Obama snubs Mugabe

2014-07-27 15:00

The ANC has expressed shock at a decision by the US not to invite Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit which takes place from August 4-6.

The head of the ANC’s subcommittee on international relations, Obed Bapela, said it was time the US reviewed its sanctions against Mugabe because South Africa’s neighbour had been implementing political reforms to stem power abuses.

“We are still shocked that Zimbabwe would be treated the way it is. There is quite a lot of movement in terms of rule of law and human rights.

“At the time when sanctions were imposed, the [US] concerns were valid. But they should reconsider because even countries in the EU [the European Union] are reviewing their stance,” he said.

Sanctions were imposed against Mugabe in 2002 after he won a controversial presidential election amid a violent invasion of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe. The country initiated several reforms in 2009 and adopted a new constitution, but it was widely believed that there were too many irregularities in last year’s elections.

Bapela said the US bypassed the African Union (AU) by extending the invitation to its summit to individual countries “to include some [states] and exclude others”.

Mugabe is one of the most popular and senior leaders in the AU, with other heads of state and delegates loudly cheering him at gatherings of the continental body.

Zimbabwe is among the few countries in Africa not invited to the summit, which is due to take place next Wednesday in Washington DC.

Other countries not invited include the Central African Republic, which was suspended from the AU last year; Western Sahara, which South Africa is supporting in its bid for independence but which is not recognised as a state by the US; Sudan, whose president Omar al-Bashir is the subject of an international criminal arrest warrant; and Eritrea.

The White House says the summit will focus on trade and investment in Africa and will “highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development and its people”.

It is “about fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa”, it adds and will have a strong focus on the youth.

Economic cooperation, development, governance, human rights issues and aid to Africa are on the agenda.

A day will also be spent discussing the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is due for review and renewal in the US Congress next year.

The summit was announced by US President Barack Obama during his visit to South Africa last year.

It is the first of its kind organised by the US and follows similar summits organised by Japan, China and the EU.

According to a paper produced by the Congressional Research Service, the US Congress think-tank and the public policy research body of the US, some believe it might diminish the possible achievements of the summit if a formal declaration or communiqué is not issued afterwards. There are no plans to issue any such declaration.

It is expected that President Jacob Zuma will attend and will be accompanied by Cabinet members such as Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, as well as a business delegation.

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