By Alex Bell
01 December 2010
Allies of Robert Mugabe have used a European Union (EU) summit in Libya to lobby on the dictator’s behalf, for the lifting of Western targeted sanctions in place against the regime.
The EU-Africa summit in Tripoli which ended Tuesday, was held under the main theme of Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation. Heads of states and governments were set to address key issues, like peace and security, climate change, regional integration and private sector development, infrastructure and energy, agriculture and food security, migration.
But the summit, which was part sponsored by the EU, quickly became another platform for Mugabe and his allies to call for the lifting of targeted sanctions against him and his inner circle. Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, who currently holds the African Union chairmanship, spearheaded this latest bid to pressure the EU to lift the targeted measures. EU representatives meanwhile reportedly urged Mugabe to take reform seriously, before the measures can be removed.
Mugabe’s presence at the summit has angered many critics, who accused the EU of sending out mixed signals to the regime. The EU has maintained targeted sanctions against Mugabe, including a travel ban to EU zones, and yet he was invited by the EU to the summit as a head of state.
UK MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, who has been personally banned by Mugabe from entering Zimbabwe, said the EU should have pressed for Mugabe to be banned from the summit. Van Orden told SW Radio Africa that Mugabe’s presence at the summit was a “travesty,” because of the clear lack of change in Zimbabwe.
“Mugabe has continued to trample on the rights of Zimbabwe’s people, showed scant regard for the political agreement that he made with Morgan Tsvangirai, and has continued his global travels,” Van Orden said.
He added: “The idea that Mugabe gets invited to this summit where he takes the stage and is applauded as some kind of a hero, I find disgusting.”
Van Orden said the mixed messages from Europe were also jeopardising efforts to bring about change in Zimbabwe, saying the excuse that Mugabe is a sitting head of office is not good enough to invite him to different summits.
“It’s not surprising so little progress has been made in bringing about change in countries like Zimbabwe,” Van Orden said.
The MEP also said that the EU needs to stop allowing these summits, which focus on development in Africa, to be used as platforms to call for the lifting of targeted sanctions against Mugabe. Van Orden insisted the sanctions are restrictive, targeted measures.
“Mugabe talks about these sanctions as if they are against the people of Zimbabwe, and they simply are not,” Van Orden said. “They are targeted measures that are consciously and deliberately against certain individuals, not ordinary Zimbabweans.”
Meanwhile observers have again commented that South Africa’s Zuma has demonstrated his allegiance to Mugabe by lobbying on his behalf over the sanctions. Zuma is meant to be the regional mediator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, but instead of pressuring Mugabe to honour the Global Political Agreement (GPA), he has instead been firmly in his corner. Commentators have said that this open show of support for Mugabe means Zimbabweans cannot rely on South Africa or other regional leaders to force change in Zimbabwe.