ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan 28 – Intrigues, a shifting of allegiances and last minute deals as any House of Cards fan will tell you, make for a good political drama and the race for the job of African Union Commission Chairperson is no exception.
As the race enters the final leg with only a day left to the vote on Monday afternoon and with the arrival of Heads of State and Government, all five countries with ‘horses’ in the race began making the sprint for the finish on Saturday.
In fact it was the first order of business for Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on touching down at the Bole International Airport on Saturday.
He held bilateral talks before sitting down to lunch with both Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, his host, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to shore up support for his and Kenya’s candidate Ambassador Amina Mohamed.
“President Kenyatta’s meetings with Ethiopia PM and Rwanda’s President focused on final lobbying to try to bring the ship to successfully anchor,” a Foreign Affairs Ministry source told Capital FM News.
Later after Chairing an African Peer Review Forum at the African Union headquarters, he elucidated on the matter himself holding that Mohamed is the best ‘man’ for the job as it were and expressing hope that the rest of the Continent will see it his way.
“I believe she’s uniquely qualified to lead a revitalised African Union on this path of reform.”
He also made the case for a woman to pick up where Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma leaves off and for the East African Community being accorded the opportunity to lead.
“The East African region has never had the opportunity to have a Chairperson of the Commission so I think those are mitigating facts that should work strongly in favour of Kenya’s candidate.”
But according to exclusive intel obtained by Capital FM News, it will be no walk in the park and is unlikely to be decided in the first round of voting.
It’s worth taking note that the last time the vote was taken – before Mohamed joined the race – none of the three contenders secured the two-thirds majority required even after seven rounds of voting.
According to a source privy to behind the scenes negotiations, the strongest challenger to Mohamed is the other woman on the ballot, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi of Botswana, who as of Saturday night had 14 of the 15 Southern African Development Community (SADC) votes with Tanzania standing by Kenya’s side. “But crucially, they believed they had Burundi’s vote.”
Kenya maintains a narrow lead however and believes it is assured of 18 votes but experienced a setback with Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt whose votes it believed it had in the bag but who as of Saturday night appeared undecided.
Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily is not to be discounted either being West Africa’s strongest candidate but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is apparently divided along Anglophone, Francophone lines with Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana believed to be “firmly,” the source stated, “in Kenya’s corner.”
Chad’s candidature, the source revealed, “was holding,” but Moussa Faki Mahamat could be disqualified on procedural grounds. “They submitted candidature after the deadline.”
Which leaves Equatorial Guinea’s Agapito Mba Mokuy who is unlikely to present much of a challenge and, “likely to go down in the first round,” according to the reliable source.
The two biggest contenders – Kenya and Botswana – require at least 20 votes in the first round to progress.
“Pray for me,” Mohamed told the Kenyan press on the sidelines of the 28th AU Summit on Saturday saying Kenya would continue to, “hold meetings,” into Monday morning before the afternoon vote.
Resounding win or not, Mohamed’s confidence in her abilities is yet to waver. “I’ve said before that we have five good candidates and that the member states must decide who they feel is right for the job now because as I said before, Africa is at a crossroads, we really need to be clear about what direction Africa is taking. The atmospherics are quite challenging as you know internationally and so we need really decisive leadership at the African Union.”