concerted efforts of all government agencies including local authorities with the involvement of all sectors of society including religious associations, the private sector and civil society. It is also essential that the State meaningfully engages local community leaders who are familiar with the local social fabric.

Security-led responses must be adapted to suit the context of African states. It is important to put in place mechanisms that facilitate cooperation between defence forces, the police and the intelligence apparatus coordinated by special counter-terror units

Realnews: What difference will you make if elected as the chairperson of African Union Commission?

Mohamed: If elected, I will work with African governments, AUC commissioners, African Union organs, African institutions, African civil society, the African people and Africa’s strategic partners to:

  • Lead the faithful implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 by supporting micro-implementation by member States and regional implementation through Regional Economic Communities with the primary focus of actualising the First Ten Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063.
  • Pursue sustainable ways to finance the AUC and its programmes and develop concrete mechanisms to ensure optimum use of mobilised resources by encouraging and supporting national alignment of development policies to Agenda 2063.
  • Foster strategic partnerships for Africa’s development.
  • Strengthen synergy between and among African Development Institutions such as: The Permanent Representative Committee (PRC); African Union Peace and Security Council, AUPSC; African Commissions; New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD, Pan African Parliament, Economic and Social Council, ECOSOCC, African Courts, Regional Economic Communities, RECs, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, and the African Development Bank, AfDB, in order to mitigate against resource slippage and unnecessary competition. This will encourage seamless working relations and cooperation between these institutions and maximise the utilisation of available resources to the relevant interventions.
  • Improve Africa’s human development infrastructure by working with Governments to enact laws and promote policies that enable youth, women and marginalised communities to participate fully in development and decision-making.
  • Boost intra-African trade by working with Governments to set up the relevant policy mechanisms to speed up ratification of the various protocols necessary to actualise free movement of people and information in each of the RECs and across the continent. In addition, supporting the revolution of infrastructure in Africa by creating seamless connections through land, air and sea to maximize Africa’s potential in accordance with past Summit decisions.
  • Secure social stability through peace and security by consolidating the efforts and supporting the work of Organisations engaged in finding lasting peace and security, as well as leveraging cross sectorial cohesion through partner institutions.
  • Enhance democracy, values of good governance and the rule of law by leveraging the Commission as a platform capable of driving the political integration agenda by: strengthening regional and continental electoral systems and institutions reinforcing Africa’s electoral architecture; and supporting regional and national justice and human rights mechanisms such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Augment the role of the African Diaspora in the implementation of Agenda 2063, and beyond.
  • Reposition Africa as a strong and influential global player.


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Morocco Accuses AU Chief of Obstructing Readmission
December 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, attends a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016. Morrocco claims Dlamini-Zuma is blocking its efforts to rejoin the African Union

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, attends a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016. Morrocco claims Dlamini-Zuma is blocking its efforts to rejoin the African Union

Morocco accused African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of blocking its efforts to rejoin the organization it left 32 years ago, the country’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Morocco has asked the African Union (AU) to readmit it, as it seeks support for its plan to offer autonomy to the disputed territory of Western Sahara while keeping it under Moroccan sovereignty.

Morocco abandoned its seat in 1984 when the AU recognized Western Sahara, a sparsely populated stretch of desert that was formerly a Spanish protectorate, and admitted it as a member.

Moroccan request delayed

The ministry said Dlamini-Zuma had delayed the distribution of the Moroccan request to AU members without any apparent reason, and then invented a new procedural requirement to reject letters from AU members supporting Morocco’s demand.

“The kingdom of Morocco denounces vigorously the maneuvers of African Union Commission head, who is trying to thwart Morocco’s decision to regain its natural and legitimate place in the pan-African institutional family,” the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency MAP.

“The president of the AU commission is dropping her neutrality and failing the rules and standards of the organization and its members’ will,” the statement added.

Many AU members support Morocco

There was no immediate comment from the African organization on the Moroccan statement.

Morocco says at least 36 of the 54 AU member countries do not acknowledge the territory as a separate state and it is time to withdraw its recognition. None of the Western powers, nor the United Nations, recognize the territory, which calls itself the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

But it is unclear if powerful AU members including Algeria and South Africa, which have expressed support to hold a referendum of the people of Western Sahara on their sovereignty, would accept Morocco’s request.

