Museveni Praises Mugabe Over Unity Government

Kampala — President Yoweri Museveni has praised his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, for forming a unity government with the opposition.

Museveni said this saved Zimbabwe and the region from a big political crisis.

He was speaking at the opening of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit that will culminate into the launching of the COMESA Customs Union at the Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe yesterday. 

Mugabe and his arch-political rival Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change formed a unity government in February that is tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections last year plunged the country into crisis.

Tsvangirai left Zimbabwe on Saturday for visits to the US and Europe to seek aid and mend fences with former allies.

Museveni also congratulated Mugabe for assuming the leadership of COMESA.

Mugabe took over from Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki as head of the 19-state organisation.

"We look at your chairmanship with a lot of confidence due to your long experience in matters of regional integration," Museveni who spoke on behalf of all heads of state who attended the summit said. 

According to a statement issued by Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi yesterday, Museveni urged Mugabe to steer the organisation that has a population of about 400 million, towards tapping the region’s limited potential.

The ultimate goal, Museveni pointed out, should be to bring about improved standards of living and social transformation so that African countries also become first world rather than always lagging behind.

The task ahead is enormous, warned Museveni, adding that challenges are many.

He said there was need to continue with the agenda the organisation set out to implement in collaboration with the East African Community and SADAC in the tripartite arrangement. 

"We must work for continued peace in our region which is a fundamental prerequisite for economic integration," he said.

"The world is experiencing a recession. We need to know how best to survive and take advantage of it. The crisis in the developed countries is a precursor to the restructuring of the global economy," he said.

Museveni explained that there were two sets of people; the over-consumers and the under-consumers. He said the crisis helps those who have been under consuming because the other group cannot buy what they used to buy.

"If I have been walking because the other person could afford two cars, if he cannot buy the two cars, this means that I can now buy a car," he said adding that he refused to be pessimistic about the crisis.

Museveni thanked the out-going chairperson, Kibaki, for presiding over COMESA since May 2007.

"Significant to note during your tenure is the historical tripartite summit COMESA, East African Community and SADAC that took place in Kampala in October 2008."

He urged COMESA member countries to ensure that there is market access among the member countries and that they should develop the human resource by having educated people and industrialisation in order to add value to their products and to develop their infrastructure.

Museveni stressed the importance of abundant and cheap power. He said cheap electricity will lower the cost of production in Africa. 

During the summit, the leaders were expected to launch a customs union that will stretch across the continent in a bid to boost regional trade.

Under the deal, the 19 countries will impose the same tariffs on goods from outside the region. Raw materials and capital goods will travel across borders without tariffs, while intermediate products will be taxed at 10% and finished goods at 25%.

The launch of the union had been set for May last year, but was delayed because of Zimbabwe’s political turmoil and to allow more time for the members to negotiate the harmonisation of tariffs.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who faces international arrest over war crimes, was among leaders attending the two-day summit.

Also in Zimbabwe was ousted Madagascan leader Marc Ravalomanana who said he had been invited to attend the summit. SOURCE: The New Vision of Uganda