With only few hours before African leaders decide the next African Union Commission Chairperson, Botswana’s candidate Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi seems likely to lose the support of some SADC members states who are unhappy that President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s has snubbed the summit.
Although South Africa had earlier pledged to support Venson-Moitoi, by Friday there were reports that he was 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.
During a campaign pit stop in Johannesburg two months ago, Venson ÔÇô Moitoi stopped short of telling cynical journalists that President Khama’s attitude to the AU does not reflect Batswana’s sentiments.
“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 country has played its full role to the AU. Khama is not the only President who has failed to attend the AU summit. He has never withheld any payments to the AU”, she said.
The South African media reported that, “even though South Africa should officially support the candidate from southern Africa, unofficial talk is that President Jacob Zuma will vote for the Kenyan candidate when it matters.”
Towards the end of the week, circumstances seemed to be conspiring against Venson-Moitoi and the only sure votes from the SADC block were Zambia and Tanzania.
During a Thursday session of Foreign Affairs Ministers Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania were the only SADC member states that spoke out against a decision by African members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to withdraw en masse from the international court.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Gandour was quoted saying that a meeting of African Union (AU) foreign ministers had decided to leave the Netherlands-based court.
“The foreign ministers who are members of the committee vehemently criticized the ICC as holding a perverted sense of justice that only pursues the heels of African leaders,” Gandour said in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
He added: “The ministerial decision will be presented to leaders who will meet this coming Monday and, on their endorsement, African countries will withdraw from the ICC en masse.”
Even Nigeria which had initially opposed the mass withdrawal from ICC is understood to be supporting the decision. Nigeria’s AU envoy, Godfrey Abudigbo, said: “We are in solidarity with the African Union and since yesterday, when the decision to implement mass withdrawal from the ICC was given by the AU open committee, we have started our withdrawal.
The decision puts the Kenyan candidate in a strong position to win over Africa.Kenya ran a very strong campaign for her across the continent, and being a leader on issues like calling for African countries to leave the International Criminal Court has won Kenya strong trust amongst like-minded countries.