The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: President Satisfied With AU Deliberations

PRESIDENT Mugabe has expressed satisfaction at the deliberations of the 20th African Union Summit which ended in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday after focusing on a wide range of pertinent issues affecting the continent.

Speaking to journalists on arrival at the Harare International Airport yesterday, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said although the African leaders were mainly concerned about conflict resolution, there were a number of side issues like maternal health that were considered during the summit.

The President said Sadc leaders met separately to debate issues affecting the region looking specifically at reports on the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

"It was trying to kill not just two birds, but three if not four birds with one stone. This was what we tried to do, really.

"We had the main meeting which dealt with the issue of peace and security and our ministers had done some very good work, but still as we discussed Mali and the Sudan, we realised there were problems, especially in Mali,' he said.

"It's too complicated a situation and that was our real main meeting."

President Mugabe said the leaders discussed the forthcoming commemoration of 50 years of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity which spearheaded the liberation of the African continent, adding that non-political issues also received attention.

"There is the cry that women are dying because of us, because we make them pregnant and when they give birth, we are not there.

"Sometimes it's a birth given after nine months that has not been taken care of by doctors and there is also the case of young girls getting pregnant.

"So, we also had to deal with these side issues."

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who attended several pre-summit meetings ahead of the main deliberations that began on Sunday, also expressed satisfaction with the way business was transacted.

"The summit went on reasonably well in the sense that there were no contentious issues in the normal agenda of the African Union.

"The focus was mainly on peace and security and the main areas of focus were the situations in Mali, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan as well as the situation in Madagascar.

"Those were the four areas that were the subject of discussion both by the Peace and Security Council and the extraordinary summit of Sadc."

Cde Mumbengegwi said the summit noted the progress that had been made in Madagascar where the implementation of the roadmap made by Sadc had been made easier after the two protagonists in the crisis, Mr Marc Ravalomanana and Mr Andry Rajoelina, both agreed not to stand in presidential elections scheduled for May which would be followed by legislative elections in July.

Cde Mumbengegwi said the summit also felt that there was a need for Africa to increase its preparedness to deal with conflicts after France intervened in the Mali civil war instead of the still to be established African Stand-by Force.

"The involvement of France (in Mali) simply underlines the fact that there is an urgent need for the African Union to operationalise its Stand-by Force," he said.

"As long as that force is not yet a reality, we will continue to have a situation where outsiders will militarily intervene in our situations here so I think what is really required is that the AU should expedite the operationalisation of the African Stand-by Force because that is the instrument that is needed to maintain peace and security on the African continent."

Cde Mumbengegwi dismissed attempts by some Zimbabwean civil society groups to have Zimbabwe put on the summit agenda as futile as the country was not even remotely a conflict zone.

"Zimbabwe has never been on the agenda of the African Union. There was no need for Zimbabwe to be on the agenda because we are a peaceful country," he said.

"It is surprising that anybody should think that a country as stable and peaceful as Zimbabwe should be on the agenda of the African Union. It's just wishful thinking."

Cde Mumbengegwi's remarks came after the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and a number of other groups unsuccessfully tried to lobby the continental body to discuss Zimbabwe, whose leaders recently resolved the impasse that stymied the constitution making process which will lead to elections this year.

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