Looking beyond Dlamini-Zuma as the African Union Chief: #theChangeWeWant and Chairperson we deserve

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 - 14:36

The search for the next Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) is underway following the exit of H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Diamini Zuma, who has not submitted an application to remain as chairperson for a second term. The 27th African Union Heads of State and Government Summit is scheduled for 10 to 18 July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda under the theme: African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women. At the summit, African Heads of State and Government will discuss and make important decisions on the economic, social and political future of this continent.

Dr. Zuma who was elected in July 2012 as Chairperson of the AUC by the Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and became the first woman to lead the continental organization, including its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity. She is mainly credited for leading the process of developing Africa’s first ever continental strategy – Agenda 2063. This agenda is a vision and an action Plan that calls for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny. Dr. Zuma has also championed the participation of women across the continent, urging women to push the frontiers and transform society. Madam Zuma has also been instrumental in placing the issues of women at the centre of the African Union programmes. Her tenure has not been without its challenges of course; the Ebola crisis, various conflicts (including in Ivory Coast, Lybia, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Somalia, Western Sahara and the Democratic Republic of Congo etc.), food insecurity and many more. As the 27th summit draws closer, the continent is eager to know who the next African Union chairperson will be. The bigger question for us, the citizens of Africa however, should be; what changes do we want as a continent and what leader do we deserve for this truly demanding job as Africa’s head?

Therefore, who are the contenders and what experience and credentials to they bring to the table of 54 member states? Four Africa citizens have submitted themselves to marshal the continent, the list of two females and two males includes; Agapito Mba Mokuy from Equatorial Guinea and Central Africa, Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe from Uganda and the East African Community (EAC), Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from Botswana and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Professor Abdoulaye Bathily from Senegal and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (65, SADC) currently Botswana's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. She is a specialist in public service management and administrative systems analysis and design. Holding a Master of Science in administration from Central Michigan University, USA, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in social development based on a review of her work and writing on government and governance. Dr Venson–Moitoi started her career as a journalist for a private publication in 1970 until 1973 when she joined the ranks of the public service. Since then she has held various high ranking positions in public service, ministries and various cabinet portfolios.

Dr. Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (60, EAC) from Uganda is a former Ugandan vice-president (1994-2003) and member of the AU's Panel of the Wise. A surgeon by profession, she has been a United Nations special representative on HIV/AIDs. She was the first woman in Africa to hold the position of vice-president of a sovereign nation. She has served as a minister in various ministries in Uganda, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Kazibwe has long been an advocate for womens’ position in African society. In collaboration with the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, she founded the African Women Committee on Peace and Development (AWCPD) in 1998; an organization she has chaired. The objective of AWCPD is to help enable women's participation in peace and development processes on the continent.

Agapito Mba Mokuy (51, Central Africa) from Equatorial Guinea is advisor to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He graduated from the Louisiana State University with a Bachelor Degree in Political Science, majoring in Agricultural Economics. He worked in Equatorial Guinea for a brief period before moving to Paris in 1993 to continue his professional career in the UN, where he held different job positions until 2010. He thereafter returned to his country to serve as the Advisor-Consultant of the Presidency of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. In 2012, he was assigned to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea. He has also published numerous articles on economic related topics.

Professor Abdoulaye Bathily (West Africa) is a Senegalese politician and diplomat. Bathily, the long-time Secretary-General of the Democratic League/Movement for the Labour Party (LD/MPT), served in the government of Senegal as Minister of the Environment from 1993 to 1998 and as Minister of Energy from 2000 to 2001. Later, he worked as a diplomat for the United Nations, and since 2014 he has been Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Central Africa. Professor Bathily was a presidential candidate for his party in 1993. Later he became minister for Environment and the Protection of Nature from 1993 to 1998 and was appointed in 2012 as Minister of State at the Presidency in Senegal. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Bathily's appointment as his Deputy Special Representative in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Less than a year later, on 30 April 2014, Ban Ki-moon announced Bathily's appointment as his Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Region.

The African Union has over the last 50+ years produced and adopted progressive policies on topics ranging from human rights, women’s rights, agriculture, education, health, democracy, elections, good governance and many more. The continental body is not in short supply of policies; it might be true to say that the African Union and New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) could be the leading continental institutions in the production of policies.

Moving from policies to practice – walking the talk – this remains the bulky or less-well-attended side to developing this great continent. The first and most important task for Madam Zuma’s successor is to pay close attention to matters of implementation. Leading the African Union to implement its much admired policies will not be an easy task, the challenge to mobilise both political will and citizens participation demands commitment to the African Union reforms. The much celebrated game changer of moving from the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU) has not been fully implemented to create an African Union of the people with a departure from the conference of leaders.

Active civil society and citizens engagement is one way to foster the missing culture of accountability by the continental body. It is evident that Africa has become the wealthiest continent on progressive policies and yet the weakest in the implementation! Back in 2005 at the SADC summit, President Festus Mogae of Botswana criticised the institution, saying it was “the weakest in getting things done”. The African Union has adopted ambitious declarations on issues ranging from the environment to human rights, democracy and good governance. Yet few countries honour these commitments.

As we look beyond Dlamini-Zuma as the African Union Chief, the Change We Want should start from the election of a chairperson we deserve!

This post was written with contributions from; Henry Malum - Africa Advocacy Coordinator (ActionAid International) and Luckystar Miyandazi – Tax Power Campaign Africa Coordinator (ActionAid International) as part of their reflections on the upcoming 27th African Union (AU) Summit that will take place from 10 to 18 July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda.