Harare — The European Union-Africa Summit opens Wednesday in Brussels, but one of the leaders who will not be there is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who is snubbing the event after his wife was denied a visa.
Mugabe will not attend the summit to protest Brussels' decision to bar his wife from traveling with him.
Grace Mugabe is subject to an EU travel ban along with her husband, although her husband was granted permission to visit Brussels in this case.
The travel bans date to the early 2000s, when Western nations put sanctions on President Mugabe and his allies for human rights abuses and alleged election rigging.
Zimbabwe's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Joey Bimha accused the the European Union of "bullying" Africa, and said the incident would further strain Harare-Brussels relations.
He said African Union and the European Union had agreed on terms of the summit earlier this year.
"But we see some countries that were invited that were not supposed to be invited. Others that were not supposed to be invited that were invited. And also the European Union went further to decide to issue visas to certain members of the delegations and refused to others," he said.
That was an apparent reference to Morocco and Egypt being invited to the summit, while Grace Mugabe was barred from attending.
The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, said the meeting was important for cash-strapped Zimbabwe, as it would have benefited economically and diplomatically.
"The European Union has invited President Mugabe to attend this fourth EU-Africa summit and we have taken exceptional measures to exempt him from the visa ban," he said. "It has been agreed by all member states of the European Union and the purpose of that was exactly to demonstrate that the European Union is willing engage in dialogue with Zimbabwe at the highest possible level, because the shared goal is normalizing relations, so it's all in the interest of Zimbabwe to go there."
Despite that argument, Zimbabwe will not be sending a representative to the summit this week.