Congratulations for Dlamini-Zuma

2012-07-16 07:53
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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Addis Ababa - President Jacob Zuma has congratulated Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her closely fought election as the new head of the African Union Commission, the first woman to hold the post.

"It means a lot for Africa... for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women - very important," Zuma said.

Dlamini-Zuma's win at the AU summit follows her challenge six months ago to unseat the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon, the former commission chairperson, which ended in deadlock after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote, leaving Ping in the post.

"Now we have the African Union chair Madame Zuma, who will preside over the destiny of this institution," Benin's president and current AU chairperson Thomas Boni Yayi said.

Freedom fighter

Dlamini-Zuma, 63, an experienced diplomat, is a veteran of the fight against apartheid. A doctor by training, she has served as health, home and foreign minister.

"She's a freedom fighter, not a bureaucrat or a diplomat," said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, beaming enthusiastically.

Noureddine Mezni, spokesperson for the outgoing chairperson, told AFP that Ping had acknowledged defeat.

He "has accepted the results of the elections and wishes Madame Dlamini-Zuma the very best.

"He expressed his readiness to co-operate with her to work together for the unity of the continent."

Erastus Mwencha of Kenya was re-elected as deputy chair of the AU Commission, he added.

Members of the South African delegation smiled and congratulated one another as they filed out of the conference hall.

"It's good for southern Africa. We (in southern Africa) never had this job," a delegate from Zimbabwe told AFP with a broad grin.

Officials said the elections went to four rounds of voting before Dlamini-Zuma won 37 votes, three more than the required majority, to confirm her win over Ping.

Jakkie Cilliers of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP how Dlamini-Zuma's score had crept up from one round of voting to the next.

"She got ahead in the first round and after that the momentum kicked in," said Cilliers. "The heads of state wanted a decision."

Deadlock


Dlamini-Zuma's win had brought "clarity as to who's in charge" at the AU, after six months of deadlock over the leadership issue, he added.

Some analysts say South Africa has violated an unwritten tradition that continental powerhouses do not run candidates for the post, but leave smaller nations to take the job.

Before the vote however, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns that the vote could divide the AU.

"I don't think the continent will be polarised," she said.

The winner would "make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for," she added.

Cilliers said he was optimistic that divisions created by the vote would heal.

"She'll be an inclusive chair, she won't be divisive ... She was a very competent foreign minister and even better at home affairs," he said.

On Monday the heads of state will wrap up their two-day meeting.

Peacekeepers

Earlier in the day, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to an international force to neutralise rebels in eastern DRC, as the African Union said it was ready to send peacekeepers there.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame told AFP both sides had agreed "in principle" to accept the force.

He was speaking after his first face-to-face meeting with DRC President Joseph Kabila since a UN report in June accused Rwanda of supporting Congolese rebels. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the AU summit.

Rwandan and DRC leaders will meet again in early August to try to thrash out the details of the force - including size, mandate, nationality and deployment details - for eastern DRC.

UN peacekeepers already operate in the region. UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson called for an immediate end to the violence, warning that "countries of the region ought to respect the principle of non-interference".

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said that changing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission there "was one scenario".

Read more on:    au  |  jacob zuma  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  jean ping

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