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AU commission elections

The 28th Ordinary Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government will be held from January 30-31, 2017, at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme ‘harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth’.
Some of the anticipated highlights of the forthcoming AU Summit will be the election of the new chairperson of the AU Commission following the announcement by the incumbent Dr.
Nkhosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa not to re contest her position after her term ended in June 2016.
Some of the candidates contesting to replace outgoing AU Commission chairperson are Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of Botswana, Hon Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad, Hon Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Hon Dr Amina C Mohamed of Kenya and Dr Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal.
Although diplomacy by member countries will be a key factor in determining the winner at the forthcoming AU Commission elections, some political analysts argue that regional politics will turn out to be a major determiner for the winner of the chairperson of the AU Commission. There are seven main regional economic (RECS) blocs in the AU.
These include the East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Others include the Arab Maghreb Union and the Community of the Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).
It thus, remains to be seen whether countries will vote along their regional economic blocs, influenced by their geopolitics or based on the best qualities of each candidate to contribute to “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,” as outlined in the vision and mission of the AU Agenda 2063.
The chairperson of the AU Commission is responsible not only for shaping the continental economic and trade, political and security agenda but also key in mobilizing common African positions on matters of global governance and represents and champions Africa’s voice on the global stage and the implementation of Agenda 2063 among other responsibilities.
The elections for the chairperson of the AU Commission has come at such a critical time when the continent today is reeling from one political and economic crisis to another, thus pointing to an urgent need for a focused leadership at a pan-African level.
This is why many political observers have followed keenly, more than before the elections for the chairperson of the AU Commission, to see which of the candidates is likely to fill this important leadership role and mobilise member states in pursuit of the AU’s agenda.
The summit will also elect eight commissioners. The AU Commissioners support the chairperson in running the Commission through their assigned portfolios which include peace and security; political affairs; infrastructure and energy; trade and industry; social affairs; rural economy and agriculture; human resources, science and technology; and economic affairs.
Zambia has sponsored two candidates for the position of AU Commissioners.
These include Ambassador Albert Muchanga, who is currently the Permanent Secretary for Parliamentary Business in the office of the vice-president for the position of Trade and Commerce Commissioner and Dr Austin Sichinga, a former Special Assistant to the President for Economics during President Rupiah Banda’s Presidency for the position of Rural Economy and Agriculture.
According to the AU constitution, the terms for commissioners are for four years and renewable once.
Although one of the key agenda for the 28th AU Summit will be the election of the new leadership for the AU commission, other issues such as trade, food security, climate change and deeper integration for Africa are likely to take center stage.
However, African leaders will likely not turn away from discussing other critical issues such as the recent political crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Gambia.
For instance, the efforts by the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) will also deserve special mention at the forthcoming AU Summit in that regional bloc’s efforts to mediate and restore political stability in the Gambia after ex-president Yahya Jammeh refused to concede defeat to former opposition leader Adama Barrow after the last December election.
The AU should also consider coming up with tough measures and isolating African leaders who do not conform to democratic tenets and good governance to safeguard the peace and stability that has eluded the continent for some time now.
Therefore, as the AU meets for its 28th Ordinary Assembly from January 30-31, 2017, both the leaders and citizens of the continent should be confident that Africa has the capability to realize her full potential in development, culture and peace and to establish a flourishing, inclusive and prosperous continent.
The author is a social and political commentator and blogger.