AU ignores Zimbabwe as full scale military deployment takes shape

AS reports of violence, intimidation and deployment of security agents across the country continue to pour, the African Union summit kicked off on Monday with the exclusion of the Zimbabwe crisis from its discussions and focus being directed at hotspots like Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Somalia.

This is the second year the Zimbabwe crisis, one of the most dominant political questions on the continent for more than a decade, has not featured in AU discussions, whose theme this year is “Towards Greater Unity and Integration Through Shared Values”.

AU top officials told NewsDay on Monday that Zimbabwe was no longer a critical issue as focus was now on more pressing matters such as the Ivory Coast, Somalia and Tunisia crises and the post-referendum uncertainty in Sudan.

They said the Zimbabwe crisis was more of an internal issue Sadc was dealing with, unlike the unrests in Tunisia, Somalia and Ivory Coast, which they said could degenerate into civil war if the continental body did not find collective solutions.

Secretary to the AU Commission Ambassador Jean Mfasoni said: “Zimbabwe is not going to be discussed because it is now calm and these days there is no more fear that the situation would degenerate into a crisis. Now it is not a time for action.

“There is no red light flashing at the early warning unit, which monitors what is happening on the continent. Once Sadc makes a position, we as the AU endorse it and we also wait to hear their advice.”

The head of the democracy, human rights and elections division in the AU department of political affairs Mamadou Dia told NewsDay that the situation in Zimbabwe had relatively improved and was no longer on the AU radar.

“The situation in Zimbabwe has moved very well and improved fast. There are now other hot spots like Ivory Coast and Tunisia, which need urgent attention. The main strategy of the AU is to make sure that Africa is peaceful,” he said.

A visit to the situation room at the AU Early Warning Centre showed that Zimbabwe was no longer on its radar and some of the countries which the centre was monitoring included Ivory Coast, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia, Burundi, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

An official in the situation room said: 

“We have not received any news or reports from Zimbabwe that warrant it to be monitored. As far as we have heard everything is OK and calm in Zimbabwe.”

However, NewsDay has it on good authority that Sadc facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, might present a report at the summit of the heads of state and government on Sunday and Monday, which is likely to focus on the current political situation, proposed elections, which President Robert Mugabe wants later this year, the roadmap to the elections and progress made in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.

Two mini-summits will be held parallel to the conference, one on Ivory Coast and the other on Somalia and Sudan.

Ivory Coast has since been suspended from the AU until the return of a constitutionally elected leader.

Mediation efforts headed by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Ivory Coast to try and resolve the election dispute between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara have failed.

Odinga last Wednesday said: “There is no change to the status quo. Despite long discussions on Monday (last week) with Gbagbo and President-elect Outtarra, I regret to announce that the necessary progress did not materialise.”

One of the main objectives of his mission was to convince Gbagbo to accept that his presidency be put on the agenda and lift the blockade of the Gold Hotel, where Ouattara and his supporters are staying under the protection of United Nations peacekeepers.

Odinga said Ouattara had accepted his proposal to name in his new government some of Gbagbo’s supporters.

He said he had also asked Ouattara for a quick and peaceful resolution of the crisis to give Gbagbo assurances on his freedom to choose “in dignity and security his future options, including the possibility to continue politicking in Ivory Coast or to go and settle in a country of his choice”.

In his opening address to the 21st ordinary session of the Permanent Representatives Committee, chairperson of the AU Commission Jean Ping said major decisions would be made at the summit on the countries that were inconflict.

He also said there was need to relook the issue of funding of the AU, which is heavily dependent on its partners for financial resources.

Ping said such heavy dependency would compromise the independence of the continental body.

The AU is looking at finding alternative sources of funding.

One of the proposal up for consideration is to raise money through a specific tax levy either on imports, tourism or air travel by the 53 member states.

Other key issues will include the general state of peace and security in Africa with focus on the current challenges, transformation of the AU to the AU Authority, the adoption of an African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration, budget of US$256 million for 2011, the humanitarian situation and launch of the African Women Decade 2010 to 2020. – NewsDay