The pretty bizarre exhortations by current Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat and published in the daily Sudan Tribune, speaks to the ambitions of the former Chadian prime minister. The AU chairperson is a “ceremonial head” position, but Chairman Mahamat sometimes acts more like a chief potentate than a spokesperson representing 55 heads of African states.
Born in 1960 he is a constitutional lawyer by profession. He occupied senior seats in government positions in a career that has spanned—according to the AU website—over 30 years and included a tenure as foreign minister and Prime Minister of his native Chad.
Faki, whose term as chair ends in 2024, began his controversial reign in 2019 by unseating the outspoken African Union permanent ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao.
During a session with members of the press in 2019 including this author, the former ambassador responded to what she called a “smear campaign” apparently started by the AU Chair’s office, probably resulting from her criticisms of France and its continued colonial practices with so-called Francophone countries, of which Chad was/is a member.
“Of interest is the fact that the Transition Team was sent to the AU Mission in Washington two weeks after I received my termination of contract letter. I answered all their questions and provided the requested supporting documents. At the end of their visit, they gave me a clearance form which was signed by myself as well as some of the Transition Team members. The clearance form specifically indicated there were no pending issues. The Transition Team left the AU Mission in Washington, D.C., on a good note on October 25, 2019,” she said.
Five days after the Transition Team departed, Chihombori-Quao said she received a communique being circulated on social media “accusing her of misdoings” while AU ambassador.
In hindsight, the ambassador believes the Transition Team’s purpose was to “find a reason” to justify termination of her contract. “If the team thought they had found anything credible, why was it not indicated on the clearance form? The form clearly stated there were no outstanding issues,” she said.
Then in an unprecedented move last year Chairman Faki unilaterally granted observer status to the apartheid state of Israel. South Africa’s government, and other African states including Algeria responded saying they were “appalled” by the African Union Commission’s decision to unilaterally grant Israel observer status. The AU decided to postpone for a year the leaders’ debate on the issue.
“The most bizarre thing,” according to the Sudan Tribune “about the (recent) enforced AU intervention over the (Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Sudan and the Head of UNITAMS, Volker Perthes) is that Moussa Faki insisted that Sudan’s portfolio be taken out of the hands of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), which is the body responsible for resolving political disputes in the African Union, and from its Commissioner, Mr Bankole Adeoye, a seasoned Nigerian diplomat elected to this post by the member states and handed it over to his questionable Chief of Staff, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt.”
The article continued, “This happened even though the AUPSC has a functional mechanism that were active in addressing Sudanese affairs, such as the Panel of Wise and the AU High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan (AUHIP). Both mechanisms included respected African leaders who have a great deal of experience and knowledge and previous pro-democracy interventions in Sudan such as former South African President Thabo Mbeki and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is a contradiction that can only be explained by looking at the self-interests of Moussa Faki in dealing with the Sudanese situation.”
The initial intentions of the UN were for the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to announce the political process, but was intimidated by Sudan’s military leaders not to launch the process. “This blackmailing succeeded in forcing the Secretary-General to abandon the announcement of the political process from UN headquarters and to reduce it to his special representative in Khartoum,” reported the Tribune.
In addition, the Tribune reported Faki’s goal after leaving the AU in less than two years is to become the next president of Chad. “The presence of a military regime in control of affairs in Khartoum will directly serve the interests of the presidential ambitions of Faki. Especially if it comes as a return of favors in exchange for previous services.”
Favors that include helping guarantee that military coup leaders General Abdel Fattah al-Burham and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemedti), head of Sudan’s dreaded Rapid Support Force, whose heritage is in Chad, maintain power. The Tribune says that is because a civilian government would remain neutral and hurt Faki’s political aspirations, distancing itself from the internal politics of Chad.
In addition, there is the significant Middle Eastern involvement in the region, including Sudan’s military coup leaders and pre-talks with some 300 delegates from 50 rebel groups and 24 reps from the Chadian government. The pre-talks began nearly two months ago in a hotel in the Qatari capital.
Government representatives, according to Al Jazeera, “have made it clear that these issues should be scrutinized at the national dialogue in N’Djamena, (capital of Chad) rather than at the Doha talks.” Follow @JehronMuhammad on Twitter.