S.Africa gives last push to elect African Union head

3rd July 2012, Comments 0 comments

South Africa on Tuesday made a last-ditch effort for its candidate to head the African Union Commission one week before the bloc votes in what may augur a changing of the guard on the continent.

Foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at a meeting in the capital Pretoria urged regional counterparts to pick her nation's female candidate, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as African Union chief on the grounds of gender parity and regional fairness.

"The AU has a policy of alternating senior positions between men and women but has not been in a position to do this with the chair of the commission," Nkoana-Mashabane told foreign ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

"SADC is in a position to field a formidable candidate that meets both these criteria," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma had sought to unseat incumbent Jean Ping from Gabon in January elections during the bloc's summit. The vote ended in a stalemate.

The upcoming poll is a battle for control between the bloc's traditionally dominant French-speaking members, and English-speaking countries. The outcome may see a shift of power on the continent toward the anglophone side, though chances are slim Dlamini-Zuma will succeed.

South Africa is especially keen for more influence as it increasingly speaks on behalf of Africa in international fora like the UN Security Council and BRICS, the world's emerging superpowers Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The African Commission, the executive head of the 54-member bloc, has never had a woman chairperson.

"No one differed with our reasoning that our region has never had the opportunity to hold the position in the 49-year history of the continent's organisation," noted Nkoana-Mashabane.

After intense lobbying, South Africa won SADC support to unseat Ping, who has held the position since 2008.

Heads of state will vote at the summit which starts next week in Addis Ababa.

The talks were moved to Ethiopia from Malawi when the nation refused to host Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is indicted by the International Criminal Court.

© 2012 AFP

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