This week the AU's Session of the Permanent Representatives committee and the Executive council will meet and set the agenda for the main summit next Monday and Tuesday.
But the major topics already floating around this week in anticipation of the summit are a replacement for commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Morocco's possible reentry into the AU.
A new chairperson was to have been elected at the previous summit in Kigali in July last year but the heads of state were unable to come to an agreement.
None of the three candidates got a two-thirds majority.
So this time round, there are five candidates.
But, with two from before, most are looking at the three new ones: Kenya's foreign minister Amina Mohamed, Senegalese diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily, who is also the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for the Central African Republic, and Chad's Foreign Minister Moussa Faki.
Speaking to RfI on the sidelines of the Africa-France summit in Bamako two weeks ago, the three new candidates explained why they feel they should be considered:
- Abdoulaye Bathily:
- “I have been a militant for pan-Africanism since my student days. I have been involved in the struggles for liberation of Africa, against apartheid; against colonialism”
-“I consider myself an internationalist for just causes, for the people of Africa.”
Changes if elected
- “ I would like to give more dynamism to the commission, in terms of management of the commission, in terms of proposals because we have to make proposals to make the commission more operational, more in tune with the realities of Africa today.”
-“ Africa is facing a number of challenges today in terms of regional integration, in terms of peace and security…political transition in many countries, democracy is in transition in many countries, we have post-electoral conflicts in many countries, all these are issues we have to tackle,”
- Amina Mohamed:
-“My ability put people together, a capacity to lead teams, I am a lawyer by profession, I have negotiated a lot of agreements, I have worked with my government for 30 years, and during that period I worked with Kenya’s esteemed Security Council.”
-“I think it is important to listen to people others who have looked at us from the outside and able to see much more clearly at what the issues are to make us more efficient and much more responsive to our challenges”
-“I think this is the time that Africa and the African Union commission need reforms carried out, there is no doubt is my mind that we have to make really fundamental changes and I have done that before, so it is not something new for me
‘”...spend much more less time talking and a lot more time acting….”
Morocco’s re-entry to the AU
-“I think morocco has a right to have a discussion with the rest of Africa.”
- Moussa Faki:
-“Africa and the African Commission is at a cross road, as a Foreign Minister since 2008, I had the opportunity to deal with many issues, in particular in the field of security, stability and to participate in my capacity as Foreign Minister in the drafting and the adopting of agenda 63 in Africa.
-“Africa needs leadership and I think I have these qualities to be president of the commission of the African Union
In reference to other new candidates
-“I think all the candidates have a very good background. Myself, I have been Foreign Minister for almost a decade , and I had the opportunity to deal with the most important issues in this continent.
-“I have been in my own country in Chad, Prime Minister and President of the Economic and Social Council with a very important consultative assembly
‘”I think I have the qualification and the faith and I am a pan-Africanist, and I think I have this willing to make things going forwards.”
The current head of commission Dlamini-Zuma has already outstayed her four-year term and, as a candidate to be head of South Africa's ruling ANC, she will likely not be able to extend her term for another election. So this summit is unlikely to see the election postponed again.
Morocco bids for reentry
The other issue topping the agenda this year will be Morocco’s request to regain its membership of the AU. The kingdom left over 30 years ago after the membership of Western Sahara was accepted.
Morocco has a longstanding conflict with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which it annexed in 1975. But at the root of the AU is unity against colonisation. In the eyes of many, Morocco’s annexation is viewed as a form of colonisation.
However, King Mohammed VI has been travelling across the continent in the runup to the summit, trying to create a Moroccan presence in an effort to create some support for its reentry.
But, if Morocco is successful in entering the AU, it remains to be seen what will happen to Western Sahara's membership.