Onyeani’s Letter To Africa: Africa Needs Stronger Leadership For A.U. Commission Chairperson


GUEST EDITORIAL By Dr. Chika Onyeani:

The African Union, the apex organization representing the 54 countries in Africa, will be holding its 27th Summit at the newly constructed Kigali Convention Center in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, from the 10th to 18th July, this year.  Rwanda is notorious for the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 which saw more than 800,000 Tutsis as well as their Hutu sympathizers hacked to death by members of the Hutu ethnic group.  Since then, with the advent of new leadership, Rwanda has rebounded to become a model country, for its high tech industries, as well as being acclaimed as the country with the highest percentage of female members of the parliament anywhere in the world.  However, the President Paul Kagame has been criticized for orchestrating the recent change in the country’s constitution, allowing him to stay in office for another uninterrupted 30 years.  Kagame has denied the charge.

As the Summit officially starts on the 10th July, preliminary conferences include the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC); the 29th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council which starts on July 13, which embodies Ministers of External Affairs of the 54 countries; and finally, the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union member states which will take place on the final two days of the Summit – the 17th and 18th.

This Summit has a huge decision to make, the election of a new Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  This has been necessitated by the shocking news that erupted in April that the current Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had decided not to seek a second term.  Her decision threw the continent into a state of disbelief, and germinated a lot of antagonism from her admirers who questioned why she would abandon the high goals she had set for the continent as exemplified in the articulation of Agenda 2063.  Some even questioned whether her decision to seek the position of Chairperson of the AUC was not an ego trip, to further buttress her stellar accomplishments that would further enhance her being propelled to the chairmanship of the African National Congress and ultimately the presidency of South Africa.

There are delusional supporters who are urging that she change her mind and that the African Union should reelect her by acclamation.  Of course, this is wishful thinking and we know that is not going to happen.  There are too many people who are hungry for the position, though they lack the stature to undertake the burdens of the post.  But before I begin to articulate the kind of leadership necessary for the position of the African Union Chair, let me just point out that one of the greatest areas of accomplishments for Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is moving Africa towards a united continent, and the credible means she has chosen to begin to implement such unity.

This is in the area of continental travel.  As the Heads of State arrive in Kigali, Rwanda, for the Summit, they will be arriving with the African E-Passport, the continental passport that would eventually be issued to every African.  Already, we have seen what the issuance of regional passports, e.g. ECOWAS, has done for the West African region.  Any of the citizens of the 15 countries that make up the ECOWAS are able to traverse the whole region without the burden of a visa.  It has increased tourism within the region, increased trade, and even the fears of migration of diseases, e.g. Ebola, did not materialize.  Already, Ghana, the first African country to gain independence from imperialist Britain, has also become the first to offer visa-free travel to any African who wishes to travel to Ghana.

The introduction of the E-Passport is part of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s Agenda 2063 project, and its greatest beneficiaries would be the youth of mobile Africans.  As has been noted by the international media, while Europe is on the verge of disintegration, Africa  is fostering greater unity through the introduction of the E-Passport. Apart from its unifying aspect, it could be used to generate a lot of money for the financing of the African Union Commission and lessen its dependence on foreign contributions.  Importantly, its potential of exponentially increasing tourism in Africa is unfathomable.

There is no doubt that Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has demonstrated strong leadership in the continental body, especially as the issue of wars across the continent has been minimized under her leadership; but Africa needs a stronger leader who could not only carry forward from where she is leaving but move forward in ensuring that certain areas of democratic governance, gender equality, religious tolerance, economic growth, youth empowerment, job creation, continental tourism, and most importantly a leader capable of confronting dictatorial and autocratic continental leaders are priorities.

The successor to Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma should be an individual who had already demonstrated an exemplary leadership, in terms of respecting the constitution of his/her country, especially observing term limits, and holding credible elections, allowing the opposition equal access to the media as the government.  The Chairperson of the African Union Commission should be the catalyst as well as an advocate for convincing and moving the continental body towards a position of unifying against leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea; Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, and others of their ilk to understand that the African Union could not continue to countenance their presence as attendees at the august body.

These leaders hold sham elections and boast about their citizens being in love with them.  If your citizens love you so much, why don’t you allow a free and fair election; why imprison your main opponent or have state apparatus commit violence against his/her person, and then turn around to tell the world that you had a credible election?  South Africans, no Africans as a whole, loved and respected Nelson Mandela.  Yet after only four years, he decided that as much as he was loved and his country needed him, he needed to pass on the baton to a well groomed successor in the person of Thabo Mbeki.  South Africa did not disappear from the surface of the earth because Mandela did not continue to be President of South Africa, neither has South Africa disappear from the surface of the earth since his death.

Since it seems that Dlamini-Zuma would not relent on her decision of not seeking a second term, Africa must look to the four former African leaders who have been recipients of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation $5 Million Leadership Awards, to choose a candidate to replace her as Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  These four individuals including Presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, embody the yardsticks I have listed above for an effective leader who should be occupying the post of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  Going by these yardsticks, two of the candidates from Equatorial Guinea and Uganda should be disqualified outright.  How could you represent autoritarian and dictatorial regimes and seek the highest position of the African Union?

These two candidates include Equatorial Guinea’s Agapito Mba Mokuy, who is Minister of Reogin Affairs and International Cooperation for the dictator President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea; and Dr Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe of the other dictator Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.  Apart from the fact that she represents Museveni, most people would continue to look at her from the prism of her revelation of being a battered wife even while being Vice President of Uganda.  We should condemn her being brutalized by her former husband, but the AUC should not be dragged down by such a scandal.

We are left with the candidacy of another lady, Botswana’s foreign minister Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.  If these were the only three candidates, I would vote for her.  Her former president, Festus Mogae, is one of the four only winners of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Leadership.  As for Senegal, I don’t believe it should be rewarded for flaunting the deadline.

Let me say this: Totalitarian dictators must not be rewarded with the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  The time for such shameful action is past.  Africa needs to turn a new leaf.  We don’t need the august body to be tainted with the excreta of leaders who believe they are above the law, who hold sham elections while jailing their opponents.  To effectively carry out Agenda 2063, the African Union needs a leader with clean hands.  To allow the two candidates from Equatorial Guinea and Uganda to contest will be a disgrace to the continent, in which case a new deadline for submission of candidacies should be extended.

Finally, I had accepted the invitation of the AU to attend the Kigali Summit, especially to wish Adieu to our indefatigable Chairperson of the AUC, but circumstances forced me to cancel my travels.  I am especially honored to have been listed to be on the same panel with the Chairperson and the Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on the subject “Shaping the African Narratives: Role of the Media.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Chika Onyeani is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning African Sun Times (Africa’s No.1 newspaper in America), author of the internationally and critically-acclaimed No.1 bestselling book, “Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success,” as well as the blockbuster novel, “The Broederbond Conspiracy,” adapted by the San Francisco State University to teach students “how to write a spy novel.”  His new book, “Roar of the African Lion,” is already being acclaimed as the best title tackling the African economy. He is the Chairman of the Celebrate Africa Foundation.

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