With just a few weeks left before the African Union (AU) Secretariat announces names of candidates who will battle it out for the AU plum post – the chairperson’s seat – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta this week announced the entry of his foreign minister Amina Mohamed who many speculate is going to be Botswana’s Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s biggest competition in the race. But while many may think that Venson-Moitoi has been rattled by this eleventh hour announcement by Kenya to enter in the race, the 65-year-old veteran politician is defiant and more convinced that she stands a good chance of replacing South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as AU Chairpersonship. When unpacking what her campaign has so far managed to achieve at a press briefing in Gaborone, Venson-Moitoi revealed in addition to the re-endorsement she received from SADC Heads of state, she recently hosted 27 African resident ambassadors in Pretoria, South Africa where she was able to interact and share her campaign strategy with them. The ambassadors, it is said, were among others interested in knowing how Venson-Moitoi will address the issue of finding alternative funding to the AU, address issues of security and terrorism and how she sees the issue of interactions and migration.
The meeting is said to have went well as Venson-Moitoi impressed the ambassadors with her responses which among others include her plan to promote dialogue to resolve conflicts at their earliest stage. Her revised campaign has since been submitted to SADC and will be released in part to the general public soon. Although there were reports that the former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete has shown interest in joining the race, the former statesmen’s candidature has not been endorsed by both the regional block SADC and Tanzania itself. Currently countries which have submitted names for possible nomination are Botswana, Somalia, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea and with Kenya being the newest entrant. In the past elections for the position held in Kigali, Rwanda in July Venson-Moitoi battled it out against Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, former Ugandan vice president and Agapito Mba Mokuy, Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister. No candidate among the three was able to attain two thirds of the votes even after a re-run; hence a consensus was reached by the African leaders to postpone electing a new AU Chairperson to the next African summit in Addis Ababa in January. About 28 African countries abstained voting, constituting over 50% of the African countries. While Venson-Moitoi and her campaign team insist the Kenyan candidate is not a threat and that her candidature is not different of any other in the race, some critics feel Mohamed pose the highest possible threat.
Venson-Moitoi vs. Mohamed
The two are both foreign affairs ministers in their respective countries and they are both women, hence the gender card is not going to work for either one of them.
Moitoi is the eighth Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana. She took office on the 31st October 2014Her areas of specialty lie in Public Service Management and Administrative Systems Analysis and design. She has a Diploma in Local Government from the Institute of Public Service in Connecticut, USA. She holds a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, USA. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in Social Development based on a review of her work and writing on government and governance. Moitoi started her career as a journalist for a private publication in 1970 until 1973 when she joined the ranks of the Public Service. Her service lasted for 20 years between 1973 and 1993 in which she held various positions, the last as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing.
Post Public Service, Dr Venson–Moitoi pursued other interests in the private Sector in line with areas of her specialization. Among others she took the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Kalahari Conservation Society from 1993 to 1994. She followed that with tenure as Head of the Institute for Local Government (INLOGOV) in Cape Town, South Africa from 1994 to 1998 and also carried out private Consultancy work in Local Government. During the same period she did short projects for UNDP in Zimbabwe and Gambia as well as GIZ in South Africa. As a longtime member of the Botswana Democratic Party, she served in various capacities within the party before she was elected as Specially Elected Member of Parliament in 1999. Her political career has seen her win subsequent elections and continually holding various Cabinet portfolios in Works, Transport and Communications, Trade and Industry, Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Science and Technology as well as Education and Skills Development.
Among her most significant achievements include being the first woman to lead the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Kenya. She was elected President of UNCTAD 14 for the next four years, was the Chairperson of the historic WTO 10th Ministerial Conference – the top decision-making body of the WTO, and Co-Chairperson of the Ministerial segment of the first TICAD Summit held in Africa. She was President of the Conference on Disarmament and the first African and the first female Chairperson of the Council of the International Organisation for Migration. In addition, she served as a member of the Executive Bodies and Committees of the World Health Organisation, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, World Intellectual Property Organisation and the UN Programme on HIV and AIDS. In 2010, Mohamed was elected President of the UN International Conference on Transnational Crime in Vienna, Austria for a two-year period. In 2011, she was appointed by the UN Secretary General as UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Of rooftop diplomacy and Moitoi’s candidature
While most observers feel the country’s habit of breaking ranks with other countries in the SADC region and Africa on matters of international relations might have cost Venson-Moitoi the AU top position in Kigali and history is bound to repeat itself yet again Venson-Moitoi and her ministry have over the time defended the country’s position. While some argue that President Ian Khama‘s recent remarks in which he called for resignation of the President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe might cost Venson-Moitoi, MOFAIC has denied any such effect. Venson-Moitoi said this week that they were satisfied with the number of Heads of states who attended BOT50 celebrations and hence have no worry that Botswana or Venson-Moitoi could be snubbed. On the Mugabe issue, Venson-Moitoi detoured a bit from Khama’s crude approach and rather said staying in power for more than 10 years by any leader of state should be discouraged. She, however, said Mugabe was voted into power by the people of Zimbabwe.