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Somalia Towards New Horizons: The Quest for AU Leadership

By Mohamed H. Ahmed

Somalia has nominated its former Foreign Minister, Fawzia Yusuf Adam, for the seat of AUC Chairperson. This endorsement follows key diplomatic achievements, including the lifting of the arms embargo, securing debt relief, and gaining membership in the East African Community (EAC) bloc. Notably, this development complicates the path for Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has been lobbying to become the EAC-endorsed candidate.

Former Foreign Minister and DPM, Fawzia Yusuf Adam

Many observers view Somalia’s nomination of Fawzia Yusuf Adam for the Chair of the African Union Commission (AUC) as transcending mere strategic positioning on both the African and global fronts. It heralds a significant movement towards championing Somalia’s national interests, positioning itself against figures such as Raila Odinga, whom many Africans view with skepticism. Odinga is often seen as a polarizing figure and has been criticized for his stances on various member states. His reckless remarks referring to neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, and South Sudan as the ‘worst’ in the world have led to a diplomatic storm.

This situation underscores the challenges he might face in promoting regional cooperation and harmony. Additionally, the possibility of Odinga exiting Kenyan politics raises questions about the potential impact on his party and younger politicians, hinting at potential instability linked to his leadership style, especially in relation to his ambitions at the African Union (AU).

Odinga’s history as a contentious politician in Kenya introduces another layer of complexity. Notably, his self-declaration as the “people’s president” in a controversial “swearing-in” ceremony after losing the national elections challenges the legitimacy of the Independent Electoral Commission’s decisions—an act criticized by the AU Commission, the very institution he now wishes to lead. This incident portrays him as unpredictable and dismissive of legal and electoral processes. His history of disputing election results, ranging from allegations of rigging to threats of violence, suggests a pattern of behavior that raises concerns about his suitability for a role requiring diplomatic neutrality and stability. It also casts doubt on whether he will accept the outcomes of the AU voting processes.

The 2007 election, when former Kenyan president Kibaki was declared the winner with 46% of the vote, serves as a case in point. Odinga, then the opposition leader, also claimed victory, leading to civil unrest that resulted in the deaths of several hundred people and the displacement of up to 600,000.

Perhaps Odinga’s most controversial and arguably un-African conduct is his advocacy for Somaliland’s independence. This stance not only challenges Somalia’s sovereignty and integrity but also reflects poorly on his understanding of the issue’s sensitivity. Furthermore, it shows his apparent disregard for the AU charters and the core founding principles established by the organization’s founding fathers.

For Somalia, the stakes are a bit higher, as the AUC leadership this round could impact the nation’s political stability, sovereignty, and geopolitical strategies. Somalia’s bid for Adam articulates a demand for an AU leadership that embodies fairness, inclusivity, and a profound understanding of the diverse challenges and opportunities among member states.

The candidacy of Raila Odinga for the AUC Chair, his explicit support for Somaliland’s independence, and his contentious suggestions for the AU and UN to facilitate what he describes as a “divorce” between Somalia and Somaliland raise significant concerns. This is especially pertinent considering the recent illegal agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, along with some regional calls for African-led solutions. These issues, coupled with the African Union’s ill-advised, unorthodox 2005 fact-finding report on Somaliland and Odinga’s subsequent visit, highlight the geopolitical intricacies Somalia faces.

Furthermore, the involvement of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Raila’s campaign, with his role as the chairman of the South Africa-based Brenthurst Foundation, a lobbyist firm and think tank that lobbies for Somaliland, adds a layer of complexity, and raises concerns. His actions, seen as undermining Somalia’s sovereignty, have already drawn criticism. Obasanjo’s support extends beyond endorsements; he is actively campaigning for Raila Odinga, intertwining his influence with the political landscape.

His active participation is significant, especially considering the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union considered deploying Obasanjo to mediate between Ethiopia and Somalia amid tensions stemming from the illegal memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Ethiopia and Somaliland, which Somalia insists must be retracted before any dialogue can proceed. This MoU has caused a rupture in Ethiopian-Somali ties, leading to the expulsion of Ethiopia’s ambassador from Mogadishu, the closing of two Ethiopian consulates in Hargeisa and Garowe, and the recalling of Somalia’s own ambassador from Addis Ababa.

A situation that is yet to unfold fully; its escalation threatens to have serious consequences for both the immediate region and the broader Red Sea countries. Therefore, Obasanjo’s dual role as an AU envoy and a campaigner for Odinga raises questions about potential biases and their impact on the African Union’s approach to the issues of the Horn of Africa, including Somalia-Ethiopia rift.

This context becomes even more critical with the planned withdrawal of African Union troops from Somalia, placing the country at a pivotal crossroads. It underscores the necessity of appointing an AUC Chair who possesses a nuanced understanding of the complexities involved, ensuring not only Somalia’s delicate security and stability during this crucial period but also that of the entire region.

Against this backdrop and considering the need for an AU Chair who ensures equitable treatment for all member states, Fawzia Yusuf Adam emerges as a consensus candidate, presenting herself as a viable and equitable leadership option. Her candidacy embodies Somalia’s call for an African Union that navigates regional politics impartially, addressing all concerns, including sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member states, with fairness and neutrality.

Fawzia Yusuf Adam, with her rich background as a former Foreign Minister, an experienced diplomat, and a seasoned legislator, embodies Africa’s most viable candidate for the AUC thus far. Her extensive diplomatic experience is deemed essential for steering the African Union (AU) towards a future marked by collaboration and fairness. Moreover, Fawzia’s candidacy underscores Somalia’s unwavering commitment to elevating its influence within the African Union, championing the ideals of peace, unity, and prosperity, all while meticulously safeguarding its sovereignty against the backdrop of complex regional dynamics.

The election of the next AUC Chair is a watershed moment, reflecting the broader pursuit of an African Union that genuinely represents the collective aspirations and concerns of its member states. This period presents the AU with an opportunity to recommit to impartiality, unity, and the sovereign equality of its members.

In conclusion, Fawzia Yusuf Adam’s nomination is a strategic response to the challenges posed by Raila Odinga’s potential divisive leadership, given his troubled past and history of controversies. Her candidacy champions a leadership style that can steer the African Union toward a future where every member state feels equitably represented. Somalia’s campaign for Adam thus signifies a critical effort, emphasizing the essence of what the African Union should embody in an era of growing complexity and division.

Mohamed H. Ahmed

Email: [email protected]


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