Pretoria - African countries are battling to find a worthy successor to South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as African Union Commission chairperson at next month’s AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Officials say the three candidates who have so far put their names forward are “below par” and moves are afoot to find someone better.
Former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete and current Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra are being considered.
The officials said the last minute search for a better person to occupy the top AU job could delay the election from next month until the next AU summit in January next year in Addis Ababa.
If so, either Dlamini-Zuma herself or her deputy, Kenya’s Erastus Mwencha, would probably stay on as caretaker chairperson.
Dlamini-Zuma is due to end her term next month, having declined to run for a second term which she is entitled to do.
"It’s a big mess, we can agree on that," the official said.
The three candidates who have put their names forward are Botswana’s foreign affairs minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (aged 65) who is the candidate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), former Ugandan deputy president Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (aged 60), for the east African region, and Equatorial Guinea’s foreign affairs minister Agapito Mba Mokuy (aged 51), for the central African region.
The SADC is arguing that it should get the chair because Dlamini-Zuma will not be serving a second term. But South African official sources are saying they fear Venson-Moitoi will not win because the rest of Africa does not like Botswana’s foreign policy. This includes its firm support for the International Criminal Court which the AU has rejected as biased towards Africa.
The sources said President Jacob Zuma had already consulted last year with other SADC heads of state, especially Namibia and Mozambique, to find a stronger candidate. But no one was willing to put up a candidate.
It has been suggested that Mokuy cannot win either because of the poor human rights record of his president Teodoro Obiang Nguema. But one African official said: “I think human rights would be the last consideration in deciding who would be the next AUC chair."
"Nonetheless Equatorial Guinea is not a serious candidate. Algeria will never support it because they see Obiang as a strong Morocco backer."
Uganda’s Kazibwe was also not considered a strong enough candidate, the sources said. So the search was on for someone else – with the focus on Kikwete and Lamamra.
Lamamra was considered the most likely successor to Dlamini-Zuma until recently. However, no country may have more than one commissioner at one time and it was believed that the Algerians preferred to retain the position of Peace and Security Commissioner which is held by Algerian Smail Chergui. His name has been put forward for the elections in Kigali to retain the position. Officials said that was true for now, but if the AU leaders decided at the Kigali summit to delay the election of the AU Commission chair until next January, the Algerians would re-evaluate their position.