Chairman of the Commission of the African Union
Long before his appointment as Chairman of the African Union in 2008, Jean Ping had built a reputation as a first rate diplomat, having previously served as Foreign Minister of Gabon (1999-2008) and as President of the United Nations General Assembly (2004-2005).
The son of a Chinese merchant and a Gabonese woman, Ping is considered one of the most influential persons in Gabon. In addition to serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ping held other key posts in the government of the late President Omar Bongo-including the positions of Minister of Post and Telecommunications, and Minister of Mines and Energy, a significant post, given Gabon’s role as one of Africa’s major oil producers.
It is, however, as Chairman of the African Union (AU), that Ping has really hit his stride internationally, turning the organization into what it ought to be: an articulate voice and major player when it comes to matters pertaining to Africa.
Whether or not one agrees with him, there can be no denying the fact that Ping was an early and critical voice against the Western led militarization of the Libyan revolution. He sharply criticized the decision by France to drop weapons to the rebels fighting Gaddafi forces.
He has also sharply criticized what he says is the focus by the International Criminal Court (the ICC) on prosecuting African leaders accused of crimes against humanity. His position has not been so much that African leaders should not be held to account for their actions while in office. Rather, his complaint has been that leaders of non-African nations, including, for example, the leaders of Burma and Middle Eastern nations like Bahrain and Yemen, have not been held to account for conduct similar to or worse than what certain African leaders like Gaddafi have been held accountable for by the ICC.
He was thus a vocal critic of the outgoing Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Louis Moreno-Ocampo, and led the AU’s successful push for the appointment of Fatou Bensouda of Gambia to replace Moreno-Ocampo as the ICC Chief Prosecutor.
Under Ping, the AU has also played major roles in mediating and resolving African disputes. The AU, for example, maintained a strong peace keeping force in Sudan and continues to field a resilient force in Somalia.