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Leaders to discuss AU leadership crisis

16 March 2012, 08:51

Addis Ababa - A handful of African leaders are to meet in the Benin's capital Cotonou on Saturday to try to make progress on resolving the African Union (AU) leadership crisis, following deadlocked elections.

With the 54-nation organisation increasingly adrift since splitting in January over whether to re-elect Jean Ping as head of the AU Commission or giving the post to South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a select group is to meet to try to build consensus ahead of another vote expected in July.

"After the deadlock during the summit they established this ad-hoc committee to look into this issue of the election and to come out with some recommendations," AU Commission spokesperson Noureddine Mezni told AFP.

Saturday's meeting will gather a leader from each of Africa's five main regions, with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika representing North Africa and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara sitting in for West Africa.

East Africa will be represented by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Central Africa by Chad's President Idris Deby Itno and Southern Africa by Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Leaders of Benin, the current chair of the AU, and South Africa and Gabon will also be in attendance.

Dlamini-Zuma, who was backed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states, is running again.

Dlamini-Zuma is South Africa's former foreign affairs minister and President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife. She is the current home affairs minister.

Decision-making power

Ping, who was backed by francophone states, has not confirmed whether he will re-enter the race.

Gabon's former foreign affairs minister and minister of information, Ping has been the chairperson of the AU Commission since 2008.

Ping is serving in an interim capacity until a new chairperson is elected at the next AU Summit slated to take place in Malawi in July.

A diplomatic source said both "might" be at this weekend's meeting, but only as observers, not as members of the committee.

The same source said the AU has been frozen since the deadlocked elections, which does not bode well for the organisation's image or decision-making power.

"The organisation is paralysed and this is bad for this institution because the team that is here to expedite the current affairs for the big decisions, they can't do anything," the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.



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