AU Chair - His Excellency President R.G. Mugabe

AU Chair – His Excellency President R.G. Mugabe

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Caesar Zvayi in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

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President Mugabe’s election as African Union Chair last Friday is an expression of confidence in his leadership and appreciation of his status as a senior statesman, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has said.

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President Mugabe’s ascension marks the second time in the history of the continental body that Zimbabwe has been elected to this position.

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The President – who is the current Sadc Chair – led the Organisation of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor, between June 2, 1997 and June 8, 1998.

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This year’s ascension bears greater significance as it overrode the demonisation of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe by Western governments and their embedded media who wanted to make the country an AU agenda item.

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The same Westerners also opposed President Mugabe’s election by claiming that a country under their sanctions could not hold such a post.

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When their plot failed, they tried to downplay the significance of the ascension by saying the AU chairmanship was not only rotational but also ceremonial.

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The AU and its organs and partners have several times condemned Western sanctions on Zimbabwe and called for their immediate removal.

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Minister Mumbengegwi said while it was true that the chairmanship was rotational, the turn-taking pertained to the continent’s five regional economic communities and not individual states.

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Africa has five RECs; namely Sadc, Ecowas, the East African Community, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States.

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Other REC’s recognised by the AU are the Arab Maghreb Union, Comesa and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, though these do not factor in the rotation and election.

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“Let me begin by expressing our appreciation for the vote of confidence and recognition that has been accorded our President. I know that there are some who may believe that the notion of chairing the AU is rotational, that is not strictly correct,” Minister Mumbengegwi said.

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“What is rotational are the regions. There are five regions and every year each region gets the opportunity to chair our organisation but the country which actually chairs the organisation is selected by the regions.

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“So, for Zimbabwe to become a candidate for election as chair, our southern African region had to select Zimbabwe to be their candidate for their turn to chair the organisation.’’

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He added that while it was true that Sadc had selected Zimbabwe as its candidate, the vote had more to do with President Mugabe’s stature.

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“The fact that the Southern Africa region selected Zimbabwe is correct but it is more accurate to say they selected President Robert Gabriel Mugabe because his position on the continent is unique. He is about the only sitting President who rubbed shoulders with the founding fathers; I do not know whether I should also say founding mothers, of our organisation.

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“He was there in 1963 representing our liberation movement when the OAU was formed in 1963. He was there and those of that generation to which he belonged are now gone. We now have a generation of younger leaders whose appreciation of the founding principles and ideals of our organisation is through what they heard or what they read rather than what they actually experienced.

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“He is about the only sitting President who can tell you about who was Nkrumah, who was Nasser and so on. So, he is kind of a bridge between the founders and the current generation. So the region found it befitting that a leader of his stature should lead our organisation at this point in time. So, it’s really recognition, an accolade which has been extended to our President and we as a nation appreciate it very much indeed.”

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In his acceptance speech, President Mugabe took delegates down memory lane to the time he attended the historic meeting convened by African leaders in Addis Ababa on May 25 1963 as a representative of Zanu.

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He said: ‘‘More than five decades ago, I had the unique privilege, as a representative of Zanu, a liberation movement then, to attend the historic occasion of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, here in Addis Ababa.

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“It was indeed a momentous occasion at which Africa decisively took destiny into its own hands.’’

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As the sole surviving Head of State and Government to have attended that historic Summit, President Mugabe has been described as the remaining link between the politics of liberation and post-colonial politics.

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He has also been described as the right candidate to set the continental body – which has been accused of deviating from the noble objectives of the founding fathers – back on track.