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African Union

African Union fails to elect commission chair after seven ballots

Heads of state with Nkozasana Dlamini Zuma at the African Union summit
Heads of state with Nkozasana Dlamini Zuma at the African Union summit CYRIL NDEGEYA / AFP
Text by: William Niba
3 min

African leaders ended a two-day African Union (AU) summit in Rwanda on Tuesday with awards for the continent’s brightest innovators. But they failed to elect a new leader of the AU Commission after seven ballots.


The chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkozasana Dlamini Zuma wrapped up the summit in glittering Kigali with awards to nations which took innovative steps and best practices to improve living conditions on the continent.

The rankings are based on studies she ordered on gender-responsive programmes.

Zuma told AU leaders that she intends to use the results as “continental tool kits” to speed up the delivery of the AU’s Agenda 2063 for Africa’s development.

Thanks to the studies, Zuma explained, the AU has been able to understand the extent of problems such as child labour, child marriage, female genital mutilation, progress action to social protection, maternity leave, income gap, access to credit, access to land, property rights and gender parity for women in politics.

Nearly half of AU members recorded progress in one or more of the indicators, according to the African Union Commission’s chairperson.

Host President Paul Kagame was awarded the prize of overall leader in the championing of the political rights of women.

Failure to elect commission chair

The closing ceremony brought a little sunshine to the gloom inspired by the AU leaders’ failure to find a successor for Zuma, who wants to step down after a single term.

Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi managed to garner just 23 votes after seven rounds of voting, falling short of the two-thirds majority of 36 votes she needed to win.

Up to 28 members abstained, forcing the AU commission to reschedule the election to January when the process will be opened to new candidates.

Informed sources here in Kigali expect Tanzanian former president Jakaya Kikwete to toss his hat into the ring. Another wild card whose name is circulating here in Kigali is Senegalese diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily, the UN secretary general’s special representative to the Central African Republic.

Pan-African passport

The Kigali AU summit will be remembered as the launching place of the pan-African passport.

The first of the visa-free documents were presented to Kagame and Chadian leader and African Union President Idriss Deby. The AU Commission says it expects to negotiate with member countries on fast-tracking the process to be completed before 2020.

As African leaders fly home, from the country of 1,000 hills, delegates to the 27th summit are basking in the recovery of Africa’s pride following a deal struck by the AU leaders to put aside 0.2 percent of all eligible imports for the commission’s budget.

That represents 1.2 billion euros.

About 76 percent of the AU’s budget is currently funded by donors, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

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