2 April 2014

Africa: Mugabe's Boycott of EU/AU Summit 'Insignificant'

Photo: European Council
The first plenary session of the EU-AU Summit in Brussels.

Delegates to the EU/AU summit that kicked off in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday have described President Robert Mugabe's boycott of the event as 'insignificant' as most African leaders apparently ignored his call to snub the gathering.

Mugabe refused to travel to Brussels for the summit, in an apparent protest against the refusal by the EU to allow his wife Grace to accompany him. The EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, last week said 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.

Only South African President Jacob Zuma appeared to go along with Mugabe in boycotting the summit, but his government was quick to point out that he wasn't attending because of 'other commitments.'

Elliot Pfebve, the newly appointed MDC-T chief representative to the EU, said most delegates thought Mugabe's decision to boycott was based on 'emotion and concerns for his family rather than what is best for Zimbabwe.'

Pfebve, who was in Brussels attending a two day EU/AU business forum at the beginning of this week, said that Zimbabwe could have benefitted substantially, due to the presence of high level investors.

The business forum was attended by leading business personalities across the globe, diplomats, chief executives of multi-nationals, former Presidents of various countries in Africa as well as current leaders on the continent.

'President John Mahama of Ghana gave a presentation on the need for investors to visit Accra. He took questions from investors on some concerns they raised and in the end, Ghana signed deals worth billons of dollars.

'Since Zimbabwe is struggling to attract foreign investors, this was an opportunity for Mugabe to meet would be investors and discuss ways of trying to co-exist in the harsh economic environment in the country,' Pfebve said.

The MDC-T representative to the EU said there was a suggestion by other delegates that Mugabe's non-appearance will damage his reputation as the first deputy chair of the African Union.

'He tried to influence other African leaders not to attend the summit, which he failed, and people were asking why they would want to boycott when the event was supposed to benefit the continent.

Pfebve said that Africa has over a billion people and why would Mugabe try to hold the whole continent to ransom, just because his wife didn't get a visa.

The senior MDC-T official added: "That is abuse of power. Mugabe is not President and husband to Grace Mugabe but President and leader of all Zimbabweans. '

The summit brings together 28 European countries and 54 African Union members, minus Zimbabwe and others who are being represented at ministerial level.

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