26 March 2014

Africa: Mugabe Ropes Africa Into Grace Visa Fight

Photo: Nehanda Radio
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.

AN organ of the African Union (AU) was, Wednesday, said to have urged a boycott of the European Union-Africa summit next week after President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace, was refused a visa to travel with the Zimbabwean leader.

The EU imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, including travel bans on top government and Zanu PF officials in 2002, after a government crackdown on the opposition and the eviction of white farmers from agricultural land.

The sanctions were lifted this year but the EU maintained the travel ban against Mugabe and his wife for another year in a bid to force the veteran leader to continue to implement key reforms.

But the wily Zimbabwean leader managed to get the AU to threaten to boycott the fourth EU-Africa summit scheduled for Brussels in Belgium next week if he was not invited, forcing an EU climb-down.

Mugabe was then invited and given a travel visa, but not his wife, in a development that infuriated Harare.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, explained that only those with a role to play in the meetings had been invited, suggesting Grace did not need to travel.

"We have invited those with a role to play in the meetings and the programmes of the meetings do not have any role for spouses," said the envoy.

"Since she is under restrictive measures the host country (Belgium) has to seek a green light from the EU for her to attend. The EU has to reach a consensus but in this case that has not happened."

But government officials countered that it is no business of the EU to determine who should be part of the Zimbabwean delegation or what officials had any role in Brussels.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba hinted that Zimbabwe would likely boycott the meeting if Grace was not allowed to travel.

But it now appears Harare wants the whole summit to collapse if the First Lady is not allowed to accompany her husband.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said a meeting of the AU's Peace and Security Council held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Wednesday recommended Africa boycotts the summit if the EU insisted on determining the composition of country delegations.

"The African Union Peace and Security Council took a decision that the European Union was in violation of an AU resolution that they do not have the right to determine the composition of Africa's delegation," he told the Herald.

"So the AU Peace and Security Council has recommended to all member states that the Summit cannot be held until Europe recognises Africa's sovereignty.

"The ball is now in the EU's court. It's now up to the EU to decide whether they want the summit to proceed or not.

"If they want it to proceed, they should accept that they have no right to determine the delegation from Africa. I have since briefed President Mugabe and he has since welcomed the decision."

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