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AU's Chairmanship Selection Gets Mixed Reviews

There’s mixed reaction to the appointment of the Republic of Congo's president to head the African Union. Critics say President Denis Sassou-Nguesso is a poor role model for the continent, given his past role as a coup leader and a checkered human rights record. Supporters hail the choice, saying it reflects the country's success in moving beyond its violent recent past. The 63-year-old President Sassou-Nguesso was selected to chair the 53-nation organization for the next year during a summit in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. It came after Sudan's bid to head the AU failed to gain enough support from member states.

Tajudeen Abdulrahim heads the London-based think tank Justice Africa. In an interview with English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje, Mr. Abdulrahim welcomed the failure of Sudanese president Umar Al-Bashir’s bid to head the AU. He said it is a welcome development that “a government with such an appalling record was rejected.” But Mr. Abdulrahim was critical of the choice of the Congolese president to chair the AU for the coming year. He says he finds it “discouraging” that the compromise choice was Denis Sassou-Nguesso – a leader whose past includes “an equally horrible governance record.” He describes the Congolese leader as someone far from qualified to chair the AU and speak on behalf of Africa.

The African analyst says the contradictions in the AU’s actions underscore the need for a “thorough review of the process through which the organization’s chairmanship is determined.” He says he finds it comforting that such pertinent issues are now coming to the fore, “with African leaders unable to dismiss them.” He says the leaders have set a precedent in Khartoum, and that the precedent “can only lead to further questions and further reforms of the various processes within the AU.”