African Union: who to succeed Moussa Faki Mahamat?

The race to succeed Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, who will leave his post at the head of the African Union (AU) Commission in February 2025, is officially open

African Union: who to succeed Moussa Faki Mahamat?

The race to succeed Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, who will leave his post at the head of the African Union (AU) Commission in February 2025, is officially open. The candidates, who have until August 6 to submit their applications, will all come from East Africa, under the principle of rotation desired by the reform of the AU institutions. In force since 2018, this will allow a national from this region to head the Commission until 2029.

Head of the AU executive and legal representative of the organization, the president of the Commission is supposed to be the driving force behind the main directions of the continent, particularly with regard to the resolution of security crises and the file of economic integration within the future African free trade area. A role in which the Commission regularly shows its limits, due to lack of financial means and capacity to implement its decisions.

In the last election, in 2017, the post narrowly escaped Kenya. This time, Nairobi intends to impose its suitor: Raila Odinga, the historic opponent, defeated five times in the presidential election. For him to win, President William Ruto secured the support of the heads of state of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, and Rwanda, Paul Kagame. But this candidacy is causing concern on the continent, with large nations and strong – even divisive – personalities rarely achieving unanimity when electing the head of the pan-African organization.

Moreover, Raila Odinga's candidacy is partly seen in the corridors of the AU as a way for William Ruto to remove his main opponent from the Kenyan scene rather than prioritizing the interests of the pan-African organization. On May 4, the 79-year-old himself admitted that he did not want to abandon his political role in Kenya if he became head of the AU: “I will be able to take a flight, work in Addis Ababa from Monday to Friday and be back in Kenya at the weekend to take care of current affairs. »

“Playing the Francophonie card”

Three other states have so far officially applied: Djibouti, the Comoros and Somalia.

After twenty years at the head of Djiboutian diplomacy, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf appears to be Raila Odinga's main competitor. Djibouti is counting on this experienced and multilingual minister “to reaffirm [its] central role in regional and African diplomacy”, according to a press release from the presidency. Engaged in negotiations between Somalia and Ethiopia to ease tensions over access to the sea desired by Addis Ababa, Djibouti has often served as a mediator in the Horn of Africa, a turbulent region where the small state of one million inhabitants remains the only one to show relative stability.

Mahamoud Ali Youssouf “could play the Francophonie card and the Arab card in order to be elected,” indicates an East African diplomat within the AU, who prefers to speak on condition of anonymity. But according to sources within the Djibouti government, the AU's suspension of five French-speaking countries and Sudan - due to coups - could thwart the ambitions of the small Horn of Africa state, which will need two-thirds of the continent's votes.

The Comoros, another French-speaking country of less than a million inhabitants, would see itself acceding to the post of president of the Commission just a few months after leading the AU under the rotating presidency ensured in 2023 by the Comorian leader , Azali Assoumani. For this, the archipelago appointed former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed El-Amine Souef, who is the current AU special representative for Atmis, the African peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

In a context of multiplication of crisis centers on the continent, the 61-year-old diplomat benefits from a profile focused on issues related to peace and security. He was in the past at the head of UNAMID (hybrid UN and AU mission in Darfur) and MINUSMA (UN mission in Mali). “The continent’s priority will be to pacify the Horn of Africa, because the situation in the Red Sea endangers global security,” he told Le Monde. However, in the corridors of the AU, doubts remain about the ability of the Comoros to lead a continental campaign for the vote.

Facing them will be Fawzia Yusuf Adam, the only woman in this election, who worked at the Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs ten years ago. His application has little chance of succeeding. “A Somali candidate cannot be elected, it’s impossible. It’s still a failed state,” confides a diplomat working within the AU in Addis Ababa.