New Zimbabwe (London)

30 March 2014

Southern Africa: EU Boycott - Zuma Backs Mugabe

Photo: Roland Polman/RNW
African leaders arrive at the EU-Africa Summit.

SOUTH Africa's President Jacob Zuma will not travel to Brussels, Belgium this week for the EU-Africa summit, backing a call by President Robert Mugabe to boycott the meeting.

Mugabe and his wife are the only remaining Zimbabweans on EU's travel ban of more than 200 people, which was imposed in 2002.

In theory, they can be temporarily exempted to attend international conferences and Mugabe was invited to Brussels after the AU said it would boycott the meeting if he was not allowed to travel.

But Mugabe pulled out of the meeting, angered by Belgium's refusal to grant his wife a visa with EU envoys in Harare saying Grace would not travel because "there is no programme for spouses at the summit."

"The EU has no right to interfere in any way on who should attend the summit from Africa," Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said.

Zimbabwe then sought solidarity from other African leaders.

"Consultations were still ongoing to decide whether other AU members should attend or not," said secretary for Foreign Affairs, Joey Bimha.

Mumbengegwi added: "Indications so far are that very few African leaders will attend, given the treatment we are getting from the EU."

EU officials however dismissed Mumbengegwi's statement as completely unfounded.

"I am 100% sure that African leaders will attend," an official told dpa.

"About 60 European or African heads of state have confirmed their attendance, and we expect 80 to come. It will be a huge summit - maybe the most important of its kind."

Apart from the Grace dispute consternation over the invitation list also relates to strife torn Egypt which was invited to attend while Eritrea has been barred because of its human rights record.

The SADR, also known as Western Sahara is also excluded because of its territorial dispute with Morocco, which is not an AU member.

Sudan was invited, but it's President, Omar al-Bashir shunned the event. He is wanted by the ICC for human rights atrocities.

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