Chadian foreign minister Faki Mahamat has been elected as the new chair of the African Union (AU) Commission, one of the continent’s most important diplomatic posts.
Mahamat emerged victorious after securing 39 votes in the final round at the organisation’s annual summit in Addis Ababa, beating close competition from Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan politician who has held senior roles with the United Nations and World Trade Organisation. Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily was eliminated in an earlier round of voting.
The fifty-six year old Mahamat has held many senior positions over a domestic political career dating back to the 1980s, including serving as Chadian prime minister from June 2003 to February 2005. He resigned from that position in 2005 following a series of strikes by unpaid civil servants, and subsequently served as foreign minister from 2008.
The new AU chair has pledged to put security and development at the top of his agenda. Chad has been involved in combatting the Islamist militant groups Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Mahamat will replace Nkosani Dlamini-Zuma, the South African diplomat who is said to be considering a run for president to replace former husband Jacob Zuma when his term expires. Dlamini-Zuma was the first woman to lead the organisation following her election in 2012.
In one of her final addresses to the 54-nation body today, Dlamini-Zuma said the continent was entering “turbulent times” as a result of the United States’ ban on citizens from three African countries, a move she called “one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity.”
The AU leaders are also debating whether to approve Morocco’s request to rejoin the organisation after a 33-year absence due to the AU’s decision to allow the Western Sahara to join the pan-African organisation. Morocco considers the Western Sahara to be a part of its territory.