Friday, July 20, 2012

Salute the African Woman!

Something that might be deemed 'strange' happened at the just concluded African Union summit, last Sunday. South Africa's Home Affairs minister, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was elected after four rounds of voting, the new Chairperson of the African Union Commission, defeating incumbent Dr. Jean Ping of Gabon.

Dr.Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Her election went against the tide for two reasons: the 'voters', were African heads of state and government-an entirely male club, save for Presidents Joyce Banda and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Malawi and Liberia respectively. That Dr. Dlamini-Zuma got these fellows to back her is impressive. Secondly, the AU has laboured to adhere to the so called 'gentleman's agreement' pitting the large AU nations versus their smaller counterparts. In this arrangement, the former were required to 'leave' the AU posts for the latter. This card did not work for Dr.Ping this time round, when South Africa decided that all countries are 'equal' and campaigned hard for its candidate. It seems the other nations concurred by voting in Dr.Dlamini-Zuma. Lastly, the Anglophone-Francophone divide reared its ugly head once again at the continental governance level. South Africa was accused of dividing the continent along language lines. Never mind that English and French are not native to any of the AU member states. Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was quick and smart enough in her rejoinder, stating that she is not 'Anglophone' but Zulu! This for me, was the knock-out punch! Intriguingly, the host, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, missed this AU summit for the first time, nursing ill-health in a Brussels hospital. I can only speculate as to whether his absence was a good omen to Dr. Dlamini-Zuma's election prospects!
Away from the politics and more importantly, a crop of African women leaders is set to shape the destiny  and political discourse of the continent.Not many weeks ago, Ms. Fatou Bensouda from Gambia, was elected as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), succeeding Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo. She becomes only the second prosecutor in the history of the ICC, which has been labeled by some African statesmen (including former AU chair, Dr.Ping), as being 'an African Criminal Court'. It will be interesting, therefore, to see how the relationship between Ms. Bensouda and Dr. Dlamini-Zuma evolves, as the two institutions interact.
Ms. Fatou Bensouda; ICC Prosecutor.

I already mentioned Mrs. Joyce Banda, President of Malawi and her opposite number in Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In Kenya, Martha Karua is putting up what is promising to be a bruising battle for the presidency, in a male dominated battle-ground. The boys are running scared!
Early in his tenure, the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, picked Tanzanian, Asha Rose Migiro, to be his number two.
I am sure i am missing quite a number of other African women who are taking the continent and the world by storm. Most memorable though, is the competitiveness that Nigerian Finance minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, brought to the race for the World Bank presidency.
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Again, the United States and the European Union have some sort of deal, that ensures an American and a European always sit at the helm of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund respectively. Still, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, put up a strong bid for the job, that eventually went to Obama's nominee, Dr. Jim Yong Kim.
I have a strong vibe that we will be hearing from and seeing a lot more African women on the continental and world stage during this decade.

Africans have reason to look forward to brighter days to come and to salute the African woman!

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