S.African elected first female AU Commission head
16 July 2012, 12:37
Addis Abba - South
African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected on
Sunday to become the first female head of the African Union (AU)
Commission, ending a bruising leadership battle that had threatened to
divide and weaken the organisation.
Cheers broke out at the AU's soaring, Chinese-built steel and
glass headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa as supporters of
the ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma celebrated her
victory over incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon.
"We made it!" a grinning Zimbabwean delegate shouted, reflecting
the strong support Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy had received from fellow
members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Ping, who
had served in the AU post since 2008, was largely supported by
French-speaking African states.
The appointment of South Africa's 63-year-old home affairs
minister, who previously served as minister of health and foreign
affairs, will add to the global diplomatic clout of an African state
which is already the continent's largest economy.
As head of the organisation's executive arm, she faces immediate
challenges as the AU tries to gain U.N. Security Council backing for a
military intervention in northern Mali, where local and foreign al
Qaeda-linked jihadists seized control after a destabilising coup in the
southern capital Bamako.
The Mali crisis, along with an army putsch in Guinea-Bissau and
border clashes in April between Sudan and South Sudan have blotted
Africa's advances in recent years towards better governance and
stability, accompanied by buoyant growth.
Dlamini-Zuma had to undergo three voting rounds before Ping, 69,
was eliminated. A final confidence vote of 37 in favour gave her the 60
percent majority she needed to be elected.
The contest to head the Commission of the 54-member AU had been
deadlocked since a previous vote at a January summit ended in stalemate.
The impasse had persisted through a summit of AU heads of state held in
Addis Ababa at the weekend.