AU chief campaigns for job in West AfricaBy KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Friday, June 29 2012 at 16:11
The chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, is on a West African tour which sources say is intended to woo the region’s leaders ahead of the next round of electing the Commission chief.
Mr Ping met Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday before leaving for Monrovia for talks with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The AU summit convenes this July to elect the AU Commission chairman. Mr Ping is being challenged by South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
A tense election last January failed to come up with a clear winner with neither candidate able to secure the necessary two-thirds majority vote.
South Africa has also been lobbying African nations to back Mrs Dlamini-Zuma. She already has the support of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
West Africa, under the leadership of regional power Nigeria, is said to be backing Mr Ping who is from Gabon.
Mr Ping has accused the continent’s largest economy of disregarding an unwritten agreement which bars it and other regional powers like Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt from vying for the presidency of the AU Commission.
It is understood Mr Ping has personally enlisted the support of Gabonese President Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba in the lobbying campaign.
Leaders of the four-nation Mano River Union (MRU) comprising Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast, during their recent gathering in Conakry, agreed to adopt a common position on the AU Commission chairmanship election.
Their most likely position is to back Mr Ping, according to sources.
However, Mr Ping has sought to portray his West African tour as a mission to seek ideas on an AU intervention plan for Mali, where Tuareg separatists have taken control of the north of the country.
Mr Ping, 69, has been holding the AU job since 2008. If he is re-elected, he will serve his second a final term
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