Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat has been elected as the new African Union Commission chairperson.
Moussa Faki Mahamat replaces South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to serve as the continent’s top diplomat.
Faki’s main rival in the last round of voting at the AU, which is based in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, was Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed. Senegal had also fielded a candidate who was knocked out in an earlier round of voting.
In another potentially divisive move, the 54 heads of state gathered in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, are set to decide whether to approve the re-admission of Morocco.
The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute over the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976. However, King Mohammed VI has been on a diplomatic charm offensive in the last year to try to win Rabat’s readmission. Continental heavyweights Algeria and South Africa have been backers of the Sahrawi Republic, the domestic political movements that lays claim to the territory along the northern Sahara’s Atlantic seaboard. Neither has said explicitly it will oppose Morocco’s re-entry.
Preliminary meetings have also been dominated by disputes over the International Criminal Court (ICC), which countries such as South Africa and Kenya say is a tool of Western imperialism that unfairly targets the continent. Conversely, Nigeria, Botswana and other states say the Hague-based court is an important legal backstop for countries whose domestic justice systems have been compromised by civil conflict.
“You have all these calls for unity but actually if you look at the AU now, it is more divided than ever – over Morocco, the regional divisions and the ICC,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, an AU expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. “It’s unprecedented.”
Dlamini-Zuma, who is tipped as a replacement for her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma, at the helm of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) this year, was due to end her term in July last year but had to extend her time when the AU failed to reach agreement on a successor.