As Heads of State continue to arrive in Kigali for the ongoing African Union Summit, last minute lobbying and quiet campaigns for the chairperson position continue to dominate the summit’s venues across the city.
Candidates and their delegations were yesterday making final attempts to convince Africa that they were the best qualified for the job. The ongoing African Union summit has on its agenda elections of new officials to the commission that include the chair and deputy chairperson positions.
However, the scheduled elections have not been without controversy and uncertainty. Days to the elections, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) had written to the African Union Commission calling for postponement of the exercise on the grounds that none of the candidates was qualified enough for the position.
However the union’s legal advisory team found their request and petition to be extra to the procedures provided for by the African Union’s legal instruments and maintained that the elections would be on. Speaking exclusively to Sunday Times, Prof. Vincent Nmehielle, the Director for Legal Affairs at the African Union, said that the elections would proceed and that all countries, including ECOWAS, member countries had been involved in the nomination and vetting exercise.
“According to the legalities of the elections and the rules of procedure and order of the election and the statutes of the Commission, the process of nomination was concluded by member states and vetted by independent experts who presented their report to the ministers of foreign affairs who met to consider and approve the list,” he told this paper. This year’s contenders for the position are; Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from Botswana, and Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea.
The three candidates are largely seen as representatives of their respective regions and will be expecting backing from their blocs. ECOWAS which had presented a petition to postpone the elections is notably without a candidate among the contenders.
Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, East Africa’s candidate became popular beyond Uganda’s borders as Uganda’s Vice president and former UN special envoy on HIV/Aids for Africa. Kazibwe who is counting on support of Eastern African countries and a section of Northern Africa says that if accorded the chance she would, among other things, prioritise gender parity, involvement of the private sector and peace and security.
In recent weeks beginning April this year, Dr. Kazibwe has been on a campaign trail that she says has taken her across to West Africa, North Africa and Eastern African region. “I have met various national leaders including the head of ECOWAS and the head of the Franco-phone countries to seek support,” she said in an interview.
Kazibwe says that going forward, as the continent seeks to spur trade, investments and growth, it is important to bring the private sector on board. “The African Union co-ordinate the private sector to connect Africa and take advantage of opportunities across the continent. This can be partly done by bringing together the private sectors of various economic blocs,” she said.
Kazibwe says that if elected, she will seek to build on the work done by the outgoing chair Dr. Dlamini Zuma on gender parity and equality. Also of concern to the Ugandan candidate is the state of peace and security across the continent which she says could jeopardize the achievement of African Union’s goals such as Agenda 2063.
Another contender for the position is Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from Botswana who describes he self as an ‘administrator who believes in less talk and more action’.
Among the items on her agenda would be to work alongside African leaders to change the continent’s reputation.
“Previously, Africa has been known for strife, misery, hunger giving the continent a ‘black sheep’ reputation. If I win, I think the continent needs a lot to happen for the world outside to know the positive aspects of it,” she said in an interview.
On the exit of African Countries from the International Criminal Court by nullifying the Rome Statute, Dr. Moitoi takes a somewhat controversial position saying that rather than leaving the court, the Rome Statute should be amended. By amending it, she says that the court would work in the interest of Africa and Africans.
Like Kazibwe, she is also concerned on the peace and security situation which she says can be largely addressed through dialogue.
Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea is seen to represent the Central African region. He is the country’s foreign affairs minister and like his fellow contenders has been traversing the continent for votes.
The eloquent 51 year old is seeking to woe the continent with his 18 years experience as an international civil servant at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with his last position being on the body’s executive board.
His campaign manifesto includes a promise to change the working methods of the African Union to bring in dynamism, innovation and competent staff.
His greatest concern about the union is the overdependence on external funding and the low contribution by the continent to the Union’s Budget.
“If I am elected as the next chairperson, of the African Union Commission, I will seek the assistance of our traditional and new partners as well as that of the commission’s staff in order to eradicate continental dependency virus from the minds of the African people,” his campaign manifesto further reads.