New Zimbabwe (London)

30 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Finally Pulls Out of EU Summit

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

EMBATTLED Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe has finally pulled out of Wednesday's EU-AU summit in protest over his wife, Grace's denial of a visa to Brussels.

Foreign Affairs Secretary, Ambassador Joey Bimha confirmed Saturday the veteran leader, who is under an EU travel embargo, will not be among African leaders attending the high profile summit, to be held in the Belgian capital, April 2-3.

"President Mugabe will not be travelling to the summit and there will be no Zimbabwean delegation at the summit. This means our seat will be empty," Bimha told the State controlled Sunday Mail Saturday.

"The European Union did not implement what was agreed on at the AU summit in Addis Ababa. The continent has agreed that it is not the duty of the EU bloc to choose the delegation of the member states."

Mugabe, 90, had seemingly scored a major diplomatic victory by persuading his peers in the African Union to boycott the summit when the EU had skipped his name from the list of African leaders invited to Brussels.

But unknown to his backers, the EU had something in its bag - the visa ban on his much younger wife, who is also under EU travel sanctions.

EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Aldo Dell'ariccia said last week the summit had no role for spouses of leaders, a statement that was dismissed by Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba as a diplomatic attempt to separate the Mugabes.

It was not immediately clear however as to how African Union leaders, who had successfully arm-twisted the Europeans into inviting their First Deputy Chair through threats of a boycott, would respond to the fresh 'crisis' this time.

Bimha said "there were consultations" among heads of states within SADC on how to respond but quickly indicated the AU chair says the summit should proceed.

President Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, was slapped with an EU travel ban soon after the turn of the century for his violent land grab and poll theft.

He denies both, insisting he was being punished for taking land from the minority white Zimbabwean population of European descent for redistribution to landless Zimbabweans.

The EU-AU summit in Brussels is set to discuss strategic priorities between the two continents and to review joint AU-EU strategy, which seeks to deepen relations through strengthened political partnership and enhanced co-operation at all levels.

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President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.

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