Chad Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat to Head African Union

Chad’s foreign minister has been elected as the new chair of the African Union Commission, pledging to place development and security at the top of his agenda and streamline the organisation’s bureaucracy.

Moussa Faki Mahamat – a former prime minister who has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamist militants in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel – was chosen by the 54-member body at a summit that has exposed splits over Africa’s relationship with the international criminal court and Morocco’s readmission to the union.

He edged out his closest rival, the Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed, who had been regarded in some quarters as the frontrunner.

In an interview last week with Radio France International, Moussa Faki said the AU needed strong leadership from someone who could “refocus on the basics”, adding that the body had implemented less than 15% of the 1,800 resolutions adopted since 2002.

Moussa Faki said during his campaign that he harboured dreams of an Africa where the “sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories”. He pledged to streamline the organisation during the course of his four-year term in office.

Moussa Faki succeeds Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, of South Africa. Dlamini-Zuma stayed in the post an extra six months after leaders failed to agree a candidate in July last year.

On Monday, Dlamini-Zuma spoke out over the recently imposed US travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. President Donald Trump’s executive order halted travel by people with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped refugee resettlement for 120 days.

“We are entering very turbulent times,” she told leaders at the start of the summit, at the AU’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries. What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity.”

Alpha Condé, the Guinean president, was elected to the largely ceremonial role of chairperson of the union.

Condé’s stewardship of his own country has been controversial, with at least half a million people taking to the streets of Guinea last year to protest against alleged government corruption.

Demonstrations against what domestic critics charged as economic mismanagement by Condé’s government were marked by clashes with the police. In November 2015, Guinea’s constitutional court formally confirmed Condé’s re-election, dismissing opposition claims of vote-rigging and fraud.

Condé’s position at the AU is held for a one-year term and rotates among the continent’s five regions.

Separately, divisions were likely to be exposed when heads of state gathered at the summit to decide whether to approve the re-admission of Morocco; the country left the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute over the body’s recognition of Western Sahara.

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