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African Union Summit: Who Will Succeed Dlamini-Zuma?

FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, attends the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, Nov. 12, 2015.
FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, attends the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, Nov. 12, 2015.

The 27th assembly of the African Union (AU) has opened in Kigali, Rwanda with the theme: “2016: Year of Human Rights” with a particular focus on the rights of women. The assembly of heads of state will take place between July 17 and 18.

Also of interest at this year’s meeting is the fact that current AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa has decided not to seek a second term.

There is speculation that Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, and Uganda will put forward the names of their foreign ministers to succeed Dlamini-Zuma.

AU Commission Chair should represent a democratic government

But Nigeria-born Chika Onyeani, publisher and editor-in-chief of the African Sun Times newspaper says there should be a democracy litmus test for the countries whose candidates are running to succeed Dlamini-Zuma.

He said totalitarian leaders should not be rewarded with the position of chairperson of the African Union.

“We need the chairmanship of the African Union to be credible. If you nominate a candidate who represents one of those dictatorial leaders, what is going to happen is that you are enabling dictatorship in Africa, and that is not good for the continent,” he said.

Leadership is important in Africa

Onyeani said Dlamini-Zuman’s successor should be an individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in terms of respecting the constitution of his or her country, especially in observing term limits and holding credible elections, and allowing the opposition equal access to the media.

He said Uganda and Equatorial Guinea should not be rewarded because their leaders are dictators, despite the fact Uganda held elections earlier this year.

“The thing is that Yoweri Museveni refused to allow the opposition to campaign. In fact, he jailed the opposition candidate. How do you say you are holding a credible election when you are not allowing the opposition? And you tell us that your country’s citizens love you. If your citizens love you, why don’t you submit yourself to a fair and credible election? That is what we want in Africa,” he said.

Publisher Onyeani backs Botswana's foreign minister

Onyeani said if he could vote he would vote for Botswana Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi because her former president, Festus Mogae, is one of the winners of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's $5 million Leadership Awards.

The other three Mo Ibrahim democracy awardees are Presidents Hifikepuny Pohamba of Namibia, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique.

Onyeani said unless there are other credible candidates, Africans should demand the election of the next AU Commission chairperson be postponed because unlike the election of Dlamini-Zuma which was publicized and debated in the media, the campaigns of this year’s candidates have not been publicly advertised.

“If you remember in 2012, in fact starting from 2011, there was a lot of campaigning between the former chairperson Jean Ping and the current chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. There was a lot of international interest about it. But nobody knows the people who are trying to take over from Dlamini-Zuma,” he said.

Onyeani speculates that Dlamini-Zuma is leaving the AU Commission to run for the chairmanship of the African National Congress and ultimately the presidency of South Africa.