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A South African politician has become the first female leader of the African Union (AU), ending months of bitter deadlock at the continental body.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s home affairs minister, was elected chair of the African Union Commission on 5.08.2012 at a summit of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Dlamini-Zuma secured the votes of 37 of the 54 African Union nations to win.
Dlamini-Zuma is the former wife of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Cheering broke out at the AU’s headquarters as supporters of Dlamini-Zuma, 63, celebrated her victory over the incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon.
“We made it!” a grinning Zimbabwean delegate shouted, reflecting the strong support Dlamini-Zuma’s candidacy received from fellow members of the Southern African Development Community.
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, former husband of the winning candidate, emerged from the conference hall where the voting had taken place to announce that “Africa is happy!” Her victory would empower women, he added.
Dlamini-Zuma is the first woman to lead the continent since the Organisation of African Unity, later the AU, was founded in 1963. She is also the first from southern Africa. She faces the challenge of revitalising a body often criticised for its slow and ineffective response to crises such as those in Ivory Coast and Libya last year.
Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, the vice-chairman of the AU commission, was re-elected to serve a second term. His support was almost unanimous, with 50 out of a possible 51 votes, and his victory breaks another unwritten convention that dictates that the chair and vice-chair are held by one francophone and one anglophone country. At a press conference before the election, Dlamini-Zuma said that if appointed chair she would assess “what is not working well and what can be strengthened”.
The African Union (abbreviated AU in English, and UA in its other official languages) is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002,the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Current Chairperson – Yayi Boni, Benin.
Vision of the African Union
The vision of the African Union is that of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”
The AU faces many challenges, including health issues such as combating malaria and the AIDS/HIV epidemic; political issues such as confronting undemocratic regimes and mediating in the many civil wars; economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans; ecological issues such as dealing with recurring famines, desertification, and lack of ecological sustainability; as well as the legal issues regarding Western Sahara.