The election of the African Union’s first female leader follows months of wrangling that threatened to divide the organisation.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, takes over at the head of the AU’s executive body the Commission. She had to undergo three rounds of voting before her rival Jean Ping was eliminated.
The vote was largely split along linguistic lines but even French speakers say they are happy to see the anglophone Mrs Dlamini-Zuma take control as the organisation needed to agree on a new chief.
Benin’s president Boni Yayi – also the AU’s chairman – had warned that the ongoing deadlock would damage the AU’s credibility in the eyes of the world.
Dlamini-Zuma’s former husband, South African President Jacob Zuma also hailed her victory.
“It means a lot for Africa… for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women,” he said. The couple divorced in 1998.
His ex-wife takes over as three separate African trouble spots are increasingly becoming global problems: instability in Mali, violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and tension between Sudan and South Sudan.
A long-standing South African cabinet minister and an ex foreign minister, Dlamini-Zuma will need to employ her diplomatic skills to the full.