Women in Leadership: The African Union’s first ever ‘Chairwoman’

16 Jul

Addis Ababa 15 July 2012  – Home Affairs Minister Home Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected on Sunday to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, ending a bruising leadership battle that had threatened to divide the organisation. A closely fought vote to become the head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon, AU officials said Sunday.

Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister and an ex-wife of President   Jacob Zuma, defeated incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, who had been at the helm of the Commission, the AU’s steering body, since 2008.

Dlamini-Zuma, a 63-year-old who has previously served as minister of health and foreign affairs, had to undergo three voting rounds before Ping, 69, was finally eliminated.

A final confidence vote of 37 in favour gave her the 60 % majority she needed to be elected.

“She got 37 (votes), three points more than the (required) majority,” a top AU official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding she had won on the fourth round of voting. South African officials confirmed the result.

Dlamini-Zuma’s win follows her challenge six months ago to unseat Ping, the former commission chairman, which ended in deadlock after neither won the required two-thirds of the vote, which left Ping in the post.

The contest to head the Commission of the 54-member AU had been deadlocked since last year. It pitted French-speaking states, largely backing Ping, against mostly English-speaking countries, especially in southern Africa, which gave their support to Dlamini-Zuma.

The feverish impasse over the candidates had persisted through a summit of AU heads of state held in Addis Ababa at the weekend. It prompted the AU’s rotating chairperson, Benin President Boni Yayi, to warn that failure by the continental body to resolve the leadership deadlock would divide it and undermine its credibility in the world.

Jakkie Cilliers of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies told AFP how Dlamini-Zuma’s score had crept up from one round of voting to the next.

“She got ahead in the first round and after that the momentum kicked in,” said Cilliers. “The heads of state wanted a decision.”

Dlamini-Zuma’s win had brought “clarity as to who’s in charge” at the AU, after six months of deadlock over the leadership issue, he added.

But some analysts say South African has violated an unwritten tradition that continental powerhouses do not run candidates for the post, instead leaving smaller nations to take the job — and that this had sparked bad feeling.

Before the vote however, Dlamini-Zuma played down concerns that the vote could divide the AU.

“I don’t think the continent will be polarised,” she said.

The winner would “make sure they work with everybody, irrespective of where and who they voted for,” she added.

Critics say the AU showed itself hesitant and slow-moving in its response to the conflicts last year in Libya and Ivory Coast, allowing Western governments to take lead roles.

Sources: http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Dlamini-Zuma-names-AU-commission-chair-20120715 and http://www.modernghana.com/news/406184/1/s-africas-dlamini-zuma-becomes-first-woman-to-head.html

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