The Swahili have a saying, “yaliyopita si ndwele, tugange yaliyopo na yajayo.” What the saying means is that the past is in the past and what one should focus on is the present and the future. Not in any way to say that the past should simply be forgotten and not learned from, far from it, but; it should not stand in the way of the current and the forthcoming. This saying, is at present, very relevant to the African continent’s Eastern region. In its 27th summit, the African Union (AU) members voted for a new African Union Commission Chair. Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary (Minister) Ambassador Amina Mohamed was one of the candidates that sought to replace former Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. After six rounds of voting, she lost to the candidate from Chad, new Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. The loss hit not only herself, but the country, as well as the Eastern Africa region pretty hard.
The loss made headlines for days and was even a topic for panels on Kenya’s major television networks, with people trying to understand how it is that she lost. Blame was passed around and the country’s opposition leaders called out the government saying it was they that cost her the seat thanks to “corruption and bad governance” which “led to the country losing face internationally.” Other Kenyans on social media were of the opinion that it was good that she had lost, arguing that “had she clinched the seat she would simply have been used to serve the country’s selfish interests.” She herself blamed her loss on “deceptive partners in the Eastern Africa region” and went on to state that “Africa was deeply divided based on linguistic lines and the vote was simply a battle of the Anglophone against the Francophone.”
The African Union has on many occasions been criticized for having failed to make its voice heard and for serving the interests of ‘bad leaders’ as opposed to the African people – the move to have its members pull out of the International Criminal Court being an example (since the court was seen to refuse to play favourites, not sparing even sitting Presidents). Conflicts continue to make life unbearable in many of its member states– Somalia and the Al Shabab; Nigeria and Boko Haram; Libya, South Sudan and its battle between President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar; Burundi and recently the fears in the Congo after the death of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi among others.
In light of the above, the Union members, in essence, those in leadership, need to put their heads together and focus on making the Union stronger and more present. It could learn from regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and their achievement in averting a crisis in the Gambia. The continent needs to be more together now in light of the changes going on throughout the globe, specifically with the emergence of leaders that hold extreme views, who refuse to be accommodating of differences, and preach intolerance. Better relations need to be built between countries and between regional blocs and the same will ultimately lead to a stronger and more influential Union.