Mugabe to be AU chairperson, but there are questions

2015-01-28 12:38

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s election as African Union chairperson is inevitable, but the continental body will have to think about how the 90-year-old president would represent the continent on the international stage.

African Union Commission deputy chairperson Erastus Mwencha told journalists at a briefing on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa today that Mugabe was proposed by his region and leadership of the AU rotated, and this was democratic.

But Solomon Dersso from the Institute for Security Studies said Mugabe’s chairpersonship could be a problem when it came to him representing Africa in international forums.

Mugabe until recently faced a complete travel ban from the European Union, and he’s also not welcome in the United States.

Dersso said right now it looked “like there is no way the election [of Mugabe] would be challenged”.

“Irrespective of opinions of what we may have heard of what happened in Zimbabwe, one thing that can’t be avoided is the recognition that he has an electoral credential,” he said.

However, he said, the question was whether Mugabe was the right person to represent the continent.

“It will definitely create problems for the representation of Africa. How do you imagine President Mugabe representing Africa in the G20, the G8, the European Union? These are questions Africa will struggle with,” he said.

“But it looks like there is no way the election would be challenged.”

He said Zimbabwe itself could try to use the opportunity to push for reforms within the country.

Mugabe, who is currently the first vice-chairperson of the African Union Bureau, is in line to take over the chairpersonship from Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz when the African Union assembly sits on Friday and Saturday.

Mugabe emerged victorious from his country’s 2013 elections, although questions were asked by opposition parties and observers about apparent irregularities leading up to the elections.

This wouldn’t be the first time a controversial AU chairperson is appointed. In 2011 president Teodoro Obiang Nguema from Equatorial Guinea was criticised during his chairpersonship by human rights activists.

Five years ago Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who also contributed large amounts of funding to the AU, unsuccessfully tried to extend his tenure by an additional year. He wanted more time to implement his vision for a United States of Africa.

In 2007 Ghanaian president John Kufuor was elected over Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir due to the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki served as the inaugural chairperson of the union in 2002.

The post rotates among east, north, southern, central and west Africa and the chairperson chairs bi-annual AU summits and represents the continent in international gatherings and summits.

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