Discussion expected January

Morocco's King Mohammed, who visited Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right), Nov. 19, 2016, has been touring Africa seeking support for a return to the African Union

Morocco’s King Mohammed, who visited Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right), Nov. 19, 2016, has been touring Africa seeking support for a return to the African Union

The AU is expected to discuss the Moroccan request in its January 2017 summit in Addis Ababa.

Morocco has controlled most of the territory since 1975. The area has offshore fishing, phosphate reserves and oilfield potential. Morocco’s King Mohammed has been touring Africa in the last three months seeking support for its AU demand and autonomy proposal for Western Sahara.

In 2014, Morocco rejected the AU’s decision to appoint a special envoy for the Western Sahara, saying the body had no legal authority to intervene.


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Africa: Three Women to Join Kagame’s African Union Reform Team
October 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Louise Mushikiwabo

Louise Mushikiwabo

At least three eminent women are set to join President Paul Kagame’s team that is charged with spearheading reforms at the African Union.

After The EastAfrican exclusively reported the appointment of Carlos Lopes, Donald Kaberuka, Strive Masiyiwa and Acha Leke to the team, one of the president’s 1.5 million Twitter followers questioned why no woman had been named.

“The team is not complete… awaiting consent of two women to join the team. Thinking of three,” President Kagame replied.

The AU is expected to wean itself of donor dependency by 2018. President Kagame was tasked with leading efforts to reform the AU into a self-reliant body.

Mr Kaberuka, the former president of the African Development Bank, presented a new model of financing to African leaders during the 27th Heads of State Summit held in Kigali in July. He will work with Mr Lopes, the outgoing executive director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and Mr Masiyiwa, the Econet Wireless founder. Mr Leke is a senior partner at global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

There was speculation that the team would include Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, but this was countered by the argument that her Cabinet position would not allow her to take up another full time engagement.

The other possible appointee was former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Ms Mushikiwabo, who is also the government spokesperson, confirmed that three women will join the team but said she could not reveal the names yet.

“Indeed, shortly three women will join the team working with President Kagame on the AU reform proposal to be shared with other heads of state at the next AU Summit in January 2017. President Kagame’s work on the reforms is quite advanced, but it’s never too late to get a woman’s views. The president wrote to his fellow African heads of state after the Kigali Summit asking for input to enrich his work, and a few have already responded,” Ms Mushikiwabo told The EastAfrican.

The AU has in the past come under scrutiny for its dependency on donors and its failure to make firm decisions on important matters affecting the continent.

Although the leaders have adopted a new model for financing the AU, challenges remain on how it will be implemented considering that a similar model floated by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo failed to take off. Mr Obasanjo had suggested that states levy a tourism tax of $2 on hotel rooms and a $10 levy on each air ticket bought.

The new model championed by Mr Kaberuka will see countries raise about $1.2 billion to finance AU operations through a 0.2 per cent tax on imports.

“Africa can do better in terms of mobilising internal resources,” Mr Lopes said.


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Africa: Will Rwanda Support for Kenya’s AU Chair Nominee Tip the Scales?
October 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Kenya's nominee for the African Union Commission chair - Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed (file photo)

Kenya’s nominee for the African Union Commission chair – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed (file photo)

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.

*Allafrica/East African

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African Union to Use Imports Cash to Get $1.2 Billion Funds
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments
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African Union fails to elect new leader
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments
African Union Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was due to stand down but African leaders were unable to agree on a successor to lead the executive branch of the continental body (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

African Union Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was due to stand down but African leaders were unable to agree on a successor to lead the executive branch of the continental body (AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte)

Kigali (AFP) – African heads of state meeting in Kigali failed on Monday to elect a new head of the African Union and will try again in January, an official said.

Current AU Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was due to stand down but leaders were unable to agree on a successor to lead the executive branch of the continental body during its 27th summit meeting, being held in the Rwandan capital.

“Black smoke billows from the 27th AU Summit as no winner emerges… Commission elections postponed till next summit,” Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesman, Jacob Enoh Eben, said on Twitter, referencing the smoke signal that precedes the naming of a new pope.

None of the three candidates was able to muster the two-thirds majority required to win in the secret ballot.

