The Sunday Mail
Felex Share in Bamako, Mali
President Mugabe joined more than 30 African Heads of State and Government for the 27th France-Africa Summit which ended here yesterday with issues around peace and security taking centre stage.The high level summit — held at the Bamako International Conference Centre — witnessed exchanges, discussions and commitments on pertinent issues between the African and French leaders. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and France President Mr Francois Hollande co-chaired the two-day forum.
Summarising some of the resolutions that were set for adoption by the leaders later yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said: “Basically the document looks at two issues that is peace and security in the African region and partnership and development between Africa and France. “France has been active especially in this part of the world (West Africa), assisting in the security sector where there has been problems of rebels of various kinds.
“This is an area that is hot to Mali and neighbouring countries and a lot of time was devoted to discussing these issues.”
France has been deploying soldiers in Mali since 2013 to help the conflict-ridden nation push back an Islamist insurgency. This resulted in a peace deal between the Malian Government and Tuareg-led rebels in 2015.
President Mugabe, then African Union chairperson, oversaw the major peace deal, imploring the warring parties to adhere to the accord and “turn their swords into ploughshares”.
On economic development, Minister Mumbengegwi said: “France has already pledged 20 billion euros towards development assistance, some of which will assist French companies willing to invest in Africa.”
France claims to have delivered 11,5 billion euros of development assistance between 2014 and 2016 to Africa and plans to spend about 4 billion per annum for the next two years to reach the 20 billion euros mark pledged at the 2013 France-Africa Summit in Paris.
In Zimbabwe, a number of French companies are taking up vast investment opportunities in the Southern African country’s manufacturing sector.
Opening yesterday’s summit, President Keita called for commitment and concerted efforts from African countries to end challenges bedeviling them.
“Mali is not yet stable but you showed trust and Malian people will not forget their debt to you,” he said. “We are facing the threat of terrorism but if we join hands we will conquer and become fully developed.”
President Hollande echoed the same sentiments, saying “nothing is impossible when we are united and acting in solidarity to counter terrorism”.
“France is not there to exert influence or change political decisions made by African countries,” he said. “We are here for peace, working with African countries to build their defence capabilities. It is African countries that have to ensure they provide security for Africans. It is Africa that has to combat terrorism, we are just here to offer support. “
African Union chairperson, President Idriss Deby of Chad said the summit’s theme — “Partnership, Peace and Emergence” — addressed the concerns of African countries.
“This is a period of major turbulence in Africa,” he said. “The turbulence is two-fold, security and economic challenges which are affecting development programmes. We have no choice but to unite our forces.
“Africa is a place where peace and security are always threatened and it is us who have to re-double our efforts to counter this.”
He said the summit could not deliberate without pondering the issue of migration that sees thousands of African youths leaving their countries in quest of opportunities elsewhere, mainly Europe.