Simon Lokidongoi holds the skull of a cow that died during the East Africa drought crisis
Photo: Frederic Courbet/Panos Pictures/ActionAid
At the recent African Union summit, leaders elected Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as their first female Chairperson.
But with key issues such as the Sahel food crisis and the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan facing the continent, will Dr. Dlamini-Zuma provide the strong leadership that the organisation needs?
The answer to this is a diplomatic yes. But this answer comes with caution.
Change takes time and given the diversity of the African Union, it may take longer than many people would hope – but what is most important is that the change is beginning.
Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s appointment came just days before the birthday of former South African President and global icon, Nelson Mandela.
Mandela is admired the world over for his dedication and patriotism to the creation of the rainbow nation. He embraced those who imprisoned him, dined with them and called them friends.
Dr. Dlamini-Zuma would do well to follow this great example. She needs to embrace those who did not vote for her and bridge the divides.
It is time to build a new Africa and this must start with a firm commitment to accountable and transparent leadership at the AU.
President Mandela once said: “I dream of the realisation of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent”. And this is a dream which we still have.
The change of leadership is a win for Africa. It is a demonstration of leadership and political will by the African governments.
It’s a win for the women and citizens of Africa. We often say “when you educate a woman, you educate a family”, and we call on the new Chair to embrace this spirit.
There is a strong sense of unity among the citizens of Africa that the time for the Africa we want could be now. So it’s important to remind the new Chair and her team that the success of the AU is dependent on African governments and the citizens of the continent, who will support new ways of engaging other global players in Africa’s best interest.
Back in 2005 at the Southern African Development Community summit, President Festus Mogae of Botswana criticised the institution, saying it was “the weakest in getting things done”.
By all accounts, the SADC has adopted ambitious declarations on issues ranging from the environment to human rights, democracy and good governance. Yet few countries honour these commitments.
When will adherence to such commitments become so important that non-compliance results in some form of sanction – and becomes something to be avoided?
This is true for the SADC region but even more relevant to the African Union as a whole. And it’s time for the leaders of Africa to embrace this call for change.
I congratulate Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. But she must be under no illusions – she has a hard job ahead.