, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – The Kenyan delegation to the 19th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, led by President Mwai Kibaki, scored a major diplomatic victory with the re-election of Erastus Mwencha as the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission.
Mwencha, who was seeking re-election alongside Chairman Jean Ping of Gabon, was overwhelmingly endorsed with 50 out of 51 votes, while Ping lost the chairmanship of the AU Commission to South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who garnered 37 votes.
The re-election of Mwencha comes after the election of Ben Kioko as one of the three judges of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the re-election of Mahboub Maalim as the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Mwencha’s re-election comes against the background of an intense diplomatic campaign involving the use of special envoys to various capitals in the continent that pitted outgoing chairman Ping against Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma was elected on Sunday to become the first female head of the African Union (AU) Commission, ending a bruising leadership battle that had threatened to divide and weaken the organisation.
In a hotly contested exercise that went late into the night, Ping lost to Dlamini-Zuma in all the three rounds of voting garnering 25 to 28 in the first round, 24 to 29 in the second and 18 to 33 in the third round.
According to procedure, Ping was compelled to withdraw as the loser after which Dlamini-Zuma garnered 37 votes, thereby acquiring the requisite two-thirds majority to be declared the winner.
Mwencha, who has previously served for two terms as Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), will now serve a one year term as Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Ongeri hosted a luncheon on July 13 for African ministers attending the conference, as an election campaign for Mwencha.
The luncheon, which was held at the sidelines of the 21st ordinary session of the executive council meeting, was also attended by Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka, Kenya’s ambassador to Ethiopia Monica Juma and ambassador’s S.K. Maina, Michael Oyugi and Jean Kimani among other government officials.
Other issues on the agenda of the summit include adoption of the 2013 budget and examining other alternative sources of funding for the organisation.
During the opening of the summit, three newly elected African Heads of States were introduced and welcomed by their peers, including President’s Macky Sall of Senegal, Mohamed Morsi of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane.