Mugabe faces AU snub

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe comes up against a potentially embarrassing snub at the African Union summit (AU) this week as he bids to carry his slain friend Muammar Gaddafi’s dream for a single Africa President.

With an eye on the crown, Mugabe heads to the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with the creation of a supranational union in Africa as his main agenda.

Turning 89 next month, Mugabe hopes to secure a firm decision from the summit to create the post of Africa president.

Mugabe's plan to use the forthcoming heads of State summit to push Gaddafi's pet “United States of Africa” project is likely to run into a brick wall, analysts warn.

The plan, sounded out last week to visiting Benin president, Thomas Boni Yayi, who is the outgoing AU chairperson, contends a politically united Africa is the only way to stop Western countries interfering in the internal affairs of the world's poorest continent.

"Get them to get out of the regional shell and get into one continental shell," Mugabe told his Benin counterpart last week.

"The continent of Africa: this is what we must become. And there, we must also have an African head. Yes, we need one. We are not yet there.

"This is what we must go and discuss, but we must also discuss the issues that divide us."

Quoting founding Ghanaian leader Nkwame Nkrumah, Mugabe said the founding fathers envisaged a continent united politically, economically and culturally.

"We are not there yet. As we stand here people will look at us, as me Anglophone, him Francophone, you see," he said referring to Yayi.

"There is also lusophone, but we are Africans first and foremost. Africans, Africans. Look at our skin. That's our continent, we belong to one continent. We may, by virtue of history, have been divided by certain boundaries and especially by colonialism. But our founding fathers in 1963 showed us the way and we must take up that teaching that we got in 1963. That we are one and we must be united."

Gaddafi, the deposed tragi-comic Libyan leader who was beaten to death on 20 October 2011 after his capture by the National Transitional Council fighters during the Battle of Sirte, used his position as one of the AU's biggest funders to get the issue on the AU discussion table.

Now posthumously purveyed by Mugabe, analysts say it is likely to fail garnering support at the Addis summit even though the Zimbabwean leader seems hell-bent to push the dead man's wish.

Other members of the 54-nation AU, led by South Africa, argue the plan is impractical and would infringe on the sovereignty of other states.

Mugabe, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, claims Africa needs a figurehead to represent the continent on the global stage, but observers say he is eyeing that position himself.

Phillip Pasirayi, a civil rights activist and analyst, said the countries that make up the AU have different domestic and foreign policies which all need harmonisation before Mugabe can talk of a single President for Africa.

“Mugabe's proposal of a single Africa President is mere political posturing from a man who is so desperate to win friends across the continent and project himself as a Pan-Africanist in the mould of Kwame Nkrumah who believed in the United States of Africa,” Pasirayi said.

“The idea of a single President, single currency and single government in Africa is a pipe dream. How possible is continental integration when the same has failed at regional level. There are deep seated differences among state parties to the AU and its constituent regional groupings.”

World attention will be focused on the Ethiopian capital, as African leaders open a three-day 20th AU heads of state summit on Friday.

Mugabe's push for a "supranational union", whose closest realisation is probably the European Union, envisages the creation of a common market or an economic union coupled with political superstructures such as continental institutions, Parliament, government and administration, hence the call for President of Africa.

In the system, member states renounce national sovereignty for the federal state.

Critics say historical allegiances, high economic distress and huge economic disparities in member states and lack of consensus, stand in the way of Mugabe's grand plan.

“I think these are just geriatric hallucinations,” said analyst Charles Mangongera.

“Mugabe seems to have taken over from Gaddafi in making unrealistic proposals that are not a priority for the continent.

“Having one president for the continent will not fundamentally change Africa's fortunes. What is needed is generational change from egoistic leaders like Mugabe to innovative and people-centred leadership,” added Mangongera, who is aligned to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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