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AU candidates face off in live debate tonight

Candidates for the post of African Union chairperson will hold a public debate to highlight how they will implement their policies if elected.

The event, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on Friday, will be the first ever for those seeking the post.

South African journalist Karema Brown and her Cam eroonian counterpart Alain Foka will moderate it.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed agreed to attend the debate at the 11th hour, having initially dilly-dallied.

The organisers, the African Leadership Academy, said the debate starts at 7.30 this evening before a live audience of members of the African Union Executive Council, members of the Permanent Representatives Committee (ambassadors accredited to the African Union), African Union Commissioners, invited guests and journalists.

“It aims at popularising the African Union and giving candidates an opportunity to speak to African citizens and present their views for the fulfilment of the AU vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,” an African Union statement said last week.

Candidates will not engage with one another but the moderators will pose questions on continental issues.

They will later field questions from the audience which will mostly be of African diplomats representing their countries at the African Union.

The debate’s arrangement borrows heavily from this year’s pre-election activities for the UN Secretary-General.

Ten of the initially 12 candidates took part in the July debate.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials in Nairobi had initially told the Nation that Ms Mohamed may not attend as the occasion had little direct impact on the elections since those in the audience do not vote.

COMPETITORS

In fact the debate is not yet in the rules of procedure (for AU elections) meaning that the voting leaders from the bloc’s 54 member states may not be inclined to watch it.

However, the scheduling of a meeting of the Executive Council of the African Union at this time meant that she was to travel to Addis.

The Council is composed of foreign ministers from member states.

According to a dispatch from the African Union, it will be holding a meeting this morning in Addis Ababa to discuss the issue of democracy and elections on the continent, among other issues.

Sources said she changed her mind because the meeting is another arena for continued lobbying, and the debate an occasion for candidates to present their communication skills.

The Kenyan cabinet secretary is competing against Equatorial Guinean Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat, Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily (currently the UN representative in Central Africa Republic), and Botswana’s Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who led the votes in the initial elections in July but fell short of garnering the minimum number.

The debate is a precursor to elections scheduled for January 30 and 31 during the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa.

The continental bloc will be repeating the elections after candidates in July; Specioza Kazibwe of Uganda, Mr Mba and Dr Venson-Moitoi, failed to garner sufficient votes.

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