Kenya’s withdrawal from AU chair race paves way for Comoros
Comoros is set to be the first island state to take up the African Union (AU) chair next year after Kenyan President William Ruto withdrew from the race.
Comoros President Azali Assoumani and Ruto had been separately lobbying for the top post because this time round the AU chair position should come from the East African community.
The recently ended United States – African Leaders Summit was the grandest stage for the two leaders to individually meet their regional counterparts.
But while in the US, Ruto revealed that he would be withdrawing from the race giving Comoros a clear chance.
In a statement, government communications in Comoros thanked Ruto for his decision.
The government said:
President Azali Assoumani followed with great pleasure, a great relief, and great humility the announcement made during the USA-Africa Summit in Washington DC by his brother William Ruto, president of the Republic of Kenya, relating to the withdrawal of his country’s candidacy for the presidency of the African Union, for the year 2023.
Comoros added that the decision by Kenya was noble and showed that the country was a leader in finding peaceful solutions to problems on the continent, particularly in East Africa.
“This crucial decision, taken at the right time, confirms the greatness of the Kenyan nation but also the great wisdom of its leaders and their commitment to promoting unity and stability in the East African region,” the statement reads.
Kenya’s withdrawal took diplomatic engagements between the two nations. The current AU chair, Macky Sall, president of Senegal, was also involved.
For that, Assoumani was grateful.
“The president sincerely thanks the current president of the African Union, his brother Macky Sall as well as the president of the African Union Commission, his brother Moussa Faki, and all his other brothers from other African countries for the constant efforts that they haven’t stopped deploying to encourage exchanges between the Comoros and Kenya, so that they can reach a consensus on this crucial issue, in the interest of East Africa and the African continent as a whole,” Comoros said.
But to the international community, the AU leadership of Assoumani would present an interesting scenario.
Assoumani is a former military officer who came into power through a coup in 1999 after overthrowing interim president Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde.
In 2018, he amended the constitution to stay in office until 2029.
Ueli Staeger, a research and teaching fellow in international relations and security at the University of Geneva, said Assoumani would be a somewhat affirmative action decision.
“Having served already 13 years as head of state of Comoros, the 2023 AU chair has a different mindset on constitutionality. But giving voice to small, struggling nations can also be an opportunity for an AU lately dominated by bigger states,” he said.
Since 2002 when the AU changed its name from the Organisation of African Unity, the chair rotates on an annual basis.
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