Kenya: Djibouti Joins AUC Chairperson Race to Take On Kenya and Somalia

President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh

Nairobi — Djibouti has joined the race for the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, becoming the third East African nation, alongside Kenya and Somalia, to front a candidate for the influential seat.

Djibouti named Foreign Affairs Minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, its candidate for the post.

The Djibouti presidency officially announced the decision on Tuesday, underscoring Youssouf's extensive experience in diplomacy, which they believe makes him well-suited for the role.

"Djibouti expresses its faith in the ability of Mr. Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, a man of experience and seasoned diplomat, knowing the mysteries of the Continental Organization to serve and breathe new life into the Pan-African Organization," said the Djibouti Presidency.

Youssouf will be contending with Kenya's Raila Odinga and Somalia's Fawzia Yusuf Adam, a former Foreign Minister, in the race to succeed the incumbent, Moussa Faki, who has held the position since March 14, 2017.

Djibouti indicated that Youssouf has more than two decades of experience as Minister of Foreign Affairs in a country they describe as "a haven of peace which is distinguished by the constant search for conflict resolution through dialogue and negotiation."

Djibouti expressed its confidence in the abilities of its candidate, saying he has all the "assets" to meet the expectations and interests of the continent.

Youssouf speaks French, English, and Arabic fluently.

While Kenya has been on a charm offensive to lobby for more support for its candidate, Odinga, Djibouti's entry into the race further complicates President William Ruto's efforts to secure regional backing.

Regional backing

Kenya has received the support of Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania as it seeks endorsement as the regionally-backed candidate.

President Ruto has secured Ghana's endorsement of Kenya's bid for the AUC Chairperson ahead of the February 2025 elections.

The AUC Commission comprises a chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Commissioners, and staff.

The Assembly of AU Heads of State elects the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson while the Executive Council of Foreign Ministers elects Commissioners.

Members of the Commission serve for a four-year term renewable once.

In November 2018, as part of institutional reforms, the Assembly decided to enhance the transparency and meritocracy of the leadership selection process, emphasizing principles such as equitable regional representation, gender parity, and attracting top talent from across Africa.

The African Union unanimously adopted the right of the Eastern Africa region to produce the next Chairperson of the African Union Commission on March 25.

The move also provides that the Northern African region will front candidates for the Deputy Chairperson while the other three regions, Central, Southern, and Western will compete for the six positions of commissioners.

The decision was made during the 22nd Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU.

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