31 January 2008

Africa: Two Candidates Withdraw Bids for AU Top Post

Addis Abeba — Two of the six candidates in the race for African Union (AU) Commission chair ship on Tuesday announced their decision to withdraw.

The candidates who quit for no apparent reason are current Burundian Foreign Minister Antoinette Batumubwira and former President of Mauritius Cassam Uteem It is at the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly scheduled for 31 January to 2 February 2008 that the nominated candidates will find out who will be taking over the reins from Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré, whose term as AU Commission Chairperson ended in July 2007.

But according to some diplomats, considerable numbers of member states are reluctant to elect one at this point in time, saying they needed time to find an ideal candidate for the post, and want Konare to stay.

But Konare seems to stick to his decision to go.

Should the election proceed as planed, Inonge Mbikusita of Zambia and Gabonese Jean Ping are said to have greater chances to succeed Konare.

Beginning her career as a lecturer and professor of education at the University of Zambia, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, daughter of King Lewanika II of Barotseland, is one of Zambia's senior politicians.

Ms Mbikusita-Lewanika, who was elected to parliament in 1991 for the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), stood as a presidential candidate in 2001.

Princess Mbikusita-Lewanika served as a regional advisor for Africa in UNICEF, later becoming Zambia's Ambassador to the United States in 2003 where she currently serves.

She is special envoy to the pan African Organization to Zambian President Mwanawasa.

Jean Ping, a career diplomat, is current Foreign Minister and vice prime minister of Gabon.

He stared his career in UNESCO in 1972.

From 1984 to 1990, he was director of the Gabonese President's cabinet.

He has also served his country as minister of, Information, Mines and Plan.

In 1999, he was named minister of Foreign affairs.

The necessity that candidates will need to have rich curriculum vitae in light of the visions and goals of the Pan-African body goes with out saying.

Finding one who fulfils that-as did Konare-will prove to be a daunting task ahead for AU, diplomats fear.

Mr Konaré held the position since 2003 and was the president of Mali for two five-year terms, 1992 to 2002. Amara Essy, a diplomat from Cote d'Ivoire, served as interim AU Commission chair before Mr Konaré began his term.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor is the current chairperson of the AU and was elected into the position at the 8th Ordinary Session in January 2007 to serve for the 2007 to 2008 period.

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