Africa goes to the highest bidder
Sunday Times Editorial: The fierce contest over the chairmanship of the Commission of the African Union has exposed many of the fault lines threatening the long-term stability and effectiveness of the continental body.
At its inception about nine years ago, the African Union was hailed by its founders as a body that would drive the continent's bid to claim the 21st century as its own.
But - as the contest between South Africa's Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the incumbent, Jean Ping, of Gabon, demonstrated this week - the ideal of continental unity remains illusory.
The AU could not elect a new commission chairman after neither Dlamini-Zuma nor Ping could secure the required two-thirds majority support from member states.
The election was marred by allegations of foreign interference, with France accused of lobbying for Ping's retention. Although the ballot was secret, a closer look at how each of Africa's regional blocks voted, strongly suggests that there was French influence, as most of its former colonies voted against Dlamini-Zuma.
It is a serious indictment of the continent's leaders that, 50 years after many African states gained their independence, they still allow their former colonial masters to dictate their approach to foreign policy.
France, and any other world power, has no right to interfere in Africa's affairs. Yet too many of the continent's leaders are only too willing to sell Africa short for the benefit of their narrow interests.
The very building in which Ping and Dlamini-Zuma contested the chairmanship on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was recently "donated" to the AU by China.
Like France, China sees influence over Africa as crucial to its long-term economic growth objectives. And by allowing China to build new headquarters for the AU, the continent's leaders have become indebted to Beijing.
Will payback come at the expense of continental unity and economic prosperity? For Africa to really claim the 21st century as its own, the AU and its members would have to stop selling themselves to the highest bidder.