Lessons from the EU-Africa Summit

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I AM dismayed to note that again the drivel against Zimbabwe and its leader President Robert Mugabe has sunk to a new low.
While I can’t really feel short-changed by the European Union (EU) in its bad faith dealings with Africa by not inviting Eritrea, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, the invitation of Sudan and not its President Al-Bashir, and denying Zimbabwe’s First Lady a visa, I am particularly disappointed by the lack of principle exhibited by African leaders.
It is on record that the illegal sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe are at the behest and instigation of the British.
Since the inception of the Government of National Unity (GNU), we have noted that while the EU might present a united front in regards to Zimbabwe, certain member states have no real objections to ZANU PF and its leadership.
In fact, the evidence of this is the push that was made by the Belgians.
Belgium, which hosts the world’s leading diamond trading hub, Antwerp, was losing out on Zimbabwe’s diamonds because of the EU sanctions.
Because of the sanctions, Belgium could not trade in Zimbabwe’s diamonds and was losing out to other players like Dubai and India.
This move to push for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) by the Belgians is a chink in the British’s decade long fight to stifle trade in Zimbabwe.
The importance of the lifting of sanctions against ZMDC demonstrates the principles of the Europeans.
The decision despite only benefitting Belgium was taken as a collective.
Despite that, it is now obvious that some in the EU have grown tired of the onslaught against Zimbabwe and would rather have the bloc normalise relations, they all understand that a collective decision has to be made.
Coming to Africa, that has never been really the case.
The member states in the African Union (AU) seem to view the body as a joke. One could conclude that when it comes to sticking to principles, the EU is better at the game than the AU.
Reading the interview given by EU’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell-Ariccia, one can literally pinch themselves at the outrageous statements he makes.
He said Sudan has been invited, but Sudanese President; Omar al-Bashir is not on the invitation list “because there is an international arrest warrant against him so if he comes he will be arrested”.
Commenting on the exclusion of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Ambassador Ariccia said that it was not invited because it is not fully recognised by the international community.
The international community in this case is of course America and Morocco. Responding to why Amai Mugabe had been denied a visa, Ambassador Ariccia indicated that the EU had only invited those, “with a role to play in the meetings and the programmes of the meetings do not have any role for spouses”.
He also added that the EU had to reach a consensus to temporarily lift a ban of anyone under sanctions to attend the Summit, and in this case, the EU has not reached a consensus to lift Amai Mugabe’s ban.
Regarding Egypt’s invitation to the Summit despite that the country’s democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in a coup, Ambassador Ariccia said the Summit was open to African countries and not AU members, which is why Morocco and Egypt were on the list.
Eritrea was also indicated as not being on the invitation list because of its alleged human rights violations.
I think this latest round of African leaders does not have what it takes to take on the EU.
I recall in 2007, the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso defending inviting President Mugabe to the Lisbon Summit.
“If international leaders decided not to go to those conferences involving countries which do not have reasonable human rights records, I’m afraid we would not be attending many conferences at all,” he said
At that conference as expected, the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted for obvious reasons.
However, what is significant about this particular EU-Africa summit was that African leaders stood their ground that they would not attend unless President Mugabe was invited.
This background explains why President Mugabe, who is the First AU Deputy Chair, has refused to attend the Summit.
He is very much cognisant of what his fellow African leaders did for him in 2007 and true to his character he would never sell out and leave another leader out in the wilderness to please the EU.
It is unfortunate that the EU and the media have decided to make mountains out of Amai Mugabe’s visa.
Truth be told, President Mugabe does not take his wife everywhere with him, there are many conferences he has attended without her.
However, whether Amai travels with the President or not should not be a decision made for the couple by some bureaucrat or politician in Europe.
Are we to believe that all the delegates who are attending the Summit are travelling without their spouses because according to Ambassador Ariccia there is no spouses programme?
How about the aides that are travelling with each Head of State?
Is there going to be programme for these aides who are issued visas, but First ladies are not?
Really, I think when one sinks so low, it becomes pathetic.
Coming to the issue of human rights violations by countries, if we are to follow Ambassador Ariccia’s reasoning then maybe most African nations should boycott any Summit where America and Britain are in attendance because of the gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated by their armies across the globe, Iraq, Afghanistan, the list goes on and on.
I suppose when he said this he did not realise that there are human rights abuses going on in Egypt, the little thing called a ‘coup’ that took place of course cannot be acknowledgeable by the EU because of Egypt’s geo-strategic location.
Could the approach taken by African countries be an indication of what is to transpire when it’s time to attend the US – Africa leaders Summit in August?

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