All eyes on Khama

SHARE   |   Monday, 09 January 2017   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
President Khama [R] with Pelonomi Venson Moitoi President Khama [R] with Pelonomi Venson Moitoi

She has done her all; it is now up to her leader to close the deal. African leaders are waiting not only for President Ian Khama’s call but for his persuasive charm to make their final conclusion of whether to throw their weight behind Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and crown her as the new chairperson for the African Union Commission or not. To put the matter beyond any doubt Khama will have to show up in person. This did not happen in July last year and close observers have been adamant that all it needed at the time was for President Khama to have been within the halls of the summit at Kigali, Rwanda to charm his colleagues and in the process secure Moitoi victory. The inconclusive election – though Venson-Moitoi was leading – was pushed to January. It has gone full circle with Venson-Moitoi – Botswana’s Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation – now facing new challengers in Chad’s foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, Equatorial Guinea’s foreign minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohamed and Senegal’s Bathily Abdoulaye.

Will Khama go?
All eyes are still on President Khama. Asked whether the president will attend the Addis Ababa Summit set for January 22 to 31, 2017 his spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said he was on leave and hence not aware that the president would attend. Last year he was represented by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi. In attending the summit, Khama will have an opportunity to not only persuade his colleagues but to explain the apprehension that other regions often have about Botswana, which they accuse of acting anti-African in some instances. He will also contextualise and make other leaders understand the country’s support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) which some see as an enemy of the African leaders. Khama’s absence will most likely benefit Kenya whose candidate is seen by some as a strong contender for the position. Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta will have an ample opportunity to advance his candidate’s worth by raising pro-African sentiments by attacking the ICC which his country has decided to pull out of. He was recently acquitted and discharged by the ICC after being accused of provoking post-election violence that claimed many lives in his country. Abdoulaye is another candidate who is regarded as the most experienced and strong contender as he is a former cabinet Minister with strong academic background (Bathily is a professor). He has been working for the United Nations as Ban Ki-Moon’s Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Region). His ability to speak both English and French has also been raised as a plus. The winning candidate will replace South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who did not seek a second term. 

Moitoi confident

Venson-Moitoi, who garnered more votes in the last elections but failed to get the much needed two third majority number to be appointed AU Commission chairperson, is happy with how her campaign is going. During the first round of the election, the Moitoi got 16 votes, Equatorial Guinea 12 votes, and Uganda’s candidate got 11 votes. Members from the West African Economic Community, ECOWAS boycotted the elections after their efforts to have them postponed hit a snag. In an interview Venson-Moitoi’s private secretary Tebatso Baleseng said the reaction from the five African regions Northern Africa, Western Africa, Middle (Central) Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa is positive and better than in the previous elections. “The campaign is really going well and we are confident that Moitoi will do well in the elections end of this month,” said Baleseng. Moitoi’s campaign is also said to have been boosted by the recent debate between the candidates where most analysts felt that she did well as compared to other candidates. The debate, which took place in the context of the series “Africa Leadership Debates”, dubbed MjadalaAfrika, was a platform for key stakeholders in various aspects of society to discuss the various opportunities that can be harnessed to ensure Africa achieves its goals for integrated and sustainable development and transforming the continent to become a major player in the global arena. 

Roof-top diplomacy
Venson-Moitoi’s undoing in her campaign could be the “rooftop diplomacy” of President Ian Khama. His open criticism of fellow leaders has also not endeared him to leaders on the continent. Last year he called on President Robert Mugabe to resign as he is too old and a burden to the Zimbabwean economy. “It is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he's not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament," Khama said, in comments that breach an African diplomatic taboo banning criticism of fellow leaders. The comment didn’t go well with Harare as Mugabe cancelled his trip to Botswana to attend the 50th Independence celebrations. Mugabe is regarded as one of the most respected statesman in Africa and his voice carries more weight at AU. Moitoi has recently dismissed suggestions that Mugabe might ditch her after President Khama’s comments, saying the 92-year-old Zimbabwean president is fully behind her. Five years ago, the AU spelled out five criteria for choosing the candidate: education; experience; leadership; achievement; and vision and strategy.

Summit highlights
• A presentation by H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda on the report of the reform of the African Union.
• Submission of the report on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA)
• Consideration of the request by Morocco to become a member states of the African Union
• Election for the post of Chairperson of the Commission with five candidates competing, namely Hon. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi (Botswana), Hon. Moussa Faki Mahamat (Chad), Hon. Agapito Mba Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea), Hon. Dr. Amina C. Mohammed (Kenya), Dr. Abdoulaye Bathily (Senegal)
• Election for the post of Deputy Chairperson of the Commission
• Appointments of the eight commissioners of the African Union Commission
• Appointment of two judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR)
• Appointment of eleven members of the African Union Advisory board on the Fight Against Corruption (AUABC)
• Appointment of one member of the African Union Commission on International Law (AUCIL)
• Consideration of reports and draft decisions of the committees of the Assembly of the Union
• Adoption of decisions and declarations of the policy organs
• Consideration of the annual report of the Chairperson on the activities of the Commission covering the period January to December 2016.