AU leader deadlock risks dividing Africa

2012-07-15 19:04

Addis Ababa - Failure by the African Union to resolve a bruising leadership contest between candidates from rival English- and French-speaking blocs will divide the continental body and undermine its credibility in the world, the AU's chair said on Sunday.

Meeting at a summit in Addis Ababa, leaders seeking to defuse post-coup crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau have faced the distraction of an internal battle over who will head the AU Commission, its main steering body and voice outside Africa. This has dragged on since last year.

Incumbent AU Commission chief Jean Ping of Gabon, a former foreign minister, is being challenged for the post by  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former foreign minister and health minister who is currently home affairs minister.

A vote at a summit in January ended in stalemate, splitting the continent between its French-speaking bloc of states, which broadly backs Ping, and English-speaking member states, especially the southern group, which have largely swung behind the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma.

With the contest still deadlocked in Addis Ababa, and with no sign of a consensus candidate emerging, lobbying by both Ping's and Dlamini-Zuma's supporters has intensified ahead of an vote expected later on Sunday.

The winner requires 60% of votes to be elected.

Benin President and the current holder of the AU's rotating chairmanship, Boni Yayi, told the summit that the body, which has been fighting to raise its profile in a turbulent world, would suffer if the vote was once again inconclusive.

"Last January we failed. At this summit, we don't have the right to fail any more," Yayi said in a speech.

Critics say the AU showed itself hesitant and slow-moving in its response to the conflicts last year in Libya and Ivory Coast, allowing Western governments to take lead roles.

Find consensus

"A new failure will signify the division of the continent," Yayi warned, urging the heads of state to use the vote to show Africa's ability to work together and find consensus.

Dlamini-Zuma, a doctor and diplomat who would be the first woman to hold the AU post if elected, rejected suggestions that the rivalry risked tearing the continental body apart and said she would support her rival if he won.

"I don't think any election should be divisive in itself. You stand, you get votes and whoever wins, wins," Dlamini-Zuma told a news conference.

"I think the continent is stronger than to allow itself to just be fractured by elections involving two people," she said, saying that all of the AU's 54 members states should support whoever emerged as the winner.

Some smaller countries have argued that Zuma's candidacy broke an unwritten rule that Africa's dominant states should not contest the AU leadership. South Africa is the largest economy on the world's poorest continent.

But Dlamini-Zuma said this tacit rule was not fair as the AU's constituent charter viewed all member states as equals.

"It's not like the United Nations," she said, referring to the veto power held in the world body by the five member states of the UN Security Council.

Seeking to deflect fears that South Africa might seek to use the AU post to try to dominate the continent, Dlamini-Zuma argued that she was standing "as an AU candidate, not as a representative of South Africa".

  • busisiwe.kubeka1 - 2012-07-15 19:53

    Mugabe mr fix it is available, let him take the position bcoz it needs someone like him not puppets

      patrick.saunders123 - 2012-07-15 20:23

      microcephalic thinking from a prime example of what's wrong with africa.

      sello.mapeka - 2012-07-15 21:22

      He will make sure he leads for more than 30years....pity he can't be alive for the next 30years

      John Doeslough - 2012-07-15 21:27

      Kubeka, Mapeka, are you two being sarcastic or serious? I really can't tell

  • Malose-Nyatlo - 2012-07-15 19:55

    Look yourself in the mirror AU! Are you pleased with what you see? Do you wish others to see what you have just seen?

  • Lacrimose - 2012-07-15 20:16

    Africa is already divided by greedy, ruthless dictators with guns - many masquerading as democratically elected leaders. All supported by the AU with their quiet diplomacy and let Africans solve African problems. The nett result is the same - nothing gets done.

  • patrick.saunders123 - 2012-07-15 20:21

    just a microsmic reflection of what's wrong with africa as a whole - power hungry numpties on an ego trip whose personality disorders screw things up for everyone else. Nobody learns from history here.

  • jeffrey.jones.357 - 2012-07-15 20:32

    Africa will forever be divided, don't know why anyone bothers with this AU bulldust, it's just an excuse to meet and eat at others' expense.

  • colin.ashby.35 - 2012-07-15 20:44

    never had credibility and never will

  • hendrikvs - 2012-07-15 20:45

    All our beloved political artists of the African Circus!

  • John Doeslough - 2012-07-15 20:50

    "undermine its credibility in the world". Hahaha, what credibility? The AU is incapable of ending ongoing conflict in the continent. Look at the DRC, Sudan, Somalia and Mali. Where is the AU to assist in fighting hunger? There is a reason why African war criminals get convicted and the Hague. Face it AU, your organisation is a farce. Another excuse to waste money

  • mboneni.malalamavhi - 2012-07-15 21:13


      Lacrimose - 2012-07-15 21:21

      And we've done so much to remedy the Zimbabwe and Swazi situations by opening our borders, providing free electricity, medical care, financing a monarch with fourteen wives and as many aeroplanes.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-15 21:13

    The AU, should be devided, but not by English and French, but by those who rerspect the African Charter, and those wo support dictators!!!

      Lacrimose - 2012-07-15 21:26

      The problem is there are too many vested interests - especially the arms industry (legal or not). Societies are still dominated by tribalistic loyalties and hierarchies. Philanthropism and the greater good are concepts that cannot survive whilst these traditional hierarchies dominate. There are many people really good at keeping hatred and rage alive because it delivers results more rapidly than hope.

  • rodger.synclair - 2012-07-15 22:08

    Lets look at this AU thing from a different perspective. It's new (younger than 20 years) and we are still trying to establish ourselves as a continent. Contrary to popular belief (waste of money and time, etc), the chinese have a 30 year plan for Africa. So... It is either we stand together or we bow down to Gengis Khan within the next 30 years (and surrender all the mineral resources, wealth, food and everything) to the largest population on the planet.... Let us think propoerly here!!!! You are possibly thinking for now (which gives me the idead that you all are clueless of strategy and don't think past the current day). Our continents survival will depend on the commitment we (as Africans) display at this point in the history of the planet. Just a thought (although the ignorant professors on this page will act as if I have no meaning in my words). Ignore me now and your sibblings will be defeated...... Proudly James.

      Lacrimose - 2012-07-15 22:44

      We've already surrendered all mineral and crop resources. Africa is the powerhouse that keeps the West going. Cocoa alone magically increases price from the boat on West Africa to the harbour in Europe by over 700%. That's before it hits the European auction market. Where we are caught by the short 'n curlies is we have no industry, we have no beneficiation. We chuck stuff up out of the ground, trees and shrubs with no further thought or care as to what it becomes. 400 yrs down the line and we are STILL simply the farm from which all others harvest. If infrastructure and capability are not developed PDQ the stranglehold will remain

  • john.dorian.1042 - 2012-07-15 22:44

    Credibility?? What credibility??

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