The Sunday Mail
Deputy News Editor
On the day he took office as Africa’s number one, his focus was firmly on development and poverty eradication.
In his acceptance speech, he said: “During my tenure as Chair, I will deliberately provoke your thoughts to pay special attention to issues of infrastructure, value addition, agriculture and climate change.”
On that very day, the Egyptian wing of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that killed at least 27 security personnel in North Sinai province.
Such militants were not only wrecking havoc in North Africa, but were unleashing terror in the western and eastern parts of the continent too.
That same afternoon, the World Health Organisation announced 8 810 Africans, mainly from West Africa had died from Ebola in just 13 months.
And at dusk, a Unicef report highlighted that 630 000 people had been affected by rising waters in Malawi, which had displaced 174 000, caused 79 deaths and left 153 people missing.
These challenges were just the tip of the iceberg. Realities of xenophobia were to manifest in South Africa; while Renamo became more unpredictable in Mozambique and Ugandan rebels upped a bid to destabilise eastern DRC.
Armed confrontations became the order of the day in Burundi and Mali, while food insecurity reduced people in the Horn of Africa to skeletons.
The challenges in Africa were and are real. And so the continent welcomed President Mugabe into office on January 30, 2015 as Chair of the AU under such daunting circumstances.
Sceptics said Zimbabwe’s President – who was also Sadc Chair – would fall short. The humble pie is quietly being devoured.
This week, President Mugabe hands over the Chairmanship of the 54-nation AU to Chad’s President Idriss Déby
He undoubtedly will do so with pride and chin up.
The man, who steered the AU that observed about 17 elections on the continent, has done his part. His tenure will be remembered and he will surely continue to be consulted as he always has been.
President Mugabe led the continent in pushing for a lasting solution to political instability and terrorism that have given Africa sleepless nights.
According to some statistics, at least 21 of Africa’s 54 countries are involved in war or are experiencing post-war conflicts.
In West Africa, these include Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo; while Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda make the list in East Africa.
To help the continent overcome conflicts, last year, security chiefs from Africa met in Zimbabwe to finalise modalities on establishing the African Standby Force.
In a speech read on her behalf by AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Mr Smail Chergui, AU Commission Chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said: “additional civilians had been recruited on a short term basis within the African Union peace support operation division to proffer (support in) key areas such as combat and discipline, mission support, human resource planning and human rights protection”.
Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi said “despite financial problems, preparations were already underway to launch trial military action ahead of full deployments in conflict areas”.
More than 100 000 uniformed peacekeepers were deployed in Africa in 2015, twice as many as a decade before.
Peacekeepers have been deployed to Somalia, the western Sudanese region of Darfur, South Sudan, and Mali where civil wars and rebellions have claimed civilian lives and threatened to destabilize surrounding regions.
During his tenure, President Mugabe once again came face to face with the long history of political instability in Lesotho, which had to conduct elections two years earlier than scheduled in a bid to diffuse tensions.
The elections were conducted in a peaceful manner under the observation of the AU, Sadc and other international bodies which endorsed Mr Pakalitha Mosisili’s takeover as Prime Minister.
There were other successful elections in Zambia, Benin, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Central African Republic.
Under President Mugabe’s Chairmanship, the AU was recognised by the UN General Assembly for its Agenda 2063 and Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which were described as comprehensive blueprints for Africa’s advancement
The AU’s ambitious 50-year Agenda 2063, together with its first 10-year implementation plan, the Addis Ababa funding scheme, and the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is a holistic and coherent framework for advancing and following up on Africa’s development.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who worked closely with President Mugabe during his tenure at the helm of the AU, says several landmark decisions have been taken over the past year.
“Our President has always talked about issues surrounding control, beneficiation and value addition of our natural resources. In a word, this is industrialisation. He has been very strong on that,” he says.
“He has inspired the entire continent to accept what used to be almost a lone voice when it was him alone (talking about these issues). Now, Africa and all its leaders talk of resource control, industrialisation, value addition, beneficiation.
“President Mugabe has gone further to make an indelible imprint on Africa’s development agenda by inspiring and steering adoption of the AU’s development blueprint – Agenda 2063.”
For the next 50 years, Africa’s industrialisation and development will be guided by the important document, which was inspired and piloted through by the President.
In addition, President Mugabe, led the AU in adopting a resolution committing member states to financing 100 percent of the bloc’s operational budget.
DRC’s chief envoy to Zimbabwe and Dean of African Diplomats here, Ambassador Mawampanga Mwana Nanga says President Mugabe has been on top of his game.
He attributed the relative stability across the continent to President Mugabe’s leadership skills and artful diplomacy.
“You heard when we met the Chinese President (Mr Xi Jinping) in SA, he promised over US$60 billion worth of financial aid to help Africa build its infrastructure,” he said. We also have the Japanese coming on board as well as the Indians are coming on board.
“The Chinese have also helped build a huge bank for infrastructure. Now even our old colonial enemies are coming in board. They all know that Africa is the last frontier.
“If you look at the economy of the world most regions are growing at less that 2-3 percent while Africa is growing at above 5 percent, so everybody knows what the future holds for Africa as a continent.”
As African leaders converge for the next AU Summit in Addis Ababa this week, it is undisputed that they will reflect on the successes the continent has registered in the past year under President Mugabe’s guidance.