Ahead of the vote many states had expressed dismay at the “lack of stature” among the little known candidates from Botswana, Equatorial-Guinea and Uganda and, in the end, 28 of the 54 member states abstained from the final round of voting thus forcing a postponement of the election and an extension of Dlamini-Zuma’s term.


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July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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AU Confirms Will Hold Elections, Denies Split
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Chris Stein*

Heads of state and government pose during a photo call before the official opening of the 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali on July 17, 2016.

Heads of state and government pose during a photo call before the official opening of the 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali on July 17, 2016.

The African Union summit meeting in Kigali will be voting for a new AU commission on Monday, despite rumors of a call for the election to be delayed.

There have been persistent rumors at the summit that the ECOWAS bloc of west African states is unhappy with the choice of candidates offered to succeed outgoing AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

There are three candidates, two of them women, former Uganda vice president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Botswana Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy.

Late Sunday an AU legal counsel, Vincent O Nmehielle, denied the rumors of a delay.

“Stop speculating.  There is no ECOWAS concern that has made an election to be postponed.  Elections are going forward tomorrow.  No more names are entering the list, while the elections are going on tomorrow.  If somehow we are not able to obtain the necessary majority then the rules will kick in and you will be advised as to the outcome,” Nmehielle said.

ECOWAS does not determine whether AU commission elections are held, he added.

AU rules say the winning candidate must obtain two thirds of member states’ votes.  Nmehielle explained that if no one wins this majority in the first round, the candidate with least votes will be knocked out and a second round held.

If a two thirds majority is still not obtained, he said, the election will be suspended pending another vote and an interim chairperson appointed.

One journalist questioned the democratic credentials of some of the candidates’ home countries.  Nmehielle declined to comment.

“Can you define democracy for me?  When you say candidates from undemocratic countries I do not know what you mean.  They are members of the African Union.  To be a candidate it is open to all members of the African Union,” Nmehielle said.

According to AU rules the commission chairperson and deputy chairperson are elected by heads of states or their representatives at the summit, while the eight commissioners are elected by member states’ foreign ministers.


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African Blocs Fail to Agree On Free Trade Area
July 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

13659089_10206873082642326_7854642814787249514_nTwenty-six African countries have failed to agree on how traders would access a market of more than 600 million people through the proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), blurring expansion plans by companies.

The EAC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have differed on the kind of preferential treatment sensitive goods and services from one bloc would be offered in another.

The 12-month period for negotiations expired on June 30.

“We were to complete this work by last month (June) but we did not reach an agreement. There are still challenges,” said Mark Ogot, a senior assistant director in-charge of economic affairs at Kenya’s Ministry of East African Affairs.

It is understood that though the blocs have reached a common position on the proportion of tariff lines to be liberalised they have broken ranks over a common tariff to be applied on sensitive products such as maize, wheat, sugar, textile and cement which are considered essential in spurring the growth of domestic industries.

The EAC countries have agreed to liberalise 37 per cent of the tariff lines estimated at 5,600 items. This would allow about 2,000 items excluding sensitive items to enter member countries at zero duty.

The other goods would be charged duty at the rate of 10 per cent for intermediate goods and 25 per cent for finished goods.

Southern African Customs Union – the SADC Customs union – has agreed to remove duty on 60 per cent of its 7,000 tariff lines, offering opportunity for 4,200 goods to be exported to southern Africa.

TFTA protocol had targeted the removal of duty on between 60 per cent and 85 per cent of the tariff lines. The remaining 15 per cent of the tariff lines were to be negotiated over a period of between five and eight years.

Comesa has 5,000 tariff lines but its members who are neither in EAC or SADC have been allowed to negotiate individually because the bloc does not have a customs union.

A trade framework agreed upon by heads of state during the TFTA launch last year required countries to exchange tariff concessions based on reciprocity.

Mr Ogot said plans are underway to extend the negotiation period but the duration is still not yet clear.The EastAfrican has learnt that the protracted discussions have been complicated by South Africa, which is keen on protecting its key markets from competition.

It is understood that South Africa is wary of opening up its domestic market and its export market in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, which are members of the SACU to the selected items, especially maize, wheat, electronics and equipment from other blocs.

