Candidates’ Debate: African Union Using Social Media For Public Input On Next Chairperson

Written by Dana Sanchez

Five candidates for African Union chairperson — the top leadership job — will face off Friday in a first-ever televised debate, where they’ll get to answer questions from African citizens about their vision for the continent, and in the process, do public relations for the A.U.

Does the A.U. need to be popularized?

Some consider the A.U.’s support and encouragement of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court as dangerous for Africa, as well as the global community, International Policy Digest reported.

The public won’t actually be able to vote for the next A.U. chairperson. However the debate will be held live in a town-hall format at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, before an audience of media representatives, invited guests, and African Union councilors, representatives and commissioners.

African citizens can use social media to submit question to candidates on issues and opportunities they think impact Africa’s future, Africa Times reported. The event moderator will ask the candidates those questions, the aim being to help shape an understanding of their leadership priorities, experience and policy positions.

The A.U.’s goal is to give candidates an opportunity to speak to African citizens, give their vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, and popularize the A.U., according to a prepared statement, Mareeg reported.

The event will be live streamed to the entire continent and beyond on the A.U. live stream link which is available on the A.U. website It will also be broadcast live.

Candidates hoping to replace outgoing Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa include Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi of Botswana, Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad, Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, Amina C Mohamed of Kenya, and Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal.

Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi of Botswana

The 15-member Southern African Development Community chose Botswana’s minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, as its candidate. Experts believe it is not likely she will win because Botswana has not always supported the A.U. on critical issues, such as the International Criminal Court, according to Brookings. Botswana may not have the goodwill needed to garner support for its candidate among the various heads of state.

Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad

Moussa Faki Mahamat is a Chadian politician who was prime minister of Chad from June 24, 2003 to Feb. 4, 2005. A member of the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), he belongs to the Zaghawa ethnic group, the same group as President Idriss Déby. He served as president of Chad’s Economic, Social, and Cultural Council from 2007 to 2008, and since April 2008 has been Minister of Foreign Affairs, according to Wikipedia.

Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea

Representing Central Africa, Mokuy is relatively unknown, but his candidacy could be buoyed by the argument that a Spanish-speaking national has never held the chairperson position, Brookings reported. Despite its relatively small size, Equatorial Guinea and its president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, have given significant assistance to the A.U. over the years. Obiang Nguema has made many financial and in-kind contributions to the A.U. that could endear his country and its candidate to other A.U. members. Mokuy could find support among those who believe he’ll give voice to small, marginalized countries.

Amina C Mohamed of Kenya

Mohamed, 55, is a seasoned diplomat who has represented Kenya at the Kenyan mission in Geneva and served as the deputy director of the United Nations Environment Programme, DW reported. President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed a team of seven ministers to run a lobbying campaign for her. “Kenya has already proven its clout at the African Union with its successful lobbying against the International Criminal Court at The Hague,” according to DW.

Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal

Senegalese politician and diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily can speak both English and French, considered a plus for a candidate, according to Mail & Guardian. His experience will serve the A.U. well, a lobbyist said. He’s been a cabinet minister, he’s a professor, and he served the U.N. as Ban Ki-Moon’s Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Region.

The upcoming candidates’ debate is meant to transform the A.U. by giving “the broad African public an opportunity to be informed and participate in the work of the commission,” Dlamini-Zuma said, according to an Africa News report.

Dlamini-Zuma has been the A.U. chairwoman since 2012 but did not apply for a second term.

The new A.U. chairperson will be elected Jan. 30-31 during the A.U. Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

Traditionally, the chairperson role rotates between English-speaking and Francophone countries, DW reported:

In 2012, Anglophone Dlamini-Zuma replaced French-speaking Jean Ping. If the principle is observed this time around, the candidates from Chad and Senegal would have an additional advantage.
Critics however reject the idea that the rotational system should be the decisive factor to find her successor.
“While there is some validity to this principle so that all Africans have a buy-in, this should not be at the expense of choosing the best candidate. Moreover, strictly adhering to the regional principle could readily become a conduit for cronyism,” Ethiopian civil society activist Abdul Mohammed wrote in the blog AfricanArguments.

African leaders, diplomats and organizations meanwhile are canvassing for their favorite candidates. Tanzania and Ethiopia are likely supporting Mohamed, while the Southern African Development Community (SADC) backs Botswana’s candidate Venson-Moitoit, according to Africa Times.