Posted on18 December, 2016 | 12:34

Regional politics likely to affect AU elections Monday December 19 2016

Regional politics is turning out to be a major determiner for the winner of the forthcoming elections for the chairperson of the African Union Commission.

A realignment of countries across the continent as analysed by diplomats at the Foreign Ministry shows that countries will vote along their regional economic blocs or as influenced by their local political squabbles.

Ahead of the elections due on January 30 in Addis Ababa, Kenya’s candidate Amina Mohamed has been travelling across the continent to pitch her vision for the continental body founded on the principle of pan-Africanism.

The officials have told the Nation at the weekend that countries will still look inwards when choosing who to vote for.

According to the officials, there is a huge influence by the blocs a country belongs.

“Some of them may change sides if voting goes to the second round. But they are mostly fixated,” observed a senior official at the Ministry who spoke in confidence.

“We are confident of getting past this stage. After that, there will be swing votes.”

Ms Mohamed is competing against Equatorial Guinean Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat, Prof Abdoulaye Bathily (currently the UN representative in Central Africa Republic) of Senegal, and Botswana’s Foreign Minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

A candidate needs at least 34 votes to be declared the next AU Commission Chair and requires at least 11 votes to remain in the race at the first round of voting.

If you tail at round one, you drop off automatically.

Kenya has already given up on votes from countries where these candidates come from, despite trying Ms Mohamed travelling to Senegal, Chad and Equatorial Guinea over the past month.

MODERATING FACTORS
All these candidates vowed during the live debate on December 9 that they will foster continental integration if elected and diplomatic experts say Africa has no choice but to push for borderless interaction.

“Without unity, nothing will be achieved. Africa’s founding fathers recognised very early in the decolonisation struggle that it is only by pooling together, that the continent could extricate itself from its socio-economic and political challenges,” observed Dr Patrick Maluki, who teaches Diplomacy at the University of Nairobi.

"The importance of enhanced trade integration and the economic benefits it would produce cannot be gainsaid.

"First-tracking the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) remains a priority in order to broaden Africa’s economic and market space,” he added referring to a mooted union of all these blocs but which has yet to pass.

But this election will be determined by which regional bloc supports which candidate.

In Africa there are seven main regional economic blocs (RECS) blocs.

They include the East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas), and Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comes).

Others include the inactive Arab Maghreb Union and the Community of the Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).

Though these organisations are supposed to foster economic growth and integration, they have mainly been dominated by politics.

For example Maghreb Union has failed to make any observable trade policies mainly because of the rivalry between Morocco and Algeria over the Western Sahara Independence.

Though countries have traditionally voted along regional lines during these elections, there are observable divisions within blocs which may affect Ms Mohamed’s performance.

In the East African Community, all five countries publicly endorsed Kenya’s candidate in November.

INFIGHTING

But sources say Burundi has been lukewarm.

President Pierre Nkurunziza is said to have told Kenya he will vote for Chad but officials here suspect it must have to do with the bad blood between Rwanda and Burundi whose leaders have recently been in a spat over sponsoring rebels in each other’s countries.

Both Ecowas and SADC (to which Tanzania also belongs) passed resolutions to vote for Senegal and Botswana respectively.

But the two blocs also have internal politics.

In Ecowas, there are jitters among Anglophone over the perceived French and Moroccan influence on Senegal.

And Morocco, which is heavily financing the Senegalese candidate, is at loggerheads with Algeria over the independence of Western Sahara.

Though a full member of the African Union, Western Sahara is still considered by Morocco as part of its territory and has occupied the region since 1975, while the Sahrawi government is run from refugee camps in Algeria.

Early this month, Mr Mohamed visited Western Sahara from where she declared support for its ‘Self-determination”.

Experts think the issue can influence votes.Source :Notion

Story by Editorial/MUHABURA.rw


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