What challenges await Moussa Faki, the newly elected African Union Commission Chairman?


On the 30th of January 2017, the 28th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa saw the election of Moussa Faki Mahamat, the 56 years old Chadian Minister of Foreign Affairs in a seven-row election amidst four other candidates. Amongst them, the Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed was viewed as the most probable successor to the current Chairperson, the South African Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma[1]. Although the new Chairperson of the African Union Commission will only take office in April, many challenges await him in his future leadership of the institution.
As the official candidate for Chad, Moussa Faki had been preparing his campaign since the failed elections of the 27th AU Summit in July 2016 by travelling all around the continent in search for supports. Faki noticeably received the insurance of the Algerian and the Egyptian vote and eventually won the election that traditionally hands power to minor African countries (the only exception to the implicit rule being South African victory in 2012). Having been Prime Minister of his country from 2003 to 2005 he then became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2008 and has been holding this office since then.


On a continental and international level, he indubitably is a man of experience as he managed to include Chad in the UN Security Council from 2014 to 2016 and ensured its presidency in December 2015. His government also cooperated with the French government through the armed operation Bharkane (as French troops were hosted in the Chadian capital N’Djamena). His action was indeed focused on the West-African area with the various operations his government took part in. Against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, the Multinational Joint Task Force put up with Chad’s allies of the Lake Chad Basin Commission which started in 2015 and vowed to reduce the terrorist group’s strength thanks to regional cooperation. Finally, Moussa Faki has a global approach of Africa and already acquired experience in the functioning of the African Union as he served as President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (an AU sub-organization) from 2007 to 2008.
Moussa Faki must from now on rule an institution that in the past years has been described as obsolete and powerless: in fact, Zuma’s presidency, has left many countries disappointed as one of its major realization was the 2063 Agenda setting various objectives for Africa, but giving the continent fifty years to reach them. Moussa Faki has clearly stated his disapproval against this kind of realization as he thinks the African Union is to take commitments over the short term or medium term but truly fulfil them. In his electoral manifesto, he sets what his objectives for Africa are: although they take the UA objectives over, such as the increase of women and youth role in the continent, he particularly wants to address the important issues of security and stability for the African population as it is the only way for African countries to pursue their economic development. One of his top priorities is to stick to the “Silencing the guns by 2020” agenda, fixed in 2013 in the UN which sets as an objective the end of any armed conflict on the continent. However, the 2020 deadline seems unfortunately close and Moussa Faki has to deal with another problem that the AU faces, its necessary restructuration.
In fact, Rwanda President Paul Kagamé is due to hand in a report on the possible improvements and institutional reforms the AU could benefit from, a report he was tasked with in July 2016. Moussa Faki’s term will therefore be focused on the reforms the African Union needs, reforms that he will have to accomplish cooperating with both Paul Kagamé and Alpha Condé (the AU current president). This objective will necessarily bring one of the fundamental problems of the AU up: the limited power of its commission. As a matter of fact, the executive arm of the institution can only work in accordance with the governments of the Union’s members implying that Moussa Faki will necessarily confront the various African leaders in order to give a chance to the AU to evolve. Although many described him as capable of such actions there are doubts on the possible evolution of the AU as the objectives set by the organization seem to evolve at a fast pace with more stress being put lately on security and migration problems, thus leaving less time to dedicate to the necessary evolution of the organization.


Despite all the challenges that await Moussa Faki, he has the full support of Chad’s president Idriss Déby who was also involved with the AU as he presided it during 2016. This support is essential as Chad asserts itself as a vital partner in security and terrorism matters, and the election of Moussa Faki confirms its rising importance on the African and international level.
Finally, the 28th AU summit also saw the reintroduction of Morocco in the Union, giving the newly elected Chairman of the Commission the chance to represent at last an apparently united continent.
Marcello Cristiano – Junior Analyst
[1] Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, is a South African politician and anti-apartheid activist. She was elected AU’s Chairperson on 15 July 2012.
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