The Herald (Harare)

16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: 'We've Put Aside Our Differences'

President Mugabe yesterday said Zimbabwe will this year hold peaceful and friendly elections as Zimbabweans have realised that they have a common destiny despite their differences. Speaking after meeting outgoing African Union chairman and Benin President Boni Yayi at State House, President Mugabe said Zimbabweans have put aside their differences.

President Mugabe also called on African leaders attending the forthcoming AU summit to discuss issues that divide the states and internal divisions in the various countries.

"In my country, yes, we have also had divisions, political divisions, but I am glad that we all appreciate that whatever political affiliations we belong to, we are Zimbabweans."

He said Zimbabweans are agreed that elections should be on the basis that they have a common destiny.

"That is the understanding. That is how we have groomed ourselves into that kind of understanding and I think our elections are going to be very friendly elections in the sense that they will be a political fight but it will be a fight in the knowledge that we belong to each other," President Mugabe said.

He bemoaned the divisions among African countries and called for the integration of the African regional groups into one.

He said the AU summit should discuss issues that have also divided African people within their countries.

President Mugabe said the two leaders had discussed problems that are directly confronting Africa.

He said Africans were not as united as was expected by the founders of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.

"We really have not become integrated as an African people into a real union. And this is the worry, which my brother has, and the worry I have; the worry perhaps others also have. That we are not yet at that stage which was foretold by our fathers when they created this organisation."

He said the AU founding fathers had a vision of a continent that is united politically, economically, and culturally.

"We are not there yet. As we stand here people will look at us, as me Anglophone, him Francophone, you see. There is also Lusophone, but we are Africans first and foremost. Africans, Africans! Look at our skin.

"That's our continent, we belong to one continent. We may, by virtue of history, have been divided by certain boundaries and especially by colonialism.

"But our founding fathers in 1963 showed us the way and we must take up that teaching that we got in 1963. That we are one and we must be united," said President Mugabe.

He said African leaders should integrate the different regions on the continent.

"Get them to get out of the regional shell and get into one continental shell. The continent of Africa! This is what we must become. And there, we must also have an African head. He was talking of the president of Africa. Yes, we need one. We are not yet there.

"This is what we must go and discuss, but we must also discuss the issues that divide us."

President Yayi, who arrived at the Harare International Airport just after midday, was met by Acting President Joice Mujuru, Cabinet ministers, senior Government officials and service chiefs. The outgoing AU chairman said he had discussed the future of Africa with President Mugabe after gaining a lot of experience as the AU chairman.

"The civil crisis, the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Libyan crisis, Mali, Guinea Bissau, the Central Africa Republic, DRC and everywhere. We discussed all this, the political situation on our continent.

"Our vision now is what we can do to strengthen the unity and stability because without it we cannot move to the prosperity of our people in our continent."

He called for serious discussions on Pan-Africanism.

"Pan-Africanism is necessary for us to be together. Our regional communities have to move together, to work together and to strengthen the unity of the continent."

He said he had learnt a lot from the discussion he had with President Mugabe.

"We need to strengthen democracy in our countries. We need to strengthen good governance. We need to strengthen the peace and stability and unity of our countries."

He said the two leaders had agreed to work for the economic growth of Africa.

"We have decided to move to get economic growth. Without economic development we cannot feed our people."

President Yayi defended the AU's decision to seek Nato's (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) intervention in Mali.

"The issue of Mali is very critical . . . you are right we did not succeed to resolve the issue. Not only to Bamako, we have discordance in the government.

"As Ecowas, we didn't succeed to resolve the issue. The rebels, as a result of religious intolerance, are killing people. They cut the hands, arms and the legs, everything, the women, the youths and so on. It is a gross human rights violation, very critical. They are moving from the north heading towards Bamako."

He said if the rebels occupied Bamako it would not only be catastrophic for Mali and the sub-region, but that would affect the whole world.

"It is a matter of terrorism, it is difficult for us and I think the right way is to request for the assistance, military assistance, from Nato."

He said African countries were now ready to assist Mali after the Nato intervention although military intervention was the last resort for Africa.

"The right way was to ask for assistance from Nato. We are ready to go to Mali to help our brothers," he said.

African leaders are meeting this month-end in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 20th African Union Summit to be held under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".

The summit would run from January 21-28.

Meanwhile, President Yayi left Zimbabwe en route to Malawi where he is expected to meet President Joice Banda.

President Yayi would also travel to Tanzania, DRC and Uganda among other African countries he expected to visit before the AU summit.

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