Last-minute ping-pong at AU election

2012-07-14 16:32

A committee of eight African heads of state was due to announce today if they have found a political solution to the stalemate around the election of the African Union (AU) commission’s chairperson.

The committee was appointed by the AU in January to resolve the impasse reached when incumbent Jean Ping and South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma failed to secure the support they needed to become what is in effect prime minister of Africa.

Together with South Africa and Gabon, where Ping hails from, the committee consists of a country from each of the AU’s five regions and the current AU chair, President Boni Yayi from Benin.

The committee has met several times since January, but no compromise could be reached.

It is clear a political solution should be sought, diplomats say, because neither side has gained new support since January.

South Africa also changed its strategy at the summit.

At the summit in January South Africa hosted various social events at five-star hotels to promote itself and Dlamini-Zuma.

Now it has toned down the champagne and canapés approach because such brash displays of privilege are seen as vulgar.

Dlamini-Zuma has the support of the 15 countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In East Africa, Kenya wants its former top official, Erastus Mwencha, retained as Ping’s deputy.

A Kenyan official told City Press the country had no choice but to vote for Ping in order to retain Mwencha.

South Africa is also said to have little support in West and North Africa, while Central Africa is expected to rally behind its local man, Ping.

But South Africa is confident its candidate will be elected. A South African diplomat said: “She is experienced and has a proven track record.

In the interest of the AU’s progress, she must be elected,” said the diplomat, who did not want to be identified.

According to observers at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the two sides have dug in their heels and will want to pursue a few rounds of voting to assure themselves nothing has changed.

Said one: “Both sides are still convinced they will win, so they will need to see the votes before they believe nothing has changed.”

The winning candidate needs to secure 75% of the vote.

The committee of eight is due to report back to the summit today on whether a solution to the stalemate has been reached.

If no solution is found and the voting goes the same way as before, the election will be postponed until the next summit in January 2013.

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