Chad's Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat elected African Union Chairman

Moussa Faki Mahamat attends a meeting in Chad, in 2014. Credit: Batiche/AFP/Getty Images

Chad‘s foreign minister has been elected as the new chair of the African Union Commission, pledging to place development and security at the top of his agenda and streamline the organization’s bureaucracy.

Moussa Faki Mahamat – a former prime minister who has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamist militants in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel – was chosen by the 54-member body at a summit that has exposed splits over Africa’s relationship with the international criminal court and Morocco‘s readmission to the union.

He edged out his closest rival, the Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed, who had been regarded in some quarters as the frontrunner.

In an interview last week with Radio France International, Moussa Faki said the AU needed strong leadership from someone who could “refocus on the basics”. He pledged to streamline the organization during the course of his four-year term in office.

Moussa Faki succeeds Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, of South Africa. Dlamini-Zuma stayed in the post an extra six months after leaders failed to agree a candidate in July last year.

On Monday, Dlamini-Zuma spoke out over the recently imposed US travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. President Donald Trump’s executive order halted travel by people with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped refugee resettlement for 120 days.

“We are entering very turbulent times,” she told leaders at the start of the summit, at the AU’s headquarters in Ethiopia‘s capital, Addis Ababa. “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries. What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity.”

Alpha Condé, the Guinean president, was elected to the largely ceremonial role of chairperson of the union.

Condé’s position at the AU is held for a one-year term and rotates among the continent’s five regions.

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