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African Union elects chadian minister Mahamat as next chairman
The African Union elected Chadian Foreign Minister as its next chairman, edging out his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed. Mahamat defeated Mohamed after seven rounds of voting at a summit of African leaders in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday, the Kenyan presidency said in an e-mailed statement. Three other candidates including Senegalese diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily and nominees from Botswana and Equatorial Guinea were eliminated in earlier rounds.
A former prime minister of oil-producing Chad, Mahamat has served as the central African nation’s foreign minister since April 2008. His election comes before a debate about whether to allow Morocco to be readmitted to the continental body, more than three decades after it withdrew from the bloc’s predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity, in protest at recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or SADR, as a member state.
“Given how important debates around the memberships of Morocco and the SADR will be in his first term, Mahamat has not looked as though he leans clearly towards either the Moroccan or the Sahrawi position,” Francois Conradie, an analyst at NKC African Economics in Paarl, South Africa, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “This may make fruitful discussions easier.”
The status of the SADR has split the African Union, with 28 of its 54 members voting in July to expel the state — a move that Morocco would welcome because it claims the portion of Western Sahara ruled by the SADR as its own territory. However, the continental body has no procedures for expelling member states, and so once Morocco regains membership, it’s likely to lobby for the SADR to be removed from the bloc.
Mohamed’s defeat dealt a blow to Kenya’s efforts to have African Union member states withdraw from the International Criminal Court. That campaign has been driven by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Sudanese counterpart Umar al-Bashir, according to The Coalition for the ICC, a Hague, Netherlands-based proponent of the tribunal. Some African countries have criticized the ICC, which tries individuals for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, because nine of the 10 investigations it has opened since its formation in 2002 are on the continent.
Kenya had touted Mohamed as a candidate whose “intimate knowledge of the ICC as an institution and a process will allow Africa to be treated with more respect and understanding through her representations,” according to a statement issued by the presidency in November. Kenya is among countries that have signaled their intention to withdraw from the ICC, as have South Africa, Gambia and Burundi.
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, along with al-Bashir, have all been indicted by the court. The cases against Kenyatta and Ruto were vacated in 2015, though they can be reopened if new evidence is brought forward. The two faced charges linked to crimes against humanity in ethnic violence triggered by a disputed president election in 2007 that left at least 1,100 people dead. Both denied any wrongdoing.