FROM June 10 – 18, 2016, the African Union (AU) is set to make a huge decision that could shape the fate of the organisation and the whole African continent for years to come at its 27th African Union (AU) Session.
At the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to be held in Rwandaâ€™s capital Kigali, the AU will be expected to choose its next chairperson.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) is the chief executive officer, legal representative of the AU and the commissionâ€™s accounting officer. The chairperson is directly responsible to the Executive Council for the discharge of his/ her duties.
The current Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa who was elected in 2012 for the first four year term is stepping down at the end of her first term.
The position of deputy chairperson and other four commissioners are also available for re-election for another term. Many observers view this as an interesting battle which will be fought around the prestigious position of the African Union Commission (AUC).
With the stepping down of Mrs Dlamini-Zuma there are also questions whether she has truly transformed the face of the AU as optimists had envisaged.
Therefore, as the process to find her replacement gets underway, the decision will be made at the African Union (AU) summit in Kigali, Rwanda, as to who the new chairperson for the AUC will be.
The deputy chairperson also assists the chairperson in the execution of his or her functions and ensures the smooth running of the Commission in relation to administrative and financial issues.
The current deputy chairperson is Erastus Mwencha, from Kenya, who was elected in 2008.
However, Mr Mwencha will not be eligible for election to the commission, having been elected twice (in 2008 and 2012).
The portfolios of political affairs, infrastructure and energy, rural economy and agriculture, human resources, and science and technology are also open for election while the commissioners of peace and security, social affairs, trade and industry, and economic affairs are running for re-election.
Eight commissioners are elected by the AU Executive Council and appointed by the Assembly. Appointments are declared during the Assembly Summit following the Executive Council elections.
Terms are for four years and renewable once (Commission Statutes, article 10).
However, there is also a lack of clarity regarding the relationship between the AU chairperson (who is appointed for a one-year term from amongst serving heads of state or government) and the AU Commission chairperson.
On January 30, 2016, the heads of state and government of the African Union elected Mr. Idriss Deby, President of the Republic of Chad, as chairperson of the African Union (AU) during their 26th Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Under article 6 of the Commission Statutes, the region from which the chairperson and deputy chairperson are appointed is entitled to one commissioner each.
All other regions are entitled to two commissioners. According to the regulations, at least one commissioner from each region should be a woman.
The Commissioners support the chairperson in running the Commission through their assigned portfolios, namely 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. Commissioners have the responsibility to implement all decisions, policies and programmes relating to their portfolios (Commission Statutes, article 11).
Who gets the top job?
Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (65), currently Botswanaâ€™s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was endorsed by the 10 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as its candidate for the position of AUC chairperson at a meeting of the organisation on March 23, 2016 in Gaborone, Botswana.
The AU southern African region comprises Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Despite being supported by South Africa and the regional bloc, some analysts argue that her bid could be complicated by the fact that Botswana has not always gone along with AU positions on issues such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), for example.
SADC argues that since Dlamini-Zuma is stepping down, the regional body feels it is entitled to another term.
However, Venson-Moitoi will face two other candidates, from eastern and central Africa. This shows that a second term by a SADC national does not necessarily have the support of the other regions in the AU.
For the Eastern region, Uganda has proposed Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (60), a member of the AUâ€™s Panel of the Wise, a former UN special representative and former executive vice-president of Uganda (1994â€“2003).
However, it is not clear whether Uganda can gather the full support of neighbouring states, as well as elsewhere on the continent.
This is because some political analysts view some contentious relations between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and some of his counterparts in the eastern region as a possible hindrance to the bid.
Agapito Mba Mokuy (51), Equatorial Guineaâ€™s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, is the Central African candidate.
He is relatively unknown compared to the two other candidates, but his country may be seen to launch a serious diplomatic and financial campaign to gather votes in the various regional blocs.
The personal relationships built by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea during his long tenure and his tireless attendance at AU gatherings are also viewed as the main strengths of Mokuyâ€™s bid.
Equatorial Guinea has hosted AU summits twice (2011 and 2014) and President Obiang Nguema was AU chairperson in 2011. However, some critics have pointed to his countryâ€™s poor human rights record as a matter of concern.
Therefore, although professional background and international experience will matter in the upcoming elections for the chairperson and members of the commission of AUC in Kigali, the regulations insist on the need for an equal geographical distribution.
This, therefore, means that diplomatic efforts led by the heads of state of nominating countries will also play an important role in the ultimate outcome.
However, whoever wins as chairperson of the AUC faces a huge challenge to transform the continent in ensuring food security, peace, stability, security, fight disease, ignorance and corruption on the face of the African continent.
The author is a fourth year student in political science at the University of Zambia.