17 July 2012
South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the newly elected chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), has undertaken to set a new agenda for the continent, while also pledging to build on the gains of her predecessors.
Speaking to reporters for the first time on Monday night following her election to lead the AUC, a relaxed Dlamini Zuma told a packed press conference room at the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that Africa needed a new vision – one that would guide the AU’s ability to bring about stability and growth on the continent.
“We assume this position with a vision that says our continent should grow and take its rightful place among the nations of the world. I plan to work with all regions for the benefit of our continent and to achieve that goal,” she said.
Her election should not be seen as a personal victory but a victory for the continent and women in particular.
“I made it clear that this was not about me or South Africa, but should be seen as an achievement for the continent. I pledge my loyalty to the continent; our continent is not an island, and we have to make sure that we grow and take our rightful place among the nations of the world.”
Since the news of her victory over the former chairperson, Gabon’s Jean Ping, emerged on Sunday, congratulatory and support messages have poured in for Dlamini Zuma.
South Africa’s Presidency has expressed its confidence that the former foreign affairs and current home affairs minister would champion critical issues of peace and security while taking seriously the rights of women and children.
The US government wished her success and said it looked forward to working closely with her and maintaining a productive relationship with the AU.
Credited for her achievements when she served as South Africa’s minister of foreign affairs and currently home affairs, the 63-year-old Dlamini Zuma said she was mindful of the fact that the AU faced many challenges and that carrying the hopes of more than one billion people could never be an easy task.
“That is why I rely on the support of my sisters and brothers to make sure that all of us take this continent forward … There has been a consensus on this election, the heads of state and government decided to vote this way, and we need to work together for the sake of our continent,” said Dlamini Zuma.
She shrugged off suggestions that the closely contested election could be an indication of underlying divisions within the AU, saying that all Africans had a right to serve on the continental body and that one of its goals should be ensuring a prosperous continent.
The 19th AU Summit, which ended on Monday, also resolved to keep the commission’s deputy chairperson while introducing several fresh and vibrant commissioners to ensure the speedy implementation of policies.
With the transformation of the AU high on the agenda of the summit, observers say the new team will need to move with speed in tackling issues relating to peace and security on the continent.
The current crisis in Mali, the conflict between South Sudan and Sudan, and lingering problems in Western Sahara and Somalia are just some of the serious challenges facing Africa.
The AU chairperson warned this week that if the crises were not resolved they posed a potential security threat for the continent.
On Monday, Dlamini Zuma said a major task would be to strengthen the AU’s Peace and Security Council so that it dealt effectively with conflicts and security matters affecting Africa’s stability.