EU-Africa Summit hangs in balance •Sudan, SADR not invited •First Lady denied visa
Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
THE fourth EU-Africa Summit in Belgium next week hangs in the balance following attempts by Europe to define the political make-up of the African Union and composition of country delegations. The summit is slated for April 2 and 3. The EU has not invited AU member, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.
It is understood that President Mugabe, the First AU Deputy Chair, is opposed to this arrangement and might not participate in the summit as a result.
SADR is a former Spanish colony in North Africa with most of its territory under Moroccan rule.
It is Africa’s last colony and — ironically — under the domination of a fellow African country.
SADR is recognised by at least 85 countries, and has full diplomatic ties with 40.
It is a full member of the AU, prompting Morocco to pull out of the continental body in 1984 in protest to SADR’s recognition in 1982.
However, Morocco has been invited to the EU-Africa Summit and yet it is not an AU member; while SADR will be absent.
A senior Government official said this had incensed President Mugabe, who questioned where the EU was getting the authority to determine who was an AU member and who was not.
“The EU is trying to dictate who should comprise the delegations of African leaders and even the membership of the AU. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a full member of the AU.
“This is not an AU which has been defined by the EU, but by Africans themselves,” the official said.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha could not be reached for comment yesterday but the AU and EU are expected to meet today and tomorrow over Africa’s concerns.
Further, it emerged that the EU was trying to determine who would be in African delegations amid indications there was a push to deny First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe a visa to enter Belgium.
President Mugabe and Amai Mugabe are on an EU travel ban that forms part of the broader Western sanctions machinery on Zimbabwe.
Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba took a swipe at the EU’s attempt to stop the First Lady from travelling with her husband.
“It is very strange that the EU has not extended an invitation to the First Lady. What God has put together the EU is trying to separate. Do they expect the President to respect the EU and disrespect his own marriage?” he asked.
“I am aware there is a position of the AU regarding participation and that there are preparatory meetings between the EU and AU over African cases which have arisen over the problematic list of invitations,” he added.
He said Government would stand guided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Dell’Ariccia confirmed that SADR and President al-Bashir had not been invited.
“The Sudan has been invited but President Bashir has not been invited because there is an international arrest warrant issued against him (by the International Criminal Court) so if he comes he will be arrested.
“The Sahrawi Republic is not fully recognised by the international community so it has not been invited. On the other hand Morocco has been invited,” he said.
On the issue of the First Lady he said: “We have invited those with a role to play in the meetings and the programmes of the meetings do not have any role for spouses.”
He went on, “Since she is under restrictive measures the host country (Belgium) has to seek a green light from the EU for her to attend. The EU has to reach a consensus but in this case that has not happened.”
At its 22nd Ordinary Session of the General Assembly early this year, the AU threatened to boycott the EU-Africa Summit if President Mugabe was not invited.
There were also attempts to block President Mugabe from attending the second EU-Africa Summit in Portugal in 2007.
The AU also has a common position that President al-Bashir cannot be hauled before the ICC as he is a sitting Head of State.
The Summit will mainly focus on strategic priorities between the two continents and review the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.
The strategy seeks to deepen relations through a “strengthened political partnership and enhanced co-operation at all levels”.
It is also touted to promote sustained development implemented through successive short-term action plans.
One of its overarching objectives is “reinforcing and elevating the Africa-EU political partnership to address issues of common concern”.