heads of state and government are expected at the African union summit today
(Monday) in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh. Although today’s
meeting is reportedly expected to focus on some of the numerous challenges
facing the continent, the controversy surrounding the just concluded run-off
election in Zimbabwe and the swearing in yesterday (Sunday) of President Robert
Mugabe are likely to take center stage. Some political observers are skeptical
President Mugabe would make an appearance at today’s summit after the
international community widely condemned his election as illegal. VOA
correspondent Peter Heinlein is covering the Sharm El Sheikh AU summit. He
tells reporter Peter Clottey that there is high anticipation at today’s summit.
tell you that there is going to be about 30 heads of states out of the 53, and
of course as you know Zimbabwe is dominating this meeting Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe,
Zimbabwe. The Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra, a veteran
Algerian diplomat who is in charge of peace and security issues here has been
trying to get the world to focus on some of the other issues in Africa. For
instance the difficulties in Somalia, and the recent clashes between Eritrea
and Djibouti, but everybody is talking about Zimbabwe and of course today would
be no different,” Heinlein pointed out.
He said there is high level
of skepticism about the likely presence of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe at
“It is going to be
interesting to see whether President Mugabe walks into the hall here. Everybody
is waiting and nobody is really sure what his plans are at this point. But the
issue of Zimbabwe of course is on everybody’s lips,” he said.
Heinlein said it is unlikely
that African Union troops would intervene in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs as
demanded by critics of the ruling ZANU-PF party and former South African
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“I don’t think so, I think
military intervention is one of those things that people talk about, but it is
very difficult to do. The African Union really doesn’t have a credible military
presence anywhere and I’m afraid that it’s one of those things people talk
about, but the Peace and Security Commissioner, a serious diplomat aren’t
really considering that as an option at this point,” Heinlein noted.
He said the focus of today’s
summit would among other things be on potable water and good health care.
“This is a summit that is
dedicated to issues of water and sanitation; these issues really are important
in Africa. Aside from peace and security, water and sanitation issues are
desperately important. There are also side debates on the HIV crisis in Africa,
but these are being pushed aside by the security issues. Security issues are
very paramount here. A few months ago at the last summit in Addis Ababa, the
issues of Kenya, everybody was talking about Kenya. This time Kenya has settled
down and there is a new leadership at the AU (African Union) and of course that
is a very important issue too,” he said.
Heinlein said there is high
expectation for the new leaders of the African Union to resolve some of the
challenges facing the continent.
“The new leadership of the
AU, can they meet the challenges of democratic change, can they meet the
challenge to democracy that President Mugabe posses? That is a very difficult
vexing question, and there are many different opinions. As you know, President
Mugabe has a lot of friends, and there are only 43 democracies among Africa’s
53 countries and even those are having a difficult time coming to grips with
the fact that one of their own, one of the long time members of the African
Union has flouted democratic norms,” Heinlein pointed out.