New AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat likely to 'focus on peace and security'

Mahamat led anti-Islamist efforts during his tenure as Chad's foreign minister.

As Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamists in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel, raising his profile at home and abroad.

The election of the 56 year old to the post of chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission will likely signal a return to a focus on peace and security not seen under his predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Political analyst Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute for Security Studies said Faki had run a “conventional campaign” rather than a slick social media-heavy campaign like his main competitor from Kenya.

“We see a candidate emerging who is almost an old-style politician,” she said on the sidelines of the AU summit.

Dlamini-Zuma spent much of her term elaborating on the ambitious Agenda 2063 blueprint for a peaceful and prosperous Africa, with dreams of continental high-speed rail links, seamless trade and travel between nations and “silencing all guns” by 2020.

She was often accused of not speaking out enough on the continent’s conflicts and democratic crises during her single term. Dlamini-Zuma was also seen to have prioritised her own personal political ambitions in South Africa.

While Faki may focus more on peace and security, his own country’s track record may strike a blow to democratisation efforts on the continent.

Chadian President Idriss Deby was re-elected in 2016 for a fifth term in office amid massive opposition protests.

Chad championed fight against terrorism
“I can’t see Moussa Faki Mahamat standing up when there is not a free and fair election,” Louw-Vaudran said.

Faki’s election comes as Deby hands over the rotating presidency of the AU, a sign the country has been able to impose itself within the bloc.

Chad has championed the fight against terrorism and is home to the headquarters of military operations against Boko Haram, as well as the French counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.

A loyal ally of President Idriss Deby from the same Zaghawa ethnic group, Faki has held a number of senior Chadian posts, including prime minister (2003-05), before being named foreign minister in 2008.

Fluent in French, Arabic and English, Faki studied abroad in Brazzaville and Paris.

As head of the AU Commission he has said he dreams of a continent where the “sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories” and wants “development and security” to top the agenda during his four-year term.

He also wants a less bureaucratic, procedural AU where free circulation of goods and people is made easier.

Faki was elected AU chief on Monday by member states after seven rounds of voting, beating candidates from Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya and Senegal. - AFP

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