The Chairperson of the African Union is the ceremonial head of the African Union elected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government for a one-year term. It rotates among the continent's five regions.
A candidate must be supported by at least two-thirds of the member states or by consensus. The chairperson is expected to complete the term without interruption; hence eligible countries with impending elections may be ineligible.
In 2002, South African President Thabo Mbeki served as the inaugural chairman of the union. The post rotates annually amongst the five geographic regions of Africa; and over the years it has assumed the following order: East, North, Southern, Central and West Africa.
In January 2007, the assembly elected Ghanaian President John Kufuor over Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir due to the ongoing Conflict in Darfur.[unreliable source?] The government of Chad threatened to withdraw its membership if Sudan assumed the chair. Some had suggested Tanzania as a compromise candidate from the East African region. By consensus, Ghana was elected instead as it was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary that year.
In January 2010, Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi unsuccessfully tried to extend his tenure by an additional year, saying more time was needed in order to implement his vision for a United States of Africa - of which he was a strong proponent. Libya was at the time one of the largest financial supporters of the AU. The election of Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in January 2011 was criticized by human rights activists as it undermined the AU's commitment to democracy.
Congolese Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have both led the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity during the terms 1986–88 and 2006–07, and 1997–98 and 2015–16 respectively.
In February 2019, South Africa was elected as the incoming chair and will take over in 2020. It was later agreed that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will assume the position of AU Chairperson in January 2020.
List of Chairpersons
The Chairperson is assisted by a bureau of four vice chairpersons including a rapporteur.
|Félix Tshisekedi||Democratic Republic of the Congo||Central Africa||First Vice Chairperson|
|Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta||Mali||West Africa||Second Vice Chairperson|
|Uhuru Kenyatta||Kenya||East Africa||Third Vice Chairperson|
|Abdel Fattah el-Sisi||Egypt||North Africa||Fourth Vice Chairperson (Rapporteur)|
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- "African Union Handbook" (PDF). African Union. 2014. p. 15.
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- Significant expectations of SA as Ramaphosa becomes AU
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- "President Alpha Conde of Guinea Has Been Elected New Chairperson of the African Union (AU)". African Union. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "President Paul Kagame, Elected as New Chairperson of the African Union for the year 2018". African Union. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2018.