Dynasties fly to Kigali to elect AU boss

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first female head of the African Union (AU) Commission, speaks during a press conference on July 16, 2012 during the 19 African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. PHOTO | FILE 

A new chairperson of the African Union Commission will be elected during the 27th Assembly of Heads of State and Government scheduled to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, between July 10 and 18, 2016.

The meeting is expected to bring together about 50 African Heads of State and more than 3,000 high-level delegates from around the continent, and among those who have visited Kigali to assess preparations for the event are current AU chairman Idriss Deby.

The latter is also the recently re-elected president of Chad, and visited Kigali at about the same time as outgoing African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is finally set to formally vacate the helm of the top AU organ.

Several candidates have reportedly emerged as the frontrunners for the prestigious position. Among them are two women, including Uganda's former vice-president Ms Specioza Kazibwe.

Other contenders are Botswana’s current Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Ms Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, who is a former journalist, and Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Agapito Mba Mokuy.

Clearly, the Kigali summit is set to be a veritable carnival for what has come to be known as Africa’s political aristocracy, whose pre-eminence at the major assembly of African rulers appears to be a given.

Dynasty building

Hosting the event will be Rwandan president Paul Kagame, himself a prototype of the rising multi-term phenomenon, just like Deby, another multiple term ruler, who will preside over the assembly.

Also in attendance will be other multi-term denizens of the African political landscape, including Zimbabwe’s ageing president Robert Mugabe and Uganda’s Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Other prominent veterans of the African political scene expected to attend the meet will be Republic of Congo ruler Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, who ironically is likely to be sitting easy at the gathering.

His presence in Kigali will be despite the fact of his being sought by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for multiple charges, including war crimes, for which an arrest warrant is still out for him.

Also expected at the gathering is Angola’s veteran president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has presided over Africa's second largest oil-producing country since 1979.

Ranking among the longest serving African leaders, he has only recently suggested his willingness to retire, albeit at an as yet undisclosed date.

In the event he has fuelled talk of ongoing dynasty building in Angola, as elsewhere in Africa, amid rising suspicion that he is grooming his daughter Isabel dos Santos, 43, to succeed him as Angola’s ruler, amid mounting opposition in the country.

Already popularly referred to as “the Princess", Isabel’s father recently appointed her as boss of state-owned oil firm Sonangol. Immensely wealthy, she has been ranked by Forbes magazine as Africa’s wealthiest woman, with a staggering fortune of around $3 billion.

That development aside, the AU summit in Kigali will also be attended by the peons of Africa’s most renowned dynasties. Among them will be Togo’s president Faure Eyadema and Gabon’s President Ali Ben Bongo.

On the rise

The latter, who inherited power from his father, the late Omar Ali Bongo, is like a growing number of older fellow African presidents poised to seek a new term come the presidential elections in August this year.

Yet another epitome of the dynasty trend is Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila, who inherited power from his late father Laurent Desiré Kabila and is likely to seek a new term at an as yet undetermined date in the future.

As matters stand, the growth of African dynasties is evidently on the rise, what with the recently re-elected president Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang' Nguema Basongo recently appointing his first son Teodoro 'Teodorin' Obiang' Mangue as the country’s vice-president.

As for Uganda, dynastic manoeuvres have also been afoot, with President Museveni recently promoting his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba from brigadier to major general in the Uganda People's Defence Force. Two weeks later he unabashedly named his wife Janet Minister of Education and Sports.

In Zimbabwe, talk is still rife about Mugabe’s wife Grace succeeding him, while in South Africa outgoing AUC chair Dlamini-Zuma is already being touted for the leadership of the African National Union, the country’s powerful ruling party.

Intriguingly, that prospect will come with the real possibility of succeeding former husband Jacob Zuma as president of her country.

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