Amnesty urges African states to elect human rights-sensitive AU chairperson


The next head of the African Union (AU) Commission must place human rights at the centre of the organization’s operations, said Amnesty International as leaders of the 54-member body prepare to elect a new chairperson at a summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“The incoming chairperson must make the promotion and protection of human rights not just a convenient afterthought, but an essential and sustainable element of the African Union’s conflict prevention strategy.” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy.

The organization reiterates that ensuring accountability for gross human rights violations should be one of the priorities of the new chairperson of the AU Commission.

“There has been some progress in the last two years, including the historic conviction of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity. But more needs to be done,”

Amnesty International has released a statement outlining six human rights issues that the new AU chairperson must prioritize. It is calling on the incoming head to:

  1. Deliberately and consistently give priority to addressing human rights violations
  2. Ensure that individuals suspected of crimes under international law and gross human rights violations are held to account
  3. Empower the African Human Rights Court and protect other continental human rights institutions from political interference
  4. Take urgent steps to protect civil society organizations from government restrictions and crackdowns
  5. Defend women’s rights and promote gender equality
  6. Support and promote efforts to abolish the death penalty across the continent

The new chairperson will be elected by African heads of state during their 28th annual summit in Addis Ababa from 22 to 31 January.

Five candidates are vying to replace the outgoing chairperson, South African politician and activist Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is stepping down after one five-year term in office. One of the candidates from Kenya Amina Mohamed, has been receiving endorsements from various scholars as the perfect fit for the AU chairperson position with relevant international experience and excellent track record.

“If ever there was a qualified candidate to take on such an important role at the AU Commission at such an important time for the world, it is Dr. Amina Mohamed,” wrote Ella Smith, a professor of business administration at Tuck and works in the field of organizational behavior.

“Not only Africa but the U.S. and other nations would do well to have someone of such unequivocally high caliber running the show,” the professor asserted, in her article published on Daily Caller that outlined the major previous successes of Amina.