“South Africa does not appear to be keen on this arrangement because they dominate the market and are cautious of losing part of it,” said Ogot.

Under the TFTA pact the members of the three trading blocs agreed to ignore sensitive products and subject them to duty and quota restrictions in order to ensure fair competition.

The products earlier listed for protection until 2017 included, maize, cement sugar, wheat, rice, textiles, milk and cream, cane and beet sugar, secondhand clothes, beverages, spirits, plastics, electronic equipment.

The implementation of the agreement would effectively open the door for EAC goods, to markets such as South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea and vice versa.

The TFTA agreement is expected to serve as the basis for the completion of a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017 which South Africa appears to be more keen on. The CFTA aims to boost trade within Africa by up to 30 per cent in the next decade, and eventually establishing an African Economic Community.

South Africa has said that implementing the TFTA would complicate its trade with Europe because EAC is yet to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

Spanning the continent from Cape Town to Cairo, the grand FTA encompasses 26 Countries with a combined population of nearly 625 million people and a total gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $1.2 trillion.

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Morocco seeks to rejoin African Union after Western Sahara row
July 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

_90402957_moroccoMorocco has sent a special envoy to lobby African leaders to rejoin the African Union 32 years after it left in a row over Western Sahara.

Taib Fassi Fihri met Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi and said Morocco wants to re-join the AU without any preconditions.

Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its territory, much of which it has occupied since 1975.

But the AU recognises Western Sahara as an independent state.

Morocco is the only African country not to be an AU member.

The AU, however, says it will continue pushing for the rights of Western Sahara to hold a referendum on its self-determination.

Brahim Ghali, the new leader of the North African territory is expected to attend the African Union summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, according to the AU’s deputy chairperson Erastus Mwencha.

Thousands of Sahrawis have spent years in refugee camps

Thousands of Sahrawis have spent years in refugee camps

Mr Ghali was elected the Western Sahara president and secretary-general of the independence movement Polisario Front on 9 July.

He replaced long-time leader Mohamed Abdelaziz who died in May.

How did we get here?

  • 1975-76: Morocco annexes two-thirds of Western Sahara after colonial power Spain withdraws.
  • 1975-76: Polisario Front declares the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile in Algeria. Thousands of Sahrawi refugees flee to western Algeria to set up camps.
  • 1984: Morocco leaves the Organisation of African Unity (which later became the African Union) in protest at the SADR’s admission to the body.
  • 1991: UN-monitored ceasefire begins in Western Sahara, but the territory’s status remains undecided and ceasefire violations are reported. The following decade sees much wrangling over a proposed referendum on the future of the territory but the deadlock is not broken.
  • March 2016: Morocco threatens to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon uses the term “occupation” when referring to the territory.
  • May 2016: Long-time Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz dies aged 68
  • *BBC
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Election of New Chair to Top AU Summit Agenda
July 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Jill Craig ,

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, is to step down after holding the position for the last four years

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, is to step down after holding the position for the last four years

As heads of state meet amid the rolling hills of Kigali for the African Union summit, which kicks off Sunday, the biggest item on the agenda will be the selection of the next AU Commission chairperson.

The current chair, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa, is to step down after holding the position for the last four years.

“I think it’s important to stress that who leads the African Union Commission matters,” said Elissa Jobson, advisor on African Union relations for the International Crisis Group. “And it matters immensely. The chairperson is responsible for shaping the continent’s economic, political and security agendas, and so it’s really key that they have the best candidate in this job.”

So far, there are three candidates. Two are current foreign ministers, one from Botswana and the other from Equatorial Guinea. The third candidate is Uganda’s former vice president and a former U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

But Peter Pham, the director of the Washington-based Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, cautions that Dlamini Zuma’s successor may not come out of this summit, since a two-thirds majority vote is required.

“This time around, with three relatively unknown candidates, it might well be the case that a two-thirds majority is not achieved, and there is additional campaigning and the possibility that other candidates might throw their hats in the ring,” said Pham.

The leadership turnover doesn’t stop there. A new deputy chairperson and eight commissioners of the AU will also be selected, according to Monde Muyangwa, director of the Africa Program at the Wilson Center.

“So you have a huge leadership transition occurring at the African Union and so this is really going to determine which way does the African Union go,” said Muyangwa.

