Addis Ababa - African Union (AU) Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has once again declined to say if she will run for a second term of office this year - or return home, possibly to run for national president.
She told South African journalists at the end of the AU summit in Addis Ababa: “I haven’t decided yet. I still have time.”
She also spelt out that in effect she had less than three months to decide because she would have to put herself forward as a candidate three months before the election in July.
The summit was abuzz with speculation that she is not going to run again - either because she intends to run for South African president to succeed her ex-husband President Jacob Zuma - or because she knows she would be defeated by Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, the former AU peace and security commissioner.
But he may face technical obstacles because he has already served two terms as AU peace and security commissioner and the AU rules limit a person to two terms as a commissioner.
Dlamini-Zuma also threw some light on the most controversial issue at the AU summit – whether or not the AU would send a proposed peacekeeping force of 5 000 troops, called Maprobu, to quell growing violence in Burundi.
AU ambassadors made the decision to deploy the force at a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) in December. But the Burundian government firmly rejected the force and the summit faced a huge dilemma about whether or not to go ahead with the deployment anyway.
AU peace and security commissioner Smail Chergui announced at the end of summit that the leaders had decided to send a high-level mission to Burundi to discuss the mission.
But Burundian foreign minister Alain Nyamitwe said after the summit that if the high-level panel went to Burundi to try to persuade his President Pierre Nkurunziza to accept Maprobu, “the delegation has failed already”.
He had earlier said that his government would consider a much smaller contingent of AU human rights and military observers to enhance the 30 observers already in the country.
Asked, though, if the summit leaders had explicitly ruled out the deployment of Maprobu, he said: “It amounts to the same because our position has not changed. This is a position which we have expressed in an assembly of 54 states. How do you think it can change if its only four or five people?”
Asked what the high-level mission would be, South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said: “The team is being sent to finalise how Burundi would love to be supported as a sovereign state.
“So they have agreed to that and the modalities will come from that outcome. The AU is sending an extended team which will do the assessment with Burundi and will immediately take a decision during that meeting.”
Asked if the 5 000-strong Maprobu mission was off the table, she said: “Whatever number, whether they want soldiers or they want police, whatever kind of support they need, will be decided in that meeting.”
Dlamini-Zuma put a slightly different perspective on it. She said the AU would not deploy Maprobu without Nkurunziza’s approval. She said the AU would prefer to resolve the Burundi crisis without the use of force. But she also suggested that if negotiations failed, Maprobu might still be an option.
Addressing other security crises, Chergui called on all African states and the international community to contribute more to the AU peacekeeping force Amisom which is helping the Somali government fight the violent jihadist group al-Shabaab. He noted that terrorism was a global phenomenon which needed a collective effort from the world “as terrorism can travel far and wide”.
Chergui said the summit had decided to revive a high-level contact group of five heads of state to accelerate international efforts to establish a single government in Libya, bringing together the present two governments, one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk.
Former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete had also been appointed as the new AU special envoy for Libya.
Chergui noted that the international contact group on Libya had met at the summit and urged all parties to sign the Libya Peace Agreement which was brokered by the United Nations in December to form a single unity government.
The Tobruk government has backed the agreement but the Tripoli government has not. Chergui said the only way to achieve the vigorous and concerted action needed to stop the spread of terrorism and instability across Libya and beyond was to form a united Libyan government. The international community could then train and equip it to tackle these security problems.
He emphasised, though, that ultimately no military solution was possible in Libya. At the contact group meeting earlier this week all stakeholders agreed that external military intervention was out of the question.
Chergui also welcomed the recent agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the UN peacekeeping mission Monusco to resume their co-operation in fighting the remaining armed groups terrorising the eastern DRC – particularly the FDLR and the ADF-Nalu. The co-operation between the DRC and Monusco ended a year ago when Monusco withdrew its military support for the fight against the FDLR because the two DRC generals appointed to lead the fight had allegedly committed human rights abuses.
Dlamini-Zuma also clarified the AU position on the International Criminal Court (ICC). The AU had previously passed resolutions condemning the ICC for indicting sitting African presidents.
It had resolved that AU member countries should not co-operate with the ICC by arresting the indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
There was speculation that the AU might go further this weekend by deciding on a strategy of mass withdrawal from the ICC.
Chadian President Idriss Deby, the new AU chairman, told a press conference after the summit it had decided to unify the different positions of its member states on the ICC.
They would then present this to the ICC with a plea to take the African position seriously.
Dlamini-Zuma said that if the AU failed to persuade the ICC to change its approach, this would force African countries to choose between the AU and the ICC.
“And that would be a difficult decision.”
Her implication was that if the ICC did not respond to AU demands, the organisation would evict African states which insisted on remaining in the ICC.