African Union countries are currently deadlocked over whether to keep or replace the current African Union chairman, Jean Ping, whose term has been temporarily extended. In an email interview, Solomon Dersso, a senior researcher in the Peace and Security Council Report Program at the Institute for Security Studies, discussed the African Union’s leadership contest.
WPR: What are the main functions, both institutional and symbolic, of the African Union commission chairmanship?
Solomon Dersso: The African Union Commission is the administrative branch of the continental body. The commission implements AU policies, prepares its strategic plans and coordinates the body’s activities and meetings. As chief executive of the commission, the chairperson is responsible for initiating the implementation of the decisions of the policymaking bodies and the policies of the union. As far as peace and security are concerned, the chairperson plays a substantive role in all initiatives deemed appropriate to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. Acting on this mandate, the chairperson, through the commissioner for peace and security, leads in the formulation of policies and decisions of the policymaking bodies, most notably the Peace and Security Council, a standing decision-making body similar to the U.N. Security Council.