Details of how Amina Mohamed lost African Union Commission election

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed. She lost her bid to chair the African Union Commission. [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/Standard]

Details have emerged that some East African countries may have undermined Kenya's candidate for the position of chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC).

Amina Mohamed lost to Chad's Foreign Affairs minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, in the Monday vote by African leaders.

South Sudan's Ambassador to Ethiopia, James Morgan, said Kenya failed to convince even some of its closest allies from East Africa to vote for Amina.

"South Sudan voted for Kenya but it is surprising that Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Tanzania did not vote for Kenya during the stages. We think it has to do with how Kenya relates with its neighbours. Burundi said Kenya interferes with her internal affairs by condemning the conflict there," Mr Morgan said.

"Uganda is also not happy with the way Kenya wants everything. I saw the Ugandan President in an animated discussion with his Tanzanian counterpart during the sixth round. In the seventh round, Tanzania didn't vote for Kenya."

At the end of the vote, President Uhuru Kenyatta was the first one to leave the AU complex. He didn't talk to the media.

He was immediately followed out by Uganda's Museveni, who came out smiling.

Others factors that undermined Amina's candidature were gender, the feeling that Mahamat is an AU insider, having worked in the continental body's peace and security agency, and generally the Francophone-Anglophone tensions.

Elias Ntungwe Ngalame, an AU affairs analyst from Cameroon, said Mahamat had worked with the AU for a long time.

"The new chairman has worked for AU on peace and security issues and also participated in the peace negotiations in South Sudan. He also played a role in developing AU's maritime strategy and played a key role in Chad's fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region. This gave him an upper hand," Mr Ngalame said.

He added that Francophone countries always worked as a team and this worked for Mahamat as opposed to Amina who comes from English-speaking Africa.

Amina also blamed her loss on the two main languages spoken in Africa.

"Africa is divided along language lines even though the languages don't belong to us. Yet the authors of those languages do not fight among themselves," she told The Standard.

The Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary said her loss was proof that Africa was divided.

"That 16 countries abstained is a clear manifestation of that division. So the Chadian candidate has a big job to unify the continent. I think we are now divided more than we ever were," she said.

Gender also worked against her as the outgoing chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, whose term ended on Monday, is female and some countries, particularly from West Africa, thought it was not fair to have a woman succeed her.

Sources familiar with the intrigues that determined the vote pointed out to The Standard that South Africans wanted their South African Development Community (SADC) candidate Pelonomi Moitoi from Botswana to replace Dr Zuma, who refused a second term.

When they realised their preferred candidate was losing in the first round after scoring 10 votes, some abstained in subsequent voting rounds or supported the winner.

"We felt we could serve a second term but we didn't vote for Amina because we feel she is so close to her president that this might cloud her judgement as she could use the position to advance Kenya's rather than Africa's agenda," said a diplomat from South Africa who did not wish to be named.

The diplomat said Amina's push to have Africa withdraw from the International Criminal Court was wrong for the continent as it would encourage African leaders to make mistakes knowing they would not be punished.

Kenya's National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale also blamed the division on languages, pointing out that Muslim and Francophone countries voted differently because of the different languages.

good fight

But he congratulated Amina, saying she had put up a good fight and carried Kenya's flag high. He defended the budget used for her lobbying, terming it normal.

"Every country, including Botswana and Chad, had a budget for their candidates and out of these five candidates, only one could have won. The budget is transparent and I am sure it will come up in the budget supplementary estimates, and we will defend it," the Garissa Township legislator said.

AU insiders said Mahamat was poised to win because his president, Idriss Deby, is the immediate former AU chairman, who was replaced by Guinea's President Alpha Conde.

Amina lost to Mahamat in the seventh round, after leading with 16 votes against Chad's candidate who had 14 votes in the first round.

In round two, Amina slipped and scored 17 votes against Chad's candidate who managed 24 votes.

In round six, 15 heads of state and government abstained, giving Chad an unassailable lead of 39 votes.