Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has lost the election for African Union Commission chairperson to Chad’s Moussa Mahamat in a vote held at the bloc’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday.
Faki, Chad’s foreign minister since 2008, beat four other candidates among them Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. After seven rounds of voting, the Chadian foreign affairs minister defeated favourites Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily as well as Mba Mokuy, of Equatorial Guinea and Botswana’s Moithoi.
The 56-year-old and father-of-five succeeds South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to lead the bloc of 54 states, who did not seek a second term in office after completing a four-year term. During Dlamini-Zuma’s time in charge of the AU, the medical doctor has focused on reforming the AU’s dysfunctional internal bureaucracy and drawing up a long-term plan for improving the lives of Africa’s underprivileged citizens, especially women and children.
A few days before the election, rumour was rife that South Africa which had pledged to support Venson-Moitoi, had switched allegiance and were likely to vote for Kenya’s Amina Mohamed.
South Africa’s News 24 which speculated that Zuma may vote for the Kenyan candidate reported that “Botswana’s president Ian Khama does not attend AU summits, which has bred resentment amongst fellow African heads of state.”
Throughout her campaign, Venson-Moitoi has had to ward off criticism about Khama’s attitude towards the AU. “He (Khama) is not the country. He is not Botswana,” Venson-Moitoi said parrying journalist’ suggestions that Khama’s snubbing of AU events suggested that Botswana was not committed to the continental body.
Venson-Moitoi defended Khama’s incessant absence at AU summits. “Khama has handed over the AU responsibilities to the Vice President (Mokgweetsi Masisi currently occupies the position). He has always sent representatives to the summit. No official has ever been withheld from attending,” said Venson-Moitoi.
The AU was supposed to pick a new leader in July last year but the election was postponed following three rounds of voting after candidates failed to garner the required number of votes.
More than 50 percent of the member states abstained from the second round of voting last year.
Meanwhile, the AU is expected to vote on Tuesday whether Morocco, the only country in Africa that is not part of the organisation, will be re-admitted into the body.
Rabat withdrew from the union in 1984 to protest against the admission of disputed Western Sahara territories.