31 January 2014

Africa: AU Credibility Questioned After Appointing Mugabe to Top Post

Photo: Thijs Bouwknegt/RNW
International Criminal Court in the Hague

The credibility of the African Union (AU) is being questioned after Robert Mugabe was this week appointed to a top position, which puts him in line to take over the AU chairmanship next year.

Mugabe, who turns 90 years old next month, was elected First Vice-Chair of the influential AU executive council. The appointment makes him eligible for the chairmanship of the AU in 2015.

The ZANU PF leader also takes over the SADC chairmanship later this year, a role which will coincide with his potential appointment to the AU chair next year. If this happens, Africa's key leadership institutions will effectively be controlled by Mugabe.

Arthur Gwagwa from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum described the developments in Africa as "theatre of the absurd." He told SW Radio Africa on Friday that the move is an indication of Africa's "belligerent attitude towards the West."

"Africa wants to confront western countries, and what better way than to put Mugabe in the leadership. This will give him a more powerful voice and pedestal to shout at the West," Gwagwa said.

Mugabe's appointment reportedly renders "futile" a decision by the European Union (EU) not to invite him to a summit of the two blocs set for Belgium in April. A similar summit between the US and Africa had also not included Mugabe on its invite list, a decision that now puts the US and the AU at loggerheads.

"The AU is more like a club for old boys, so one of the things we have observed is that the AU and SADC tend to put relationships before principles," Gwagwa said.

The analyst stated that the development should provide the US and the EU with an opportunity to reflect on its relationships with Africa. Western nations are not only providing the bulk of financial aid to African states, but also financially supporting blocs like SADC and the AU.

"I think this presents an opportunity for Western countries to listen to what civil society has been saying, that the people (they) are dealing with are not who they say they are. Particularly now when the EU is softening its stance on Zimbabwe" Gwagwa said.

He continued: "This should remind Europe of our message that all is not well in Zimbabwe, that we need to adhere to democratic principles and human rights."

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