Published: January 30, 2012
JOHANNESBURG — A high-profile and bitterly fought race for the top post in the African Union ended inconclusively on Monday, with neither the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon, nor his main challenger, South Africa’s home minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, securing enough votes to win.
The vote, which took place in the new glass-and-steel headquarters of theAfrican Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, underscored deep divisions in an organization created a decade ago to help Africa overcome its old colonial divisions and increase the continent’s power on the global stage.
The narrowly contested secret ballot vote pitted Mr. Ping, who has served as chairman of the African Union Commission since 2008, against Ms. Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa, the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest economy and a diplomatic heavyweight.
South Africa’s government had hoped that Ms. Dlamini-Zuma would help give the African Union a more effective international voice. But other major African nations, like Nigeria and Kenya, had reservations about giving so much power to South Africa, and smaller nations fretted that their interests would be neglected.
“There is considerable fear and resentment about South Africa’s role,” said Steven Friedman, a political analyst and director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, a research institution here. “There are very serious fears about being dwarfed.”
South Africa had pulled out all the stops to lobby for the candidacy of Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, a highly respected government official who is also the former wife of South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma.
But neither she nor Mr. Ping, a senior diplomat and government official from the former French colony of Gabon, secured a two-thirds majority required to win. So the organization will hold a new election at its next meeting, in June in Malawi. Under African Union rules, neither Mr. Ping nor Ms. Dlamini-Zuma will be eligible to run for election then.
The African Union was created a decade ago out of the ashes of the Organization of African Unity, a continental body that was often derided as a dictator’s club defending the prerogatives and excesses of Africa’s cold war-era strongmen. Thabo Mbeki, who was then South Africa’s president, hoped to revive the organization as part of what he called an “African Renaissance.”
But the African Union has struggled to find a meaningful role, taking muddled stances on issues large and small. The organization has struggled to mount peacekeeping operations in Sudan — though it has made some headway with its operations in Somalia — and it has been inconsistent in responding to other crises on the continent.
Mr. Ping faced harsh criticism last year for being slow to respond to the crisis in Libya. Until his ousting and death last year, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s dictator, had been one of the African Union’s chief financial backers, a role now taken up by China, which built the organization’s $200 million headquarters