Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed lost out to Chad’s Moussa Mahamat in the race to become the chair of the African Union Commission in the Round Seven vote.
Ms Mohamed fell to a strong onslaught fronted by countries from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) after seven rounds of voting that saw three other candidates fall by the wayside early in the voting.
Amina, 56, lost to Mahamat after heads of state voted in the seventh round.
Yesterday’s elections in Addis Ababa, which were delayed for two hours after the opening ceremony, took up to 3pm, eating into the time of the voting for the AUC chairperson that was scheduled to take place at 2pm.
The African Heads of State and Government were forced to break and resume the voting session at 4pm.
The African leaders took their seats at the assembly summit at 4.30pm and the voting started.
In the first round, Amina was leading with 16 votes against Chad's candidate who had 14 votes. Botswana's Dr Pelonomi Moitoi secured 10 votes, same as Senegal's candidate.
In round two, Amina slipped and scored 17 votes against Chad's candidate who managed 24 votes. Senegal and Botswana scored eight votes each.
During the third round, only two candidates were eligible. They were Kenya's and Chad's. Amina scored 26 beating the Chad's candidate by one vote.
This forced the Heads of State and Government to proceed to round four. Here, Chad scored 28 votes against Kenya's 25. There was one abstention.
In round six, Chad maintained 28 against Kenya's 25 with one abstention. This is after Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda abstained.
In round six, 15 Heads of State and Government abstained, giving Chad an unassailable lead of 39 votes.
This forced a seventh round, where Chad was left alone and won with 38 votes with one more abstention.
Although the Foreign Affairs CS led in the third and fourth rounds, the seat slipped away from her in the fifth round after three countries that had initially supported her withdrew their support in favour of her opponent.
Among the countries said to have abandoned the Kenyan candidate at the last minute were Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
It also emerged that she was also a victim of a watertight scheme by Francophone countries that ganged up to take control of both the political and technical arms of the 54-member organisation.
This was after Guinea President Alpha Conde took the baton as the Chair of the African Union from President Idris Derby of Chad.
In the last round, countries from the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) that include East Africa Community member - Tanzania - then opted to abstain in solidarity with Ms Mohammed after it became clear that the she had lost ground to the Chadian foreign minister.
Uganda, which was expected to back Mohammed, also abandoned the CS after the first round of the voting, further complicating her chances of becoming the continent's top diplomat.
A statement from State House late in the evening lauded Mohammed for putting up a strong show in the election.
"After seven rounds of voting, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad has been elected Chair of the African Union Commission, at a session of the 28th African Union Summit. Kenya congratulates him on a race well won. We pledge to work with him to defend the Pan-African agenda of integration for Africa, as well as democracy, sovereignty and prosperity for all of its people," said the statement signed by State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu.
Amina lost the race despite intense lobbying by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
The new AU boss will replace South African Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who is departing after completing her four-year tenure.
Kenya also ceded the deputy chairman's position that was in the hands of Erastus Mwenja to a candidate from Ghana. Mwenja's term had lapsed.
Earlier, President Uhuru had held talks with 10 African leaders in last-minute lobbying for the election of Amina.
Given the unpredictability of the vote, Uhuru on Sunday night held talks with Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Hage Geingob of Namibia, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Patrice Trovoada, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe.
Others were Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Burkina Faso's leader Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.
Speaking at the Sheraton Hotel, the venue of the talks, Uhuru had said Amina needed a minimum of 20 votes in the first round of voting but a winner needs to secure a two-thirds win in the first round to avoid a second round vote.
Uhuru is said to have requested Museveni to back Amina's candidature after it emerged that Uganda and Djibouti were among the countries that were pulling away from supporting the Kenyan CS.
Yesterday, the AU received a progress report on the implementation of the decision of the AU assembly on Financing the AU, adopted in Kigali, Rwanda in July last year.
Kagame, after his meeting with Uhuru, shared his call for internal funding, noting that for the AU to implement and institutionalise reforms, the continent must fund its programmes.
As part of his lobbying, Uhuru on Friday had chaired an African Peer Review Mechanism meeting and called upon its members to support Amina arguing she was the best qualified to lead a revitalised AU on reforms.
He also pleaded with them to give East African Community (EAC) a chance given that the region had never led AUC.
"The EAC has never had the opportunity to lead the AUC and I think this should work strongly in favour of Amina," Uhuru said.