AU extends mandate of current head, exposing divisions
Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:12am GMT
* Ping fails to win outright majority
* South Africa suffers diplomatic blow (Recasts with extension of Ping's
mandate, adds diplomat)
By Yara Bayoumy and Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The African Union extended the mandate of
its commission chief after failing to elect a new head on Monday,
highlighting the weakness of a group criticised for slow decision-making
during political turmoil on the continent last year.
Former South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was up against
incumbent commission chairman Jean Ping of Gabon, who failed to win an
outright majority in four rounds of voting.
After hours of deliberations during which South Africa's foreign minister
said the deputy chairman would take over as interim commission chief, the
African Union said it had decided to extend Ping's mandate for a further six
months until the next summit in Malawi in June.
"The elections were suspended in line with the provisions of our statute so
we took the decision to extend the term of office of the chairperson, the
deputy and his commissioners," AU chairman Benin President Boni Yayi told
reporters through a translator.
The commission is the AU secretariat's top organ and the chair its public
A Western diplomat said the divisions showed how the power balance had
shifted in the continent after the death of one of its main patrons, former
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The AU was founded at a summit in his
hometown of Sirte.
"It's a fact despite what they say that Africa is divided. Things are
changing, the balance of power among the regions are changing with the death
of Gaddafi," said the diplomat, adding power was shifting towards southern
Smaller countries said Zuma's candidacy broke an unwritten rule that the
continent's dominant states do not contest the leadership. "South Africa's
decision to do so turns everything upside down," a West African delegate
"You could say they may have not voted for Ping but the smaller countries
are sceptical of the big countries," he said.
Analysts said Ping's attempts to juggle the diverse views of its 54 members
had hampered decision-making on Libya after Gaddafi's overthrow.
"The weakness that Jean Ping had was not being forthcoming in putting his
own opinion... the commission is a bureaucracy and it doesn't have its own
position but that of member states," Mahari Taddele Maru, an African Union
analyst at International Security Studies said.
The AU recognised the National Transitional Council as Libya's de facto
government long after most Western nations. A Libyan delegate, describing
the AU as "indecisive up to the last moment," said the commission should be
given more authority.
South Africa, which has complained the United Nations needs to pay more
attention to the pan-African body, especially when it comes to African
crises, had pushed Zuma's candidacy hard, saying the AU needed strong
"The incumbent could not win a two-thirds majority after four rounds so this
is very very clear, that leaders of this continent want change and they want
it now," South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane earlier said.
She said the rules dictated that the deputy chairman, Kenya's Erastus
Mwencha, would become interim chair until the next round of elections.
South African President Jacob Zuma's failure to secure a majority for
Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife, after Ping's much criticised tenure dealt a blow
to South Africa, which regards itself as an emerging power championing
African causes, but is seen by some other states as a step behind global
affairs. (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Philippa Fletcher/Maria
* Bomber targets ex-warlord now mediating regional dispute
* Shabaab vows to keep targeting former warlord Awale
* Attacker shoots one guard dead, another killed by blast (Adds claim of
MOGADISHU, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed two bodyguards on
Tuesday in a failed bid to murder a former Somali warlord and one-time
government police commander in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region, a
military official and residents said.
Al Shabaab, the Islamist rebel group that professes loyalty to al Qaeada,
said it had carried out the attack and would keep targeting Abdi Hassan
Awale until they kill him.
"Our bomber targeted Abdi Hassan. He is a great infidel. He used to be a
minister for Sharif's government" al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab
"His bodyguards died in the attack. He escaped today but we shall not stop
targeting till we get rid of him," he added.
Awale controlled a section of the capital Mogadishu before he was defeated
by forces of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He later served as a minister
for minerals and water in President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government.
One witness said the bomber shot dead Awale's armed driver at the entrance
to the compound in the town of Galkayo before detonating his explosives when
a bodyguard jumped on him.
Colonel Mohamed Hussein told Reuters that the dead men were policemen.
"The bomber killed the driver with a pistol and the guard with the blast,"
Shopkeeper Farah Elmi, who witnessed the attack, confirmed the sequence of
events. The bomber's dismembered corpse was visible inside the compound, he
Awale, who hails from Galmudug, had been mediating in a row between the
regional president and local lawmakers, according to Hussein.
The town of Galkayo straddles Galmudug and the semi-autonomous Puntland
region more than 500 km (320 miles) north of Mogadishu in central Somalia.
Earlier this month a local militia abducted a foreign journalist holding
dual U.S.-German citizenship from the town.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri and
Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Tue Jan 31 2012 - 17:39:20 EST