News / Africa

AU Chief Leaves Mixed Legacy

AFRICA-AU/
AFRICA-AU/
TEXT SIZE - +
— Jean Ping, the outgoing African Union Commission chairman, will hand over his position Monday at the organization’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.  Ping was often criticized for the quality of his leadership, but his defenders said he did the best he could given his position.
 
Jean Ping lost a fierce and competitive race with South African Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in July to hold on to his position as head of the AU Commission. The sometimes harsh rhetoric during the months of campaigning exposed some deep divisions in the African Union.
 
As one of his last acts in office to soothe tensions, Ping attended his final U.N. General Assembly in New York last month accompanied by his successor Dlamini-Zuma.

Failing on Libya
 
In his four years as AU commission chairman,  Ping faced numerous challenges across the continent, from political turmoil in Madagascar and Ivory Coast, to crises in Tunisia and Niger.
 
But the issue he was most criticized for was for the AU’s slow response to the crisis in Libya during the Arab Spring uprising - and not backing the growing call for then-Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to step down from decades in power.  
 
African Union Commissioner of the Peace and Security Council Ramtane Lamamre worked with Ping on a daily basis. He said it is not fair that all the criticism was focused on the chairman.
 
"Ping has not made decisions in isolation.  Rather, the commission has made recommendations to the member states, in particular to the Peace and Security Council and the panel of five heads of state, which was set up to handle the Libya crisis," said Lamamre. "And, the membership overwhelmingly endorsed the recommendations by the commission.”
 
Lamamre feels he was more responsible for the handling of Libya than Ping was. “I was in charge of the peace and security portfolio as I am now," he said.  "And therefore, I take responsibility for much of what we have done in the Libya crisis or any other crisis that we had to manage together with Dr. Ping.”
 
In the case of Libya, Michael Battle, the U.S. ambassador to the African Union, felt that one has to acknowledge the limitations the chairperson faces.
 
”Serving in a multilateral organization like the African Union, without the power to actually make things happen, because the chairperson of the African Union Commission cannot make things happen on behalf of the continent, they can implement the continent's policies,” said Battle.
 
Ping understood those limitations and dismissed criticism that he often failed to promote effective cohesion in dealing with crises such as those in Libya and Ivory Coast, saying it would be impossible to get all 54 diverse member-states on the same page.
 
Looking back at the Libya situation, independent African Union specialist Mehari Taddele Maru argued that Ping’s leadership on Libya actually gives the outgoing chairman a positive legacy.
 
“I think Jean Ping was very strong in his position on Libya, and as such, most of the pressure was on him," said Mehari. "But he was able to maintain head of the secretary of the AU to reflect the position of the African continent, as such, but at the same time to do it with a graceful manner, without being simply marginalized and without being also too much isolated from the landscape, political landscape.”

Horn of Africa drought
 
Ping's leadership of the AU response to the 2008 drought in the Horn of Africa is cited by many as another positive addition to his legacy. Ambassador Battle said the chairman organized a conference where African countries donated over $350 million to assist each other.
 
“This was the first time in all of the history of the continent that the continent had convened to say that we want to help ourselves, while we are seeking help from donors," said Battle. "And, Ping fought very, very, hard to make sure that that donor conference took place.  Interestingly enough, as a by-product of that, Kenya implemented a program called Kenyans for Kenyans.  Kenya raised over $10 million among Kenyan people to help Kenyan people in this time of the drought and the famine.”
 
Jean Ping also forged strong ties with China - itself controversial.  China financed the $200 million AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, which critics say has bought the Asian giant undue influence on the African continent.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid