Kenya has reached out to Djibouti for a compromise that would see the Horn of Africa Country support Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed for the post of African Union Commission chairperson.
Ahead of the elections on January 30, Djibouti voiced public support for Ms Mohamed, after President Ismail Omar Guelleh's Special Envoy met with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on Thursday.
"Amb Mohamed is the most capable candidate and we are optimistic she will emerge the winner," said Djibouti Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, according to a statement from State House.
"Her victory will inject transformative leadership that will energise the AUC for the benefit of the continent and the East African region," the Djiboutian diplomat added.
This means that all of the Horn of Africa countries have vowed to support Ms Mohamed in her candidature as she battles it out with four other candidates to become African Union's chief executive officer.
She is competing against Equatorial Guinea's Foreign minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, Chad's Moussa Faki Mahamat, Senegal's Abdoulaye Bathily (currently the UN representative in Central African Republic), and Botswana's Foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
But Kenya had to make some compromises. Sources told the Sunday Nation Kenya pledged to support Djibouti's candidature for the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs. It is a lucrative post which Djibouti wants to be held by its national, Ms Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, who is currently serving as the African Union chairperson's special representative to Madagascar.
The Commissioner for Political Affairs is among the four most influential departments within the AU Commission, alongside that of Peace and Security.
The holder is supposed to implement AU's Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance passed in 2007 to deal with rogue leaders coming to power via coups or refusing to leave when defeated at the polls.
LEAVE IN MASSES
The holder of the post is also AU's chief diplomat in dealing with international organisations like the UN or the International Criminal Court whose work African governments have criticised as biased and vowed to leave in masses.
But the Djibouti candidate will fight it out with Sudan's Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman, a former Permanent Representative to the UN. Both Sudan and Djibouti belong to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), alongside Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, South Sudan and Eritrea (suspended).
Though Igad had vowed to support Amina's candidature, Sudan had not publicly backed her, given it borders with Chad which is also fielding a candidate for the AU Commission Chairperson in Moussa Faki Mahamat. Sources said Kenya was reaching out to Sudan to concentrate on its candidate for Social Affairs where it has nominated Amira Al-Fadil, the Minister for Social Welfare.
In total, there are eight commissioners each acting as departmental chiefs for peace and security, political affairs, infrastructure and energy, social affairs, trade and industry, rural economy and agriculture, human resources science and technology, and economic affairs.
All the current occupants are eligible for re-elections except those in rural economy and energy.
AU elections often follow regional arrangements; east, west, central, south and north. By law, the region from which the chairperson and deputy chairperson come from gets one commissioner each.
The rest of the regions get two commissioners and at least one commissioner from each region shall be a woman.
Kenya had initially nominated Igad executive secretary Mahboub Maalim to be commissioner for infrastructure but later hushed the campaigns after Ms Mohamed was fronted in October.
Commissioners are elected by the AU Executive Council and endorsed by the assembly of heads of state and government.
The post of Political Affairs has attracted four other contestants.