by Ray Fleming

Last Sunday, the African Union chose the South African Nkosazana Diamini-Zuma as its head. She was the third African woman to reach high office in a matter of months; Joyce Banda has become president of Malawi (Nyasaland) and Fatu Bensonda of The Gambia was appointed as Chief Prosecuting Officer of the International Criminal Court. A fourth female African leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been president of Liberia since 2006. Other than Angela Merkel, Western women politicians may look with envy at the progress African women are making while Margaret Thatcher remains their only major success in recent decades. Nkosazana Diamini-Zuma's name shows that she is well-connected -- one of the past wives of the current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma -- but she has been recognised as one of her country's most effective ministers for some years now. She will take over the direction of the African Union of 53 states at a time that its role is becoming more important, especially in the provision of peace-keeping troops in Africa and for United Nations missions elsewhere. Ms Bensonda's appointment to the top job in the International Criminal Court comes after several years as deputy to Luis Moreno-Ocampo. African nations will wait to see whether non-African countries are now investigated by the ICC following nine years during which only African countries have been charged.

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