Chairperson of the African Union

Chairperson of the
African Union

Idriss Déby

since 30 January 2016
Appointer the Assembly
Term length One year
Inaugural holder Thabo Mbeki
Formation 9 July 2002
Deputy Bureau

The Chairperson of the African Union is the ceremonial head of the African Union elected by the Assembly of Heads of State for a one-year term.[1] It rotates among the continent's five regions.


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.[2] 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.[3]

In January 2010, Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi unsuccessfully tried to extend his tenure by an additional year,[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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 1986-8 and 1997-1998 respectively.[7][8]


The incumbent is the ceremonial head of the AU and in this capacity, chairs the biannual summits and represents the continent in various international fora such as TICAD, FOCAC, G8 and G20 summits.

List of Chairpersons

# Portrait Chairperson Took Office Left Office Country Region
1 Thabo Mbeki[9] 9 July 2002 10 July 2003  South Africa Southern Africa
2 Joaquim Chissano[10] 10 July 2003 6 July 2004  Mozambique Southern Africa
3 Olusegun Obasanjo[11] 6 July 2004 24 January 2006  Nigeria West Africa
4 Denis Sassou Nguesso[12] 24 January 2006 24 January 2007  Republic of Congo Central Africa
5 John Kufuor[13] 30 January 2007 31 January 2008  Ghana West Africa
6 Jakaya Kikwete[14] 31 January 2008 2 February 2009  Tanzania East Africa
7 Muammar Gaddafi[15] 2 February 2009 31 January 2010  Libya North Africa
8 Bingu wa Mutharika[16] 31 January 2010 31 January 2011  Malawi Southern Africa
9 Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo[17] 31 January 2011 29 January 2012  Equatorial Guinea Central Africa
10 Yayi Boni[18] 29 January 2012 27 January 2013  Benin West Africa
11 Hailemariam Desalegn[19] 27 January 2013 30 January 2014  Ethiopia East Africa
12 Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz[20] 30 January 2014 30 January 2015  Mauritania North Africa
13 Robert Mugabe[21] 30 January 2015 30 January 2016  Zimbabwe Southern Africa
14 Idriss Déby[22] 30 January 2016 Incumbent  Chad Central Africa


The Chairperson is assisted by a bureau of three vice-chairpersons and a rapporteur.[23]

Portrait Incumbent Country Region Title
Patrice Talon  Benin West Africa First Vice-Chairperson
Paul Kagame  Rwanda East Africa Second Vice-Chairperson
Nouri Abusahmain  Libya North Africa Third Vice-Chairperson
Robert Mugabe  Zimbabwe Southern Africa Rapporteur


  1. "African Union Handbook" (PDF). African Union. 2014. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  2. "African Union Chooses Kufuor Over Bashir for Chairman". Yahoo! Voices. 29 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  3. "Sudan loses AU chair over Darfur". Mail and Guardian. South Africa. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  4. "Gaddafi fails in bid to remain African Union chair". Addis Ababa: Reuters. 31 January 2010. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  5. "African Union row over Muammar Gaddafi's role". BBC News. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  6. "Equatorial Guinea President Named African Union Head; Rights Groups Object". Bloomberg News. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  7. "President voted AU deputy chair". The Herald. Zimbabwe. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  8. "Mugabe Scores A Feat, Set To Head AU at 91". 31 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  9. Babarinde, Olufemi (April 2007). "The EU as a Model for the African Union: the Limits of Imitation" (PDF). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  10. "High hopes for AU Maputo Assembly". ANC Today. 4–10 July 2003. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  11. "Obasanjo Elected AU Chairman". Addis Ababa: Vanguard. 7 July 2004. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  12. "CONGO: Profile of Denis Sassou-Nguesso, new AU head". Brazzaville: IRIN. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  13. "President Kufuor elected Chairman of AU". Accra: Ghana News Agency. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  14. Appel, Michael (2 February 2008). "Kikwete takes over AU Chair". Pambazuka News. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  15. "Gaddafi vows to push Africa unity". BBC News. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  16. "Malawi president takes over as AU president". AFP. 31 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  17. Hennig, Rainer Chr. (1 February 2011). "New AU leader Obiang calls criticism un-African". Afrol News. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  18. "President Thomas Yayi Boni elected as Chairperson of the African Union for 2012" (PDF) (Press release). Addis Ababa: Directorate of Information and Communication, African Union Commission. 29 January 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  19. Stainburn, Samantha (28 January 2013). "Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia's PM, is new African Union Assembly chairman". GlobalPost. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  20. "President Abdel Aziz of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania elected African Union Chairperson". Addis Ababa: African Union. 30 January 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  21. "Zimbabwe's Mugabe, 90, becomes African Union chairman". Reuters. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  22. African Union [_AfricanUnion] (30 January 2016). "Prez Idriss Itno Déby of #Chad takes over as #AU Chairperson" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 January 2016 via Twitter.
  23. "Twenty Sixth (26th) Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union". African Union. 30 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.

External links

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