By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
27 March 2014
The African Union (AU) has moved to back Robert Mugabe’s threat to boycott next week’s European Union (EU) Africa summit in Belgium, with the EU standing firm on its decision not to issue a travel visa to Grace Mugabe.
The 4th EU-Africa summit is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 2nd to 3rd April 2014 and aims to bring together African and EU leaders under the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”. The last summit of its kind took place in 2010 in Libya.
But the summit remains in doubt with Mugabe leading calls for a boycott of the meeting. The 90 year old ZANU PF leader is understood to have been left fuming after his wife was not issued a travel visa to join him in Europe, despite Grace playing no role in the upcoming meeting. The pair both remain targeted with European restrictive measures, although the rules have already been bent to accommodate the presence of the ageing Zim President.
Mugabe has reportedly also been angered by the EU’s decision not to invite his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir, who faces war crimes and genocide charges before the International Criminal Court. Also left off the invite list is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, an AU member, with the African bloc accusing the EU of trying to undermine the AU’s authority and sovereignty.
The potential boycott has now also been echoed by an organ of the AU, which has recommended this week that the entire African bloc not attend the summit. Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council held in Ethiopia Wednesday recommended that Africa boycotts the summit if the EU ‘insisted’ on determining the composition of country delegations.
“The African Union Peace and Security Council took a decision that the European Union was in violation of an AU resolution that they do not have the right to determine the composition of Africa’s delegation,” he told the Herald newspaper.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that the European bloc is waiting for a decision from the AU, which will determine the fate of next week’s summit. He explained that Mugabe’s wife was not invited simply because she had no role to play in the summit, and it was not a deliberate snub.
“It is a working summit where there is no programme for the spouses and the spouses are not invited. This was clearly laid out in the programme. When there was a request of issuing the visa to the First Lady, the host country had to follow the procedure for when an individual on the list of restrictive measure requires a visa. This means asking and receiving a unanimous decision from the EU members. This did not happen and the visa could not be issued,” Dell’Ariccia explained.
He added that the boycott threat by Mugabe has not been officially communicated to the EU, but they were aware of the recommendation made by the AU Peace and Security Council this week.
“There is an internal procedure that the African Union has to follow. There is a recommendation of the AU Council and so we will see how to proceed from there,” Dell’Ariccia said.
The Ambassador also dismissed the claims that EU was not respecting Africa’s ‘sovereignty’ as has been stated by the AU Peace and Security Council.
“It is in full contradiction of the spirit in which these summits have been established. At the Lisbon summit (in 2007), which was attended by Mugabe, we established a strategy which in turn established a partnership of equals,” the Ambassador said.
He added: “There is no reason to conclude that we are looking down on the continent and not respecting the spirit of the summit. The purpose is to create a momentum to ensure this partnership of equals bears all the fruits it can bear. So I don’t see why there would be an assessment of the situation in another way.”