Pretoria. The three candidates who have so far put their names forward to succeed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as African Union Commission chairperson next month are “below par” and moves are afoot to find someone better, officials say.
They say former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and current Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra are now being considered.
The last-minute search for a better person to occupy the top AU job could delay the election until the next AU summit in January next year in Addis Ababa. If so, either Dlamini-Zuma herself or her deputy, Kenya’s Erastus Mwencha, would probably stay on as caretaker chairperson.
Dlamini-Zuma is due to end her term next month at the AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, having declined to run for a second term.
Efforts to reach foreign affairs and international cooperation Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga failed as he didn’t pick his phone while that of the ministry’s spokeswoman Ms Mindi Kasiga wasn’t reachable.
The three candidates who have put their names forward are Botswana’s foreign affairs minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, 65, who is the candidate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); former Ugandan deputy president Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe, 60, for the East African region; and Equatorial Guinea’s foreign affairs minister, Agapito Mba Mokuy, 51, for the central African region.
SADC is arguing that it should get the chair because Dlamini-Zuma will not be serving a second term. But South African official sources say they fear Venson-Moitoi will not win because the rest of Africa does not like Botswana’s foreign policy.
This includes its firm support for the International Criminal Court, which the AU has rejected as biased towards Africa.
The sources said President Jacob Zuma had already consulted last year with other SADC heads of state, especially Namibia and Mozambique, to find a stronger candidate. But no one was willing to put up a candidate.
It has been suggested that Mokuy cannot win either because of the poor human rights record of his president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. But one African official said: “I think human rights would be the last consideration in deciding who would be the next AUC chair.”
“Nonetheless Equatorial Guinea is not a serious candidate. Algeria will never support it because they see Obiang as a strong Morocco backer.”
So the search was on for someone else – with the focus on Kikwete and Lamamra, who was considered the most likely successor to Dlamini-Zuma until recently.
However, no country may have more than one commissioner at one time and it was believed that the Algerians preferred to retain the position of Peace and Security Commissioner which is held by Algerian Smail Chergui.
His name has been put forward for the elections in Kigali to retain the position.