A controversy surrounding participation by Zimbabwe’s president at the Euro-African summit to be held in Portugal has taken another turn, with a call from the summit commissioner for President Robert Mugabe to be represented by his foreign minister at a lower level. However, some analysts believe African heads of state, including South Africa, would insist that Mugabe be allowed to attend the EU-Africa summit. Some European officials say reaching a compromise to allow the summit to go ahead as planned in December would be difficult, given Africa’s support for Zimbabwe’s president, who many have accused of human rights abuses. Meanwhile, summit plans have been put on hold since 2003, as Britain and other European countries have refused to attend if Mugabe is present.
John Makumbe is a senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. From the capital, Harare he shares his views about the EU-Africa summit with reporter Peter Clottey.
“It is expected that the EU is desperate to have the Africa-EU summit to go ahead. And the European countries are desperate because of the influx of refugees from particularly North and West African states into Europe, and they would like to reach some sort of agreement with these African countries on stemming the tide of these refugees. And they can’t do that without having the Africa- EU summit,” Makumbe pointed out.
He said organizers of the Euro-Africa summit might try to prevent the Zimbabwean president from attending the summit, especially since most European countries have expressed reservations over Mugabe’s presence at the meeting.
“I think they will try, I think it is very likely that Mugabe would say if he is not attending himself in person, then nobody at a lower level should be allowed to attend. That’s one. Secondly, I think the African leaders themselves are going to insist that Zimbabwe should be represented at the highest level, and that is at the presidential level and that means Mugabe attending. And I think, as things are now, the Europeans are likely to capitulate,” he said.
Makumbe said he believes a compromise could be reached to enable the December summit to go on as scheduled.
“I think a compromise is very possible if the EU is promising to voice its concern abut the human rights violations in Zimbabwe at the Africa- EU summit. A compromise could be reached where Mugabe would be allowed to attend on condition that the European countries are at liberty to express their dissatisfaction and unhappiness about Mugabe’s governance in Zimbabwe,” Makumbe noted.
He said President Mugabe has fallen short of some of the tenets of good governance in Zimbabwe.
“He is the president of Zimbabwe, one of the cardinals of the Africa –EU relationship, all the way back from Cotonou (the capital of Benin) is that there would be a promotion of human rights, there would be promotion of good governance, there would be transparency on governance, and in the handling of the citizens of the two major regions, all of those have been violated by Robert Mugabe. He may be the head of state of Zimbabwe, but he is the head of state who is literarily chewing up his own people, and that should be of concern not only to the EU, but also African countries. But as you and I know, the African countries would defend Mugabe because they themselves are in an equally dubious position,” he said.