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Youth Summit Sets Stage For - And Mirrors - European-African Summit

  • Nico Colombant

Preliminaries for the long-awaited European Union-African Union summit opening on Saturday in Lisbon got under way on Wednesday as European and African youths - including a contingent from Zimbabwe, a focus of attention given the controversy attached to the invitation of President Robert Mugabe - opened a mini-summit.

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva spoke with some 250 youth representatives on trade, development, migration, human rights, and other summit topics.

Zimbabwe was represented by the Zimbabwe National Students Union, the British-based Free-Zim Youth and the Zimbabwe National Youth Council. ZINASU President Promise Mkwananzi told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his group is pushing to get Zimbabwe's crisis on the youth summit agenda.

That debate mirrored one in the larger world over whether, to what extent, and how Zimbabwe should be taken up by the European and African heads of state.

Britain's envoy to the summit, Baroness Amos, standing in for Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is boycotting the summit along with his cabinet because Mr. Mugabe is likely to attend, reportedly has a brief from Downing Street to tackle Mr. Mugabe on governance and human rights issues at sessions on those topics.

Meanwhile, writers from Africa and Europe have added their voices to those urging the summit agenda to encompass the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, as well as Zimbabwe. South Africa's Nadine Gordimer and Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka are among the writers accusing world leaders of cowardice for failing to give priority to those crises.

Director Brendan Cox of Crisis Action, the nongovernmental organization behind the writers campaign, said he and other staff of the NGO will lobby the summit.

VOA correspondent Nico Colombant reported from Dakar, Senegal, that President Abdoulaye Wade has been active diplomatically on Zimbabwe and Darfur.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...