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Home » News » Analysis » East Africa, ECOWAS gang up against Venson-Moitoi

East Africa, ECOWAS gang up against Venson-Moitoi

Publishing Date : 17 October, 2016

Author : AUBREY LUTE

Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s chances of becoming the next African Union Commission chairman are fast fading as the East and West Africans have weaved a deliberate ploy to mark her out of the race come January 17th next year. This follows Venson-Moitoi’s failure to garner an absolute two-thirds majority after a third round of voting despite winning the race earlier this year. The ‘Black smoke billows’ curse may have cost Venson-Moitoi a rare golden moment and it could be for good.

Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta when announcing Amb. Amina Mohamed as his country’s nominee for the AU post said the decision is in recognition of the obligation and commitment to support the African agenda.  This decision should inform Venson-Moitoi’s next move in terms of the campaign because the shape and form of her opponents is changing. The Foreign Affairs Minister has the backing of SADC albeit insinuations that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s diplomatic whoopla could hurt her standing with some of the SADC counterparts and African states.

President Khama recently called Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe to step down because his time was up. This was not well received by the Zimbabwe government. African statesmen generally do not comment on the affairs of their neighbours, they generally adopt silent diplomacy and most of them belong to the same league with Mugabe. 

“I am proud to offer Amb. Mohamed for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), a position currently held by Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa. In this regard, my administration has submitted the candidature of Amb. Mohamed for consideration at the African Union Summit in January 2017,” Kenyatta is quoted as saying the Nation publication. Kenyatta visited Botswana earlier this year at the invitation of President Khama, but his view on the “African agenda” appears parallel to that of Khama and his government.

Mohamed is Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary. She is expected to also face Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal and Botswana’s Venson-Moitoi. To demonstrate that the East Africans and the West Africans are likely to work together at the January elections, Uganda’s candidate Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, a former Vice President, whose bid the government supported with Shs1 billion has pulled out of the race.  Indications are that ECOWAS and the East African Bloc will rally behind the Kenyan candidate.

Speaking of her record, Mohamed’s country men and women paint a positive proven track record in leadership, understanding and experience in working at International Mechanisms such as the UN. They say her foreign policy management is proven to be one of the best in Africa, because she brought the Pope to Kenya. She made and played a major role in Kenya’s controversial cases at The Hague. “Her ministry has overseen several visits by world leaders to Kenya, including President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis,” one of her supporters boasted on social media. Mohamed has been in public service for 29 years and was once Kenya’s ambassador/permanent representative at the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. The UN secretary-general had appointed her the body's assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.

Venson-Moitoi was finding it tough to win members of the ECOWAS who singularly sabotaged her almost perfect campaign in July 2016 by abstaining from the vote.  This led to the election of members of the AU Commission held in Kigali, Rwanda, in July being suspended because, after seven rounds of voting, none of the three contenders for the position of chairman obtained the required two-thirds majority. By poaching a woman candidate, who has a foreign affairs background, and further eliminating an unpopular woman candidate (Kazibwe), the anti-Venson-Moitoi team wants to match her pound for pound and even ding-dong her on goodwill. The unpopular Kazibwe was knocked out in the first round after she tailed with 11 votes. 16 West Africa states fall under their umbrella group, ECOWAS.

The post became vacant after the expiry of the term of South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who had been at the commission’s helm since 2012 and did not apply for a second term.

The panel recruiting the team will by October 14 circulate the list of candidates in readiness for the election in January 2017.  A winner, according to the rules, should garner at least two-thirds of the votes by the 53 members, excluding Morocco which is just making a comeback to the continental body.

ECOWAS leaders alleged that the final three candidates were not of the right pedigree to lead the continental bloc, and chose to ambush the summit with last-minute demands spearheaded by Senegal President Mackay Sall, including for postponement of the vote. Ivory Coast and Senegal led the ECOWAS campaign to postpone the election and when they failed, Senegal presented its former Foreign Affairs minister. He could, however, not be accepted because nominations were already closed.

Dr Venson-Moitoi, during the fourth and last round, polled 23 votes, which, although the highest, still fell below the 35-vote threshold to bag the job currently held by South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Ms Zuma remains in-charge until January, after which she is expected to launch a bid for the South African presidency if factors permit at her homeland.

NOTE:  ‘Black smoke billows’ - references a popular Vatican phrase when voting by cardinals in a conclave for a new Pope is inconclusive.

 

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