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AU elections: A silent battle between Francophone and Anglophone states
By Sheila Naturinda | Sat, Jul 14, 2012
Corridor talks about lobbying, and the eventual political showdown over who will be the next chair of the African Union Commission was close to throwing into doubt the other meaningful deliberations at the ongoing Addis Ababa summit.
Even as official meetings went on, bilateral on the candidacy of the two antagonists in the race were being talked about- silently and in other corners sometimes loudly.
The different council meetings did discuss situations in Mali, civil conflicts in Somalia, hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan, and the current and most current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The contest of who becomes AU boss next is between incumbent Dr Jean Ping of Gabon, and South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister, also President Jacob Zuma’s former wife- Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Their first shot at the ballot having failed to count winner and loser in the January 2012 summit elections, the fight was seen as very close but none of the two garnered the needed three thirds numbers of votes. And as the repeat is being wished away, different delegates attending the summit now allege that the other businesses being held at the summit are time wasting, “that rather the election is the most wanted item on the agenda.”
“We need an agreement on one position because of the necessity of the outcome of the position because if what happened last time comes back in this meeting, then the commission cannot work,” said Delgedo Arnodos a delegate from Cape Verde.
Mr Arnodos however cannot reveal who of the two his country drums support for- “that is what I cannot talk about. What I know is that Dr Ping isn’t comfortable working under these situations and therefore a vote must be made this time round.”
The elections, expected towards the end of the summit in the mid-week have already been seen as pitying Anglophone countries against their francophone counterparts with Ms Zuma pulling must support from the Anglophone states and Dr Ping from the Franco phone states.
At the opening of the 19th ordinary meeting, on Tuesday last week, Dr Ping issued a statement denying media reports in South Africa that he had cowed out of the race for the country’s strong woman. He called the reports malicious, “and that he was still in the race seeking re-election.”
He had been accused in both media reports in South Africa and by Botswana’s minister Phandu Skelemani who condemned him for using AU funds for campaigns. Dr Ping said his president had supported his campaigns and had also given him a helicopter to traverse the continent campaigning for re-election.
“Recently, it has been suggested that France is funding my campaign, including provision of an aircraft for some of the trips I have made, some of which were in fulfillment of my official duties. This is absolutely untrue. The fact is that it is my Government and my personal resources that have sustained my campaign,” Dr Ping said in a press statement.
The consensus within southern Africa is that it is time for the region to hold the commission's highest office – the past three chairs have been from francophone Africa (Ivory Coast, Mali and Gabon) and the equivalent position in the AU's predecessor, the OAU, was never held by a southern African.
From Zambia, the country’s minister in charge of Foreign Affairs Given Lubinda said in an interview that his country is confident that the position will go to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Mr Lubinda who is representing President Michael Sata said all attempts to win the seat have been made almost four times and, “SADC is very clear on the elections and after 49 years we want the AU to be led by someone from the Southern region.”
However Ms Zuma’s undoing has already been pointed out by the fact that the Commission deputy is from Kenya, an Anglophone state hence allegations that Kenya has denied Ms Zuma the support because of the fear that their position could be compromised.
Some of the South African delegates talked to declined to be named but reasoned that Dr Ping has failed to put his feet down over the foreign countries invasion in African affairs.
“When the foreigners come here with their agenda he immediately works on it for their advantage. See what has happened in Mali, and other African states, he has failed to reign onto such countries- we now need a hardworking person who is driving the African agenda,” one of them said.
They said in South Africa, Ms Zuma is called a ‘Ms fix it all’- probably a description for her hardwork.
A delegate from Nigeria only identified as Julius Obwongho said yesterday that his country supports Dr Ping simply because they feel, as one of the largest contributors to the AU, South Africa has betrayed former OAU gentleman's agreement that the positions be left for 'smaller' states to run the body.
"As a woman we know she comes with life, vibrancy which could propel the AU but we cannot support her because of what we agreed originally," he says. Voting is expected to take place tomorrow (Sunday) or Monday 17.