African Union
A general view taken shows the 26th presidential summit of the African Union held in January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

In July last year, African Union leaders failed to elect a replacement for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, who chose not to seek a second term after four years in the prestigious AU position.

Six months down the line, the race to elect a new chair is on. IBTimes UK looks at the five veterans of African politics poised to replace Dlamini-Zuma, the South African anti-apartheid activist at the helm of the policy body of the AU. Elections are held during the 28th AU Summit held between 22 and 31 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

African politicians
Agapito Mba Mokuy Dominick Reuter/AFP

Agapito Mba Mokuy, 51, Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea's Foreign Affairs minister, Agapito Mba Mokuy, is the youngest candidate to the AU Commision's top seat.

The central African, who speaks five languages fluently and holds a US degree in management and development, held positions of key responsibility for over two decades at the UN's Educational, scientific and cultural organisation (Unesco).

Mba Mokuy's campaign is focused on his experience on the international stage.

His candidacy is personally supported by the Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, Africa's longest serving head of state. This endorsement may, however, he detrimental to Mba Mokuy's candidacy, given the autocratic nature of the Malabo regime, which has been accused of violating human rights and severely limiting the rule of law.

African politicians
Amina Mohamed Jibril World Trade Organisation/Studio Casagrande

Amina Mohamed Jibril, 55, Kenya

Kenya's Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2013, Mohammed is a trained lawyer. Born in 1961 in a working class household, the career diplomat succeeded thanks to extensive studies, including an Oxford diploma in international relations.

Between 2000 and 2006, Mohamed held the position of Head of Mission of the Nairobi Representation at the United Nations (UN) Office in Geneva, was number two of the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

It is believed President Uhuru Kenyatta decided to put close adviser Mohamed forward for the Pan-African organisation candidacy because of her extended international experience. A candidate of the Commonwealth of East African States (EAC), Mohamed has been focusing her campaign on economic and trade issues, promising to make Africa one of the first "destinations for foreign investment" if she is elected.

However, commentators say her stance on the Saharawi cause could prove detrimental. Many African states have demanded the suspension of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a partially recognised state that controls a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara, from the AU to facilitate the return of Morocco, which seeks to become the 55th member of the AU.

African politicians
Moussa Faki Mahamat Farouk Batiche/AFP

Moussa Faki Mahamat, 56, Chad

A lawyer by training, Moussa Faki Mahamat has been Chad's Foreign Affairs minister since 2008. Faki Mahamat's late candidacy – he announced his intentions in September 2016 – surprised many African leaders, even within the West African region, which he is representing.

Born in 1960, he has held senior positions in the Chadian administration for almost three decades, including prime minister between 2003 and 2005. Commentators believe this high-ranking diplomat may bank on Chad's membership with the G5 Sahel to boost his candidacy. Indeed, Faki Mahamat could benefit from the strong regional cooperation between his country, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

In the first ever public debate in the history of the AU on 9 December, during which Faki Mahamat faced the other four aspirants, the Chadian said he would make development and security a priority if we has elected.

African politicians
Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, 65, Botswana

Another Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, from Botswana, failed to sufficiently inspire AU member states in July last year, but has decided to run again as the Southern African Development Community (SADC)'s candidate. Commentators believe several member states may have abstained from voting for Venson Moitoi because Gaborone has often acted separately from the African Union, particularly with regard to the question of the International Criminal Court, which it supports.

Born in 1951, the Botswana candidate holds a master's degree in administration from the University of Michigan in the United States. A minister in her country several times over, Venson Moitoi was previously allocated the portfolios of Transport, Communication, Labour, Science and Education.

Unlike her Kenyan counterpart, Venson Moitoi is basing her campaign on her four decades of experience in senior positions in the Botswana civil service. In reference to the implementation of the Agenda 2063 adopted four years ago by the AU, the candidate said her ambition is to transform Africa into a "strong, prosperous, peaceful and united continent" over the next 50 years.

African politicians
Abdoulaye Bathily Seyllou/AFP

Abdoulaye Bathily, 69, Senegal

A politician and diplomat, Abdoulaye Bathily, from Senegal, has extensive international experience, and is the eldest candidate to the AU Commission's top seat.

Born in 1947, Professor Bathily is a historian and academic. A communist militant in his younger days, Bathily served as deputy and minister under the presidency of former Senegalese heads of state, Abdou Diouf and Abdoulaye Wade several times.

He was appointed Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN peacekeeping mission to Mali (Minusma) in July 2013, before becoming Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa.

The candidate of Senegal and Ecowas, whose 15 countries promised to vote for him, is a genuine pan-Africanist. During his campaign, Bathily promised to give fresh political impetus to the AU by ensuring it is firmly anchored in its original federal state context.

But his many ideological and professional assets may not be enough for this candidate to win in the competition for the presidency of the commission. His friends are counting on the countries of central Africa where Bathily was in office to compensate for the votes that could be missed because of the support given by Senegal to the attempt of Morocco to reintegrate the African Union.

Commentators believe that, despite Bathily's extensive ideological and professional assets, Senegal's support for Morocco's controversial reintegration within the AU, may have a detrimental effect on his candidacy.