The chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Mahamat Faki, has ring-fenced his position ahead of the election in January, as he seeks another four years in office.
Although still four months to the polls, a list of confirmed entrants for the various positions of the AU shows Mr Faki is the only contender for the post, despite facing accusations of poor governance at the institution.
According to a source, Mr Faki has had intense lobbying of African leaders in the Bureau of the African Union, which includes leaders from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali.
Even in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bureau has met four times, mostly to address the issue of the economic impact of the disease on member states, but also issues such as the upcoming elections.
Our source did not say on whether all AU states agreed to endorse Mr Faki, but that there had been overtures to ring-fence Faki’s tenure.
The published list showed the chairperson’s seat will be the only uncontested position in a race that has attracted 97 other contenders, including 31 women, vying for eight positions for Commissions of the AU.
Mediocrity vs merit
Mr Faki’s first four years have been fraught with accusations of corruption and sexual harassment of female staff, claims he has denied and even ordered an independent investigation and audit of staff conduct. An audit in May last year suggested tougher sanctions on perpetrators of harassment which Mr Faki pledged to implement.
But employees say that did not happen. “I think we have been used to more of the same pattern for the past four years,” said a senior staffer at the African Union, who sought anonymity for fear of a reprimand.
“It seems mediocrity is rewarded; zero delivery is rewarded but merit is not.”
In January 2019, a letter authored by his deputy, Ghana’s Thomas Kwesi-Quartey, surfaced two months after it was written, in which he accused his boss of appointing his “old crony” to be AU’s envoy to Brussels.
Faki was accused of appointing Chadian compatriot Ahmat Awad Sakine to be AU representative to the EU. Faki refuted the claims, arguing his office routinely does not employ staff. But the bad blood between the two has continued.
“I sought to find out from him what would be the central organising idea that this commission would be remembered for after the Commission left office. Nothing seemed forthcoming. I told the meeting that the previous commission would always be remembered for Agenda 2063,”Mr Kwesi-Quartey wrote to his President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Mr Kwesi-Quartey will not be seeking re-election. Instead, his country, Ghana has nominated Martha Ama Pobee, the country’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a veteran diplomat, who has worked in Washington, Tel Aviv and Accra at the Foreign Ministry.
Her likelihood to win depends on her challengers’ abilities, however. They include four women and three men. Hasna Barkat Daoud of Djibouti, Awale Ali Kulane from Somalia, South Africa’s Edward Maloka, Pamela Kasabiiti Mbabazi of Uganda, Rwanda’s Dr Nsanzabaganwa Monique, Ndumiso Ntshinga of South Africa and Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang from the Gambia are running for it too.
It is expected that the deputy chair should be of the opposite gender to that of the AUC Chairperson.
But Faki’s election in 2017 alongside Kwesi-Quartey defied this logic. It could be defied again.
A memo issued last week to envoys to the African Union by the Commission said the upcoming elections will be more transparent and based on merit.
All candidates will be required to provide CVs ad vision statements “on how they intend to tackle the most pressing problems affecting the African continent.” According to AU’s Decision 1(XI), all candidates for the Chairperson are expected, at least six months to elections, to participate in a public debate where they will “present their visions and ideas on how to implement Agenda 2063.” The candidates will then be required to address the AU Assembly. It is not clear if a debate can happen with one contender.
At least 10 candidates have entered the race for each of the eight positions for Commissioners of the African Union, technically the departmental heads of the AU’s secretariat.
Last week, Angola protested to Faki after a contender submitted application to compete against Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, despite not resigning their position in the department the Angolan heads.
“In this context, the embassy of Angola considers to be a worrisome and unethical precedent the candidature of the serving Director for Rural Economy and Agriculture to stand against his Commissioner without resigning in advance from his position,” said a letter dated September 7, seen by The EastAfrican.