African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Kigali - Whoever replaces Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's as chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) is going to have big shoes to fill,” Ndumiso Ntshinga, South Africa's ambassador to the African Union (AU), told the African News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday.

One of the crucial events which is expected take place at the 27th AU Summit in Kigali will be the election of a new AUC chairperson to replace Dlamini-Zuma.

The positions of deputy chairperson and four commissioners (Political Affairs; Human Resources, Science and Technology; Infrastructure and Energy; and Rural Economy and Agriculture) are also open.

The Peace and Security, Trade and Industry, Social Affairs and Economic Affairs ministers are also running for re-election. Currently there is uncertainty over whether elections will take place during the Summit as planned or whether they will be postponed to the next AU Summit in January 2017.

However, during an interview with ANA Ntshinga, said that the new AUC chairperson would struggle to match Dlamini-Zuma's legacy. “They will not be able to come up with a vision or an implementation plan to compare with that of the outgoing chairperson,” said Ntshinga.

“Dr Dlamini-Zuma has already given the AU its first-ever vision and a structure for its implementation. This vision involves the AU's 10-year implementation plan which is part of the 'Agenda 2063',” said the SA ambassador.

Agenda 2063 is both a Vision and an Action Plan. It is a call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.

“If we want to talk about Dlamini-Zuma's legacy in concrete terms, we can look at her active involvement in peace and security matters, for instance Burundi's deteriorating security situation,” Ntshinga told ANA.

“She was the one who alerted the AU to the fact that the situation on the ground in Burundi had reached ominous proportions. She visited the country and met and spoke with stake holders on the ground before pushing the AU to get more involved,” said Ntshinga.

When Ebola broke out in Africa it was Dlamini-Zuma who mobilised the continent's resources and took a lead role in fighting the disease. This involved motivating Africa's private sector to bring in money and other resources, explained the ambassador.

“Furthermore, her leadership has been dramatic in regards to human rights and women's issues. She has been a champion of gender equality and the rights of women in addition to peace and security matters and health issues,” said Ntshinga.

“So her replacement will not only have to keep the momentum going but up the ante.”

Turning to the AU Summit, currently underway in Kigali, Ntshinga said delegates were busy tackling some of the more difficult questions which faced the AU.

“The heads of state are going to discuss the elephant in the room which is the AU's critical financial predicament.

“We will also be discussing our 10-year implementation plan and 'Agenda 2063' because this is the first time the AU has had a vision. And now we want it to extend beyond a vision and incorporate the implementation plan,” explained Ntishinga.

And as the situation in South Sudan spirals out of control with hundreds killed in the last few days of fighting, between the army of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and the armed followers of First Vice President Riek Machar, unexpected security developments will also be forced on to the AU's agenda.

“Now obviously there will also be issues that come up unexpectedly on the peace and security front such as things getting very bad in South Sudan so probably we will have to find time to sit down and discuss what can be done on that front,” said Ntishinga.

African News Agency