Somalia’s Fawzia Yusuf Adam Resists Pressure to Withdraw AU Chairperson Candidacy

Somalia’s candidate for African Union (AU) Chairperson, Fawzia Yusuf Adam, announced that the Somali government and leaders of four federal member states are pressuring her to withdraw her candidacy at the request of Djibouti’s President, Ismail Omar Guelleh.

Speaking at a press conference in Mogadishu on Thursday, Adam emphasized that she will not give up her candidacy for the Chairperson of the African Union, whose election will be held in 2025. “The government and four federal member state leaders have told me to give up my candidacy. I tried to convince them of the importance of the seat, but it was impossible. They agreed that I should give up the seat to Djibouti, who is also a candidate. I cannot put that responsibility behind me and give up because that compromise has a dark history,” said Adam.

She added that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud excluded her bid for the AU seat in 2026 during his term because Kenya was also contesting for that position. “I have been denied the AU chairmanship twice. I do not know if it is because I am a woman or for other hidden reasons,” she remarked.

Adam’s candidacy was formally announced in February 2024, challenging Kenya’s Raila Odinga. Her bid was supported by Somali national leaders aiming to bolster Somalia’s influence within the AU. In March, the Somali government began lobbying efforts and formed a special committee to support her campaign, underscoring the importance of securing this influential position.

The juxtaposition of Somalia’s leaders privately lobbying Adam to withdraw while publicly supporting her candidacy reveals the power dynamics at play. Despite public displays of support, she claims that Somali leaders have been under pressure from external forces, particularly Djibouti and Kenya, to reconsider her candidacy.

In May, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed their support for Adam, boosting her campaign against Raila Odinga. The OIC’s endorsement was significant, signalling broader support from Islamic nations that could sway votes in her favour.

Last year, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud faced heavy criticism for refusing to support Somali lawmaker Marwa Abdi Bashir’s candidacy for the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) presidency. Instead, he backed Tanzania, which eventually won, in exchange for Tanzania’s support in helping Somalia join the East African Community and securing another United Nations seat. 

The race for the AU Chairperson seat became more competitive with the entry of Djibouti’s Mahmoud Ali Youssouf in April 2024. Youssouf’s candidacy introduced new complexities to the regional dynamics, altering the balance of power and strategic alliances within the Horn of Africa. Djibouti, with its significant geopolitical influence due to its strategic location and international military bases, challenges both Somalia and Kenya for the AU’s top post. Djibouti’s entry intensified lobbying efforts among neighboring countries and exposed underlying tensions and alliances.

Kenya’s President William Ruto, who seeks to solidify Kenya’s leadership role in regional politics and international relations, also played a pivotal role in the race. According to Kenyan media outlets, Ruto actively lobbied Somalia to withdraw her candidacy in favor of Kenya’s candidate, Raila Odinga.

The competition intensified with Seychelles entering the race, making it a four-way contest.