Inside Politics

Explainer: All you need to know about next AU Commission chairperson election

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024 12:23 | By
Explainer: All you need to know about next AU Commission chairperson election
ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) with former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo in Nairobi on February 15. PHOTO/Emmanuel Wanson

Lobbying for the coveted position of African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson has begun earnestly, with Kenya seeking to produce the next leader for the continental body.

The election is scheduled to take place during the next AU summit, expected to be held between January and February 2025.

The campaign to replace the current AUC chair Moussa Faki is set to officially begin once all interested candidates submit their applications by May this year.

Kenya has already endorsed the candidacy of seasoned politician and opposition leader Raila Odinga for the AUC job as Faki's term draws to a close. The Kenya Kwanza administration's backing is a big win for the Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader given candidates need endorsements from their respective governments to contest for the continental role.

A fierce battle is expected among member states vying for the influential position, with Raila, widely recognized as a champion of democracy and pan-Africanism, expected to heavily rely on his networks within the continental body to secure the seat.

But what does it take to participate in the electoral process?

Nomination and Vetting

All candidates interested in succeeding Faki are required to submit a curriculum vitae and a vision statement outlining how they aim to address the AU's most pressing concerns.

The candidates must meet the minimum academic qualification set by the AU including having a Master's degree in a wide rage of academic fields including Law, International Relations, Economics, Diplomacy, Management, Business Administration, Political Science, Social Sciences or a closely related field from a recognised institution.

According to the AU, a PhD in Law, International Relations, Diplomacy, Management, Business Administration, Political Science, Social Sciences or closely related field from a recognized institution is an added advantage.

Once the candidates submit their papers, the AU will subject the applicants to a vetting exercise that will be spearheaded by a panel of eminent persons. The main mandate of the panel is to create a shortlist.

Secret Ballot

The shortlisted candidates will be subjected to a secret ballot.

To win, a candidate must achieve a two-thirds majority of votes from the member states who are present and eligible to vote.

If no candidate gets the required majority in the first round, subsequent rounds of voting take place until a winner is determined.

The AUC chair is elected on a four-year term renewable once and serves as the Chief Executive Officer, Legal Representative of the Union and the Accounting Officer of the Union.

The current AUC chair comes from Chad in Central Africa and there is a debate on electing the next Commission boss from the East Africa.

While endorsing Raila's bid on February 15, former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed his belief that it is East Africa's opportunity to occupy the high office.

“I have no doubt that my friend (Raila) is a viable candidate but subject to views, feelings, positions and presentations of our leaders in the East Africa sub-region,” Obasanjo stated.

“Not too long ago we had Southern Africa, one occupying the seat now is Central Africa. Before that, we had West Africa,” he noted.

Raila, on his part, said he is ready to serve in that position, having previously held the position of AU High Representative for Infrastructure.

The Azimio leader and President Ruto have already started speaking with neighbouring countries to endorse the former prime minister's bid.

On Monday, Raila confirmed that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had thrown his weight behind his candidacy.

Raila made the revelations after calling on Museveni at his Kampala residence in the company of President Ruto.

"Several days ago, I accepted an invitation from President Kaguta Museveni of Uganda for a joint meeting with President William Ruto today to discuss the deepening of regional integration within the East African Community.

"Crucially, at the urging of President Museveni, we also discussed my candidacy for Chairperson of the African Union Commission," Raila said in a statement on Monday night.

"I am very grateful to President Museveni for strongly endorsing my candidacy and to President Ruto for fully backing it," Raila added.

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