Benin president new chair of African Union

The Assembly of heads of state and government of the African Union (AU) on Sunday elected the President of Benin, Boni Yayi, as the new chairperson of the AU.

Boni Yayi
Boni Yayi

He succeeds the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who held the largely ceremonial post throughout 2011.

The chair rotates from region to region, and in 2012 it is the turn of west Africa to provide the chairperson. It had been expected that Gambian President Yayha Jammeh would put his name forward for the chair – but two days ago he withdrew his bid.

Jammeh gave no reasons for withdrawing – but it would have been embarrassing for the AU to have such a man at its head, not merely for his suppression of the media and the opposition, but also because he has made wild claims that he can cure AIDS with a herbal treatment. He has even urged AIDS patients to stop taking the life prolonging antiretroviral drugs.

No such damaging baggage is associated with Yayi, who won re-election to a second five year term in 2011.

Giving his acceptance speech, Yayi declared that “Africa is the continent of the future. Our continent will be one of hope and peace. The future of Africa belongs to a unified Africa that works in solidarity, is better managed and lives in peace and security”.

Yayi stressed the need for greater economic integration and intra-African trade. “These solutions are within our reach”, he declared.

Looking back over the past year, he praised the independence of the AU’s newest member state, South Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan, he claimed, had decided “never again to take up arms”, and to solve all problems through peaceful means.

The post-election violence in Ivory Coast, he added, 'had a happy ending”, and he assured the country’s President, Alassane Outtara, “of our full support in the efforts he has deployed for reconciliation”.

As for the uprisings in north Africa, Yayi described them as part of “the process of democratization that began in the 1980s”. He congratulated the new authorities in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya for “their commitment to the rule of law”.

Yayi declared that the international cooperation Africa needs should not be charity, but should be based on a “win-win” approach.

Post published in: Africa News

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