I wonder how many people in Europe are aware of the meeting between leaders of the European Union (Eu) and the African Union (Aa), being held in Brussels this week?
Important controversial issues could have been raised. They needed to be heard, but Robert Mugabe sabotaged that.
He refused to attend and demanded that the Au as a whole should boycott the meeting because his wife was refused a visa to come. He and she are both still under «personal sanctions» from the Eu because of the human rights record of his administration, so there is no reason why she should be allowed to attend, unless, as seems very likely, he cannot go far without constant medical care and she is his chief nurse. But if he is that feeble, surely he should be allowed to stand down from all his political responsibilities? Instead he preferred to turn a private issue into an international, indeed intercontinental, incident.
This only distracted attention from some real issues.
The Eu, as hosts, chose not to invite all Africa's presidents. Omar Bashir of Sudan was not on the list, probably justifiably, since the International Criminal Court has an indictment against him for crimes against humanity, and neither was Isayas Afeworki, the President of Eritrea, where liberators seem to be abusing their power. But Morocco and Egypt were invited. Morocco left the African union because Africa did not support its occupation of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony which chose independence rather than joining Morocco when Spain withdrew. No leader of Western Sahara was invited. Egypt is rapidly deteriorating into a bloodstained military dictatorship and therefore its Au membership is suspended.
If Africa’s leaders had refused to attend until Western Sahara’s representatives were allowed to join them, accepted Morocco only on condition that the issue of Western Sahara was discussed in the meeting, and refused to sit down with representatives of the Egyptian military, they would have been on the moral high ground. Instead they faced the possibility that, the media being what they are, any African boycott would look like support for the petulant old Mugabe. Their tolerance of his antics doesn’t stretch that far.