28 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe to Boycott AU-EU Summit Over Wife Snub

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

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will not attend a European Union-Africa summit next week if his wife is denied a visa to travel with him, his spokesman said on Friday.

Mugabe, 90, and his wife Grace are subject to travel bans by the EU because of allegations about human rights abuses and election-rigging but the union allowed Zimbabwe's sole ruler to attend the meeting after pressure from the African Union.

The two-day summit starts on April 2 in Brussels.

"We are sovereign and equals and the EU cannot decide on our delegations. The president, and Zimbabwe will not be there if they continue to hold out on the visa," Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia told a local radio station on Friday the bloc had not given a visa to Grace because there was no program for wives of presidents and there was no need for her to attend.

"We have been discussing this for some time. We have reached agreement and Zimbabwe has been invited but no spouses have been invited," the EU official said.

Dell'Ariccia, said when Zimbabwe asked for a visa for Mugabe's wife "they were told she should apply through the normal channels".

"The EU is just following it's legal framework and there can't be any movement from that position," said Dell'Ariccia.

Harare on Friday urged other African Union members to shun the summit.

But diplomats in Brussels say they are unfazed by the boycott call.

"We see no risk" of a boycott of the April 2-3 summit, which gathers 90 nations from both continents, including 65 heads of state and government, said a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mugabe, 90, and his wife Grace are subject to travel bans by the EU because of alleged human rights abuses and election-rigging.

The travel ban on Mugabe and his wife can be suspended temporarily to allow him to attend international forums.

But EU officials say no presidential spouses will be invited to the 2-3 April summit.

Charamba said the EU's decision was "very strange".

"What God has put together the EU is trying to separate," Charamba said in the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

"Do they expect the president to respect the EU and disrespect his own marriage?"

Zimbabwe is also unhappy that Sudan has not been invited to the gathering, especially when Egypt - which has been suspended from the African Union (AU) - has been asked.

The gathering brings together 90 countries from Europe and Africa, including 65 heads of state and government.

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