The planned April 2-3 summit between the European Union and African nation-states has met with controversy and rejection. The republics of Zimbabwe and South Africa, two very important states in Southern Africa that won independence through formidable mass and armed struggles, have stated that their leaders will not attend the gathering in Belgium.
Controversy surfaced over the way in which the fourth EU-Africa Summit has been organized. Zimbabwe expressed objections after