THE huffing and puffing about President Robert Mugabe’s presence at the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, this weekend provides a litmus test for African leaders on their resolve to present a united front.
Zimbabwe, a sovereign African country and member of the African Union as well as the Southern African Development Community has the right to be represented by whosoever they choose at this summit.
More so, Mugabe as the constitutional Head of State of that country, duly recognised by the United Nations and the African Union, cannot be barred from an African summit.
Hence, it defies logic that Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial master, would choose the path of isolating Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, but happily retain diplomatic relations with its former colony. This is a contradiction.
If it is wrong or inappropriate for Gordon Brown to merely sit on a chair at a summit attended by Mugabe, it is even worse for his High Commissioner in Harare to breathe the air that Mugabe breathes, unless Brown wants his man to die from a Mugabe bug.
The Lisbon summit is not the only meeting that Mugabe as leader of his country would have to attend. In September this year, Mugabe attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It was his prerogative and that of his country to be in New York.
No nation, however, powerful and influential has the authority to decide on behalf of Zimbabwe about its representation at a particular meeting.
Brown is free to boycott the Lisbon summit. It is his right and that of his country to stay away from Lisbon if he so chooses but he has no right to bar Mugabe from attending this summit.
The British leader’s stance is a hoax and a calculated strategy to pressure other European countries, particularly the host country, Portugal, to refuse Mugabe passage to the summit.
The Lisbon summit is much bigger than Mugabe’s attendance or Brown’s for that matter. The summit is between two continents, Europe and Africa and should never be trivialised. Zimbabwe is only one country among 53 African countries that are attending this summit while 27 European countries would attend.
It makes no sense at all that the participation of one leader of a country would be elevated beyond issues that affect more than 50 countries in Africa and 20 in Europe. Brown’s problems with Mugabe should never be used to hold Africa hostage because Mugabe is not Africa. Africa and Europe have important economic and political issues to talk about – the agenda has already been set and that agenda is not Zimbabwe.
African leaders have made it clear, especially Southern African Development Community leaders, that this summit belongs to Africa and Europe and that Mugabe, as leader of Zimbabwe, is eligible to attend the summit.
The days of master-servant relationships between Europe and Africa are long gone. Africa is free forever. It can no longer live under the dictums of others.