ICC issue simmers

Back in January, an AU ministerial committee was asked to draw up a strategy regarding the International Criminal Court, giving special consideration to whether AU member countries should leave.

Critics of the ICC point out that all of the cases it has investigated or prosecuted stemmed from Africa.

The committee said that in order to prevent an African withdrawal from the court, the ICC should grant immunity from prosecution to sitting heads of state and other senior officials. But that demand is at odds with many human rights activists, who say it would undermine the effectiveness of the court.

Elise Keppler, the associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch said, “Now whether or not the conclusions and assessments of that committee are going to be considered at this AU summit is not clear, although it’s important to note that we have seen again and again in the past few years that the issue of the ICC and AU attacks on the ICC regularly comes up very last minute, sometimes on the floor of the debate at the African Union summit. So really, we don’t know for sure now, but anything is possible.”

Pham doesn’t believe the ICC issue will become a priority at this particular summit, because no sitting head of state other than President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, is under threat, although he says in the long-term, the issue will be important.

“In many respects, the collapse of the ICC case against the president of Kenya, in a way took a bit of the urgency out of the African threat to withdrawal from the ICC,” he said

War crimes court for South Sudan?

South Sudan will likely be discussed. HRW’s Keppler said the AU was tasked in the 2015 peace agreement to establish a hybrid court to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict, because the country is not a part of the ICC.

“And we’ve been looking to the African Union commission to get this process off the ground. I think a great outcome from the summit would be to see that there is encouragement for more progress,” said Keppler.

Last month, South Sudan’s leadership called on the international community to “reconsider” setting up that tribunal in an op-ed published in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, the 54-nation bloc will be issuing its first e-passports, which will go to AU heads of state, permanent representatives of these states and ministers of foreign affairs as part of a pilot program.

The goal of the new passport is to ease restrictions in the movements of people, goods and services across national lines.

“Which is a step at least symbolically in the direction of a closer union, a pan-African identity,” said Pham. “But the reality is that despite those aspirations and those ambitions, it’s not the want of passports that causes Africans not to travel to each other’s countries, and to trade and do business with each other. It’s the lack of transportation infrastructure that makes that. A passport won’t do you any good if you don’t have a road that will get you from one place to another, or you don’t have customs officials and customs clearing houses to expedite the passage of goods.”

Muyangwa expressed a bit more optimism that the e-passports will be more than just symbolic.

“I’ve been encouraged by the discussion on the benefits of this e-passport at the highest levels in Africa so hopefully this is something that you’re going to get more and more countries signing up for and hopefully becoming a reality in the next few years.”

The AU summit opens July 10 and culminates with the heads of state meeting on July 17 and 18.



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Africa: Uganda Debts Threaten Kazibwe’s AU Job Bid
June 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe

Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe

Despite securing national and regional backing for the African Union top job, Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe’s chances could be scuttled by Uganda’s failure to pay membership fees to continental organisations.

It was reported last week that Kampala had committed Shs 3.5bn to former vice-president Kazibwe’s campaign for the July election; but sources said Uganda’s ‘serial defaulter’ status could rock the boat.

“Our candidate stands very good chances of getting the job but our biggest problem is that we have accumulated unpaid membership fees to several organisations. Our opponents could use that against us,” said a source who declined to be named so as to discuss the matter freely.

Kazibwe launched her campaign for the job of All Commission chairman at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 10. She faces Botswana’s foreign affairs minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea foreign affairs minister Agapito Mba Mokuy. The winner will serve up to 2020.

Buoyed by the Shs 3.5bn cash kitty, Kazibwe last week began a continental charm offensive, with her first stop being the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Angola. Kazibwe reportedly met 12 heads of states and their delegations on the side lines of the event, which President Museveni also attended, to front her candidature.

Ironically, given how much the government is investing in her bid, one of the issues that could knock wind out of Kazibwe’s campaign’s sails is money matters.


Uganda is indebted to international organisations to the tune of Shs 38.4 billion, according to the most recent financial audit review of the ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Office of the Auditor General. The audit, dated December 15, 2015, shows that Shs 33.1bn is for annual subscriptions while Shs 5.3bn is for other outstanding obligations.

Tasked to explain why the government had not paid the debt, foreign affairs ministry officials told auditors the problem was insufficient budget allocations by the finance ministry. The auditor general warned at the time that Uganda’s failure to meet its international financial obligations could come back to haunt the country in the future.

“The practice may limit the country’s participation in activities organised by international organisations. It may also attract litigation and its associated penalties from other creditors,” he noted in the report.


In an interview on Friday, the foreign affairs permanent secretary, Ambassador James Mugume, conceded that the government has defaulted on payments to some organisations. But the African Union was not one of them.

“Regarding the AU, we are clear,” he said. “We have paid [membership] up to 2015 and, in the budget that is coming up, we are paying our membership for 2016.”

Mugume named one of the organisations that Uganda owes money as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but argued that it did not mean the country was not playing its role on the continent.

“There are [organisations] where we have not been paying like IGAD and others, but you know we have been playing such a big role to stabilise IGAD,” he said. “We had to stabilise South Sudan and do it by ourselves; so, this contribution they are talking about would not even have been enough to stabilise the situation in South Sudan.”

Mugume, a member of Kazibwe’s campaign team, also said that wherever they have so far gone to solicit support for the former vice president, nobody has raised the issue of the fees Uganda has not paid yet.

“Nobody has complained but everybody recognises our singular role in IGAD,” he said. “Whether it is Somalia or South Sudan, we have been playing our role.”


While the main audit does not indicate exactly which other organisations Uganda owes money, a separate report on the performance of our embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia sheds light on at least one other affected programme.

According to the second audit, dated December 7, 2015, the government failed to allocate Shs 683 million required to meet Uganda’s obligations as a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council. Uganda was voted onto the council in 2013 for a three-year term.

In the report, the auditor general says that due to failure to send that money, Uganda’s embassy risked failing “to meet its obligations of its mission charter, including its participation in the AU Peace and Security Council.”

Uganda’s embassy in Addis Ababa is a multipurpose station charged with the role of representing Uganda in Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is also accredited to the AU, UN-ECA, AfDB, and is a member of the Peace and Security Committee on South Sudan, in addition to its regular role of offering consular services to Ugandans in the Horn of Africa.

Yet, in the words of the Auditor General, the embassy – which is expected to perform a key role to ensure Kazibwe’s election to the AU top job – is always battling “expenditure pressures on the available funds.”

“According to the ambassador, this scope of work involves a lot of activities including travelling, all of which require substantial resources in form of funding and time,” says the Auditor General’s report.

In the 2014/15 financial year, the government released less money than the mission had budgeted for its activities, resulting in a shortage of Shs 171 million. The Auditor General says this led to failure to maintain the existing embassy building (which Uganda has been renting since 1972), the ambassador’s residence which is in a run-down area and even the three official cars attached to the mission.

Uganda also risks losing a plot of 9,086 square metres that the Ethiopian government allocated to the country for the construction of a new embassy. While Uganda’s neighbours on the land, Zimbabwe and Chad, have already developed and occupied their plots, Uganda has not developed its own since it was allocated in 2005.

With the Ethiopian government asking for the full payment of Shs 417 million for the plot before development can go on, Uganda’s failure to pay the money looks likely to cost the embassy the prime property.

“During inspection, I noted that half of the plot had been recently fenced off with iron sheets without the knowledge of the embassy, with a possibility that it had been reallocated to another developer,” says the report.


Mugume said Uganda would counter any efforts to de-campaign Kazibwe’s candidature using the unpaid bills by highlighting the country’s role as a peacekeeper in Africa.

“We have had our troops in Somalia and even when EU funding has reduced, we have maintained them. We have stabilised South Sudan until they have attained peace. So for anybody to suggest we are not playing our role is wrong,” he said.

The veteran diplomat said they are confident of Kazibwe’s chances of securing the AU job, especially since she received the endorsement of other East African countries at a time when the region is a front runner to take over the AU chair.

“West Africa had their chairperson in [Alpha Oumar] Konaré [from Mali]. Central Africa had [Jean] Ping from Gabon. Southern Africa had [Nkosazana Dlamini] Zuma. So, it is now the turn for East Africa and the Maghreb region [North Africa] but we have the support of the Maghreb so that means we have the momentum,” Mugume said.


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