Chad’s former foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat assumed office as head of the African Union Commission on Tuesday, pledging to reform the institution and tackle the continent’s many crises.
Faki takes over leadership of the 54-country continental bloc days after the United Nations announced that the food emergencies in four countries, including Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, constituted the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
“The famine that ravages vast areas of Africa these days is a real humiliation for us,” Faki told delegates at the commission’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“The immense potential of our continent and the enviable rate of economic growth of many member states of the union leave us no justification for this hideous human tragedy”.
An ally of Chadian President Idriss Deby, Faki, 56, campaigned on putting “development and security” at the top of his agenda.
As foreign minister, he was seen as taking a strong position against Islamic extremism in Mali, Nigeria and the Sahel.
Faki was elected AU chairman in January after seven rounds of voting, triumphing over Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed and candidates from Senegal, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea.
In his speech, Faki embraced what he said was an “enlightening” report by Rwandan President Paul Kagame that recommended ways to reform the AU.
The report called for the institution to better distinguish itself from other regional blocs and focus its efforts only on key areas like political affairs and peace and security.
Faki takes over from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who championed the commission’s Agenda 2063 development program but was seen as being weak on peace and security issues and distracted by her own political aspirations in her home country South Africa.