In our maiden issue, following the deadlock at the last Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government over the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, we recommended that the two candidates in the race should step aside for a compromise candidate to emerge.
In their wisdom, the Heads of State and Governments proceeded with the election, as the two candidates decided to remain in the race. Now that Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has finally been duly elected as the new Chairperson of he AU Commission, she will need the support of all members of the African Union, whether they supported her election or not. Those countries that opposed her candidature on the grounds of respecting the unwritten rule or understanding that the largest five contributors (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa) should not aspire to head the Commission, will all have to put aside their initial objections and lend their full support to her. What matters most now is the unity of Africa, which has been badly damaged during the campaign. Time is now of the essence to start repairing the damage. As Mr. Georges Chikoti, Foreign Minister of Angola said after her election, Dr. Zuma will need the support of not only Southern African Development Community (SADC), but also all African countries.
The challenges facing any Chairperson of the Commission, with or without the controversy of the election are enormous. She has inherited Commissioners as members of her cabinet and in whose elections she played no role as Chairperson; a Commission, which is on life support; and Heads of State and Government who were opposed to her election. Dr. Zuma should now craft a reform agenda to transform the Commission and promote peace and security, which she has to sell to all the Heads of State and Government of the AU. No doubt, she had her own ideas on how to run the Commission when she threw her hat into the ring. The following four-point agenda could be critical to conflict resolution and termination in Africa.
Firstly, we encourage the new Chairperson to bring all the emerging tendencies and orientations in the African Union together to fashion the modalities to move forward the renaissance project on which there is continental consensus. Realism is however called for in managing the challenges ahead. At this juncture, it is critical that Africa should continue to strive to be in the driver’s seat on all developments affecting Africa. This is without prejudice to the continued collaboration with our traditional friends who must be sensitive to and acceptant of the leadership of the AU and African peoples on African affairs. Also, while sub regional organizations have to lead on sub regional developments, it is equally important to accept the strong linkages that exist between developments in the sub regions and the overall destiny of the African peoples. The balkanization of the continent along sub regional zones of influence should have no place in this Renaissant era.
Secondly, Chairperson Zuma will have to work very hard to gain the confidence and support of all Member States of the African Union. A visit to some of the capitals of the key States is imperative. As a former Foreign Minister, we are sure she knows what to do in this regard without spelling them out here. The recent meeting with some former African leaders in Pretoria is a good start. If she fails in this first challenge, South Africa may have to shoulder the full financial burden of running the Commission.
Thirdly, the new Chairperson must come to terms as to how to tackle the administration of the Commission so as to make it function properly and effectively. She can start with the administration and finance departments, which hitherto have been very unresponsive or moribund. Staffing and human resource management needs serious reform in the areas of recruitment, retention, doctrine and separation.
Fourthly, she has to review the AU’s promotion of peace and security in Africa and how the AU Liaison Offices/Missions in the field attain their strategic responsibilities in terms of their effectiveness and impact on the peace and security processes, in line with their mission objectives. In terms of the relevance of mandates, some of the missions, which have long completed their mandates, may need new mandates from the Peace and Security Council (PSC) in view of the evolving situation and ongoing peace and security processes in Africa or be closed if they are no longer needed. Do the missions have strategic planning and exit strategy? It would be highly desirable to ascertain the impact of the missions in their mission areas, the criteria for choosing the Special Representatives, Special Envoys or Heads of offices of the Chairperson of the Commission, whether they are balanced in terms of gender, language and geographical representation. She may have to recommend to the PSC, the opening of new missions.
The foregoing four point agenda is enough for a first term, and unless they are effectively executed, she may not have a second term. An over ambitious reform agenda will be dead upon arrival. She must tread carefully and with confidence. We congratulate Dr. Zuma on her well-deserved appointment.