African Union choose new chairperson

Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat has been chosen as the new chairperson of the African Union Commission. Mahamat replaces South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Moussa Faki Mahamat
Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who has more than 30 years of diplomatic and political experience, replaces South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as chairperson of the African Union Commission on 30 January 2017. (Image: African Union)

CD Anderson

Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat will take over as the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, which comprises African heads of state and government who form the Assembly of the AU.

The decision was finalised at a gathering of the 54 AU member states on 30 January 2017 at the organisation’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In the final round of voting, Mahamat got 39 votes to beat Kenyan diplomat Amina Mohammed for the post.

Mahamat, who has more than 30 years of diplomatic and political experience, replaces South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who became the first woman to lead the Commission in 2013.

Chad’s foreign minister since 2008, Mahamat served as the country’s prime minister before that. He also served as chair of the AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council. His recent political career is notable for its fervent fight against Islamist militants in Central Africa.

Ghanaian ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey was elected deputy chairperson.

In his first address as commission chair, Mahamat pledged to place development and security at the top of his agenda and streamline the organisation’s bureaucracy.

He highlighted the AU’s need for strong leadership and a “refocus on the basics”. His ultimate goal, as he emphasised in the run-up to his election, was to have “the sound of guns… drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories”.

In the last rounds of voting, Mahamat went head-to-head in a close race with Mohamed, Kenya’s foreign minister, the other favourite.

Conceding defeat, the Kenyan delegation, however, was the first to offer its congratulations and support the new AU chair, saying in a statement that the country would “work with (Mahamat) to defend the pan-African agenda of integration for Africa, as well as democracy, sovereignty and prosperity for all of its people”.

Source: African Union website

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