Amina Mohamed, Kenya's foreign affairs minister in 2013. (Photo/WTO/Studio Casagrande)

Kenya’s Amina Complains of ‘Tribalism’ At The AU, But Francophone ‘Dominance’ Goes Down To Africa’s Borders

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THE dust has settled on the vote for chairperson of the African Union Commission: Moussa Faki of Chad clinched the seat, narrowly beating favourites Amina Mohamed of Kenya and Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal to the seat.

Faki is Chad’s former prime minister, and currently foreign affairs minister at a time when N’Djamena is playing a leading role in the fight against terror group Boko Haram.

Although Kenya reportedly ran the best PR campaign at the Addis vote, Faki had the advantage of previously holding a senior position at the AU. Mohamed, a first-time minister, was also seen as lacking the experience and weight for the post.

But she came out guns blazing against what she termed “tribalism” at the AU, saying ultimately the vote came down to Francophone vs. Anglophone Africa.

Africapedia has examined the profile and origins of all former chairs of the AU commission, and its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), of which the post of secretary-general was equivalent.

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There is some truth in the claim that Francophone Africa dominates the AU commission chair post.

Of the 12 former holders of the seat, seven have been from Francophone countries. And when examined on a regional basis, six have been from West Africa.

Three have been from Central Africa – two from Cameroon and one from Gabon. Faki is the fourth.

It is a probably simply a consequence of the voting rules of the AU, where one country has one vote. West Africa which is majority Francophone has many small countries, which effectively gives the region more votes. Central, Eastern and Southern Africa have much larger (mostly Anglophone) countries, and so fewer votes.

There is also the unwritten rule at the AU that top positions should be occupied by the smaller and poorer countries. South Africa broke that rule with its candidacy of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2012. But South Africa argued that the continent needed strong leadership so as to avoid dilemmas of the sort that troubled it during the Libya crisis.

It seems the election of Faki partly played into this dynamic – the continent was reluctant to have another ‘big’ country head the organisation.

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