The Sunday Mail
Mabasa Sasa Editor
President Mugabe is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 28th Ordinary Summit of the African Union, a key annual meeting that will this year be seized with — among other pressing matters — appointment of a new AU Commission Chairperson and the possible readmission of Morocco into the continental bloc.
Meanwhile, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the Acting President.
Zimbabwe’s Head of State and Government is heading a delegation of senior State officials for the January 30-31 Summit themed “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in the youth”.
Despite the theme’s focus on investing in the potential of Africa’s youth, President Mugabe and his fellow leaders will have to wrestle with weighty peace and security matters, as well as finally agree on who should replace South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as AUC Chair after four years at the helm. African leaders six months ago failed to elect a successor, and now five candidates will battle it out again to earn the support of Heads of State and Government to steer through the infant stages of the AU’s ambitious development plan, Agenda 2063.
Botswana Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, the Sadc candidate, will battle it out with Dr Moussa Faki Mahamat (Chad), Agapito Mba Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea), Dr Amina Mohammed (Kenya), and Dr Abdoulaye Bathily (Senegal).
Dr Venson-Moitoi and Mokuy were part of the July 2016 initial vote that saw none of the candidates getting the required two-thirds support of the AU leadership to assume the mantle at the Commission.
The Summit will also elect a new deputy chair and eight commissioners responsible for peace and security; political affairs; trade and industry; infrastructure and energy; social affairs; rural economy and agriculture; human resources, science and technology; and economic affairs.
Another key issue is Morocco’s return to the fold nearly 33 years after quitting the then OAU in a huff after continental leaders accepted the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, or Western Sahara, as a member.
Western Sahara is Africa’s last remaining colony — under the occupation of Morocco.
President Mugabe has been a strong supporter of Western Sahara’s independence under the leadership of the Polisario Front. In this, Zimbabwe’s position is supported by Algeria and South Africa.
However, observers expect Morocco to be readmitted even though it has made it clear that it will not renounce its claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975.
“The question now is whether Morocco’s reintegration means Western Sahara will now be excluded.
‘‘This is where there are very clear divisions in the AU,” Senegal-based political analyst Gilles Yabi told international media ahead of the Summit.
In early January, Morocco’s Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said “40 countries are supporting Morocco’s return to the AU”.
King Mohammed VI left for the AU Summit Friday to spearhead his country’s bid.
The issue of continued membership of the International Criminal Court by AU states is likely to arise once more.
The bloc is largely of the view that the ICC has been used as a tool to persecute those African leaders the West wants to remove from office.
Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia last year pulled out of the ICC over this matter, while Kenya has threatened to follow suit.
Zimbabwe has never ratified the Rome Statute creating the court, along with other countries like the United States who recognise that the ICC in its present form is a threat to sovereignty.
On the peace and security front, African leaders are likely to grapple with the situation in the DRC, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.