In the Africa Union (AU) as in other political organizations, elective offices are eagerly sought as badges of prestige and levers of global influence. On 30th of January 2017, a woman vied to become the Chairperson of the powerful African Union. The election was hotly contested; in fact, the voting went to round 7, an indicator that the position of Chairperson was not only prestigious but significantly influential. Amina Mohamed did not win, rather narrowly lost to a male contender Moussa Mahamat, from the Islamic Maghreb’s nation of Chad.
Such intensely contested global-politics battles have quite naturally become the object of foreign policy and diplomacy inquiry at home. In Kenya, the question of how and why Nairobi lost is predominant at all levels of government particularly at the foreign ministry and the Presidency. Amina was to replace a woman, but arguments among member states revolved around having a male takeover. The vastly Islamic North Africa and parts of both East and Central Africa may have adversely affected the final outcome. The North Africans opted for a male and not a woman as per their teachings and traditions.
Geopolitics and Foreign Policy
Quite naturally, these elective positions are distributed among geopolitically valuable countries. Was Kenya such a candidate? The answer is ‘yes’, it is the largest economy and most powerful military in East and Central Africa. Kenya is among the top 10 biggest and powerful economies in Africa. Today, it ranks as middle income country. Most important through is the fact that it’s the gateway to East Africa.
Could Nairobi’s quest to take such a pivotal global position been a factor of failure? Most notably was the abstinence of the Anglophone block from the final vote. Uganda and Burundi members of the East African community betrayed Nairobi. Most members of the great Lakes region also did not support Amina Mohamed. Members of AMISOM contributing countries and those who share River Nile refused to support what’d have been an easy win for the female Kenyan diplomat.
Strategic Intelligence further examines the policy of acquiescence as a factor. South Africa Development Community members may have opted the policy of acquiescence to avoid a powerful and influential Nairobi eating away its sphere of influence at both SADC and Great Lakes Region.
The Francophone’s carried the day by voting for the Chadian. It was time for the Francophone’s to have the chairmanship. Chad is believed to have a relatively good army, good relations with the Islamic Maghreb, and ECOWAS. In fact, Chad has strong ties with the North African community, a key factor that played out incredibly well throughout the voting sessions.
However, Amina Mohamed was a ray of hope for African women, particularly those from East and Central Africa besides the Islamic North Africa. She had weathered many setbacks including socio-religious pitfalls to nearly win the African Union leadership. Her loss is a loss for women. Upon becoming President of the Republic of Kenya, President Kenyatta almost immediately set two critical foreign policy precedents. One, he began lobbying for a strong African Union and assumed control of treaty negotiations with majority of African countries. Secondly, he sent emissaries all who answered to Amina Mohamed. The outcomes have been significantly critical in shaping Kenya’s position in the international community.
Amina Mohamed did not lose rather became a victim of male chauvinism, geopolitics, and religious ideologies all which played out at the AU summit in Addis Ethiopia. What is obvious is that Kenya will certainly revise its foreign policy and diplomacy. Being betrayed by friends and neighbors it has come through for is an indicator of weak diplomatic relations with such neighbors.
However, Kenya unlike many global nations displayed courage and diplomatic maturity. Such contets, have, sometimes run to diplomatic deadlocks. In 1965, Indonesia withdrew from the United Nations prompted by other factors as well, was timed to serve as a protest against the seating of Malysia on the prestigious Security Council. Instead of protesting betrayal, Kenya conceded defeat and congratulated the Chadian Moussa Mahamat who Kenya’s friends say has more experience in leadership than Amina Mohamed. Lastly, contests for positions of power and influence will always be intersting and emotional to watch, generally, but the truly profound is there are more office seekers than offices.