On the first day of its videoconference summit, the African Union (AU) renewed Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat at its head, in the midst of a debate on the fight against Covid-19 and the vaccine supply of the continent.
“Deeply honored by this historic and overwhelming vote of confidence,” commented on Twitter Mr. Faki, re-elected at the end of the afternoon by 51 member states out of 55. He is being reappointed for a four-year term at the head of the AU Commission, the executive body and key institution of the Pan-African organization.
In passing, he congratulated Monique Nsanzabaganwa, vice-governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, elected his deputy head of the Commission.
Former Prime Minister of Chad, Mr. Faki was the only candidate for his succession, and faced accusations – which he rejects – “of a culture of sexual harassment, corruption and intimidation within the commission”, according to a recent note from the International Crisis Group (ICG).
Certain States were also concerned about the respect of the secrecy of this vote organized remotely and by Internet.
– “Vaccine nationalism” –
Organized exceptionally online to avoid any contamination, this summit takes place exactly one year after the detection of a first case of Covid-19 in Egypt. At the time, the arrival of the epidemic on the continent raised fears of an explosion of fragile African health systems, an apocalyptic scenario that did not materialize.
Africa remains relatively spared for the moment, with 3.5% of cases and 4% of deaths officially recorded worldwide, according to the AU Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
But many countries are now facing a worrying second wave and are struggling to access vaccines, while at two doses per person Africa will need 1.5 billion doses to immunize 60% of the population. its approximately 1.3 billion inhabitants.
“This disease has caused a lot of suffering and hardship on our continent,” said South African Head of State Cyril Ramaphosa, outgoing AU President, in his opening speech, stressing that the health emergency was coupled with a “serious economic and social crisis”.
African leaders are increasingly annoyed by the frantic race for vaccines, in which they start with a serious handicap.
In a recent interview, Mr. Faki denounced “vaccine nationalism” and “rich countries that take priority, some even pre-ordering more than they need.”
– “Exit the meeting rooms” –
The closed-door debates began with a speech by Mr. Ramaphosa on current African efforts to deal with the pandemic. In his speech he also called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release new resources “to correct the blatant inequality in fiscal stimulus measures between advanced economies and the rest of the world”.
His successor to the organization’s annual rotating presidency, his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of Congo Félix Tshisekedi, pledged to make the AU more relevant by “taking it out of the meeting rooms”.
Mr. Tshisekedi outlined an ambitious program covering both the fight against climate change, sexual violence, the promotion of the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlecaf), or the mega-hydroelectric dam project. Inga in her country.
Another stake – internal this one – to the AU, the Nigerian Bankole Adeoye was elected head of a super department bringing together Political Affairs, and the Peace and Security Department. He is expected to play a crucial role, alongside Mr. Faki, in attempting to resolve many African crises that the AU is accused of neglecting.
The Peace and Security Council, for example, hardly addressed the conflict between the Cameroonian government and English-speaking separatists, or the worrying rise of radical Islamists in northern Mozambique.
The crisis in Tigray which has shaken Ethiopia for three months, which houses the AU headquarters, is one of the most sensitive issues.
As soon as the fighting broke out in early November, Mr. Faki called for an end to hostilities between the Addis Ababa government and the dissident authorities in Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia. But Ethiopian Prime Minister and 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed refused any AU mediation in a “law and order” operation falling under national sovereignty.
This summit also coincides with the announcement of a new diplomatic policy of the United States by Joe Biden, who wishes to renew links with multilateral institutions, in particular the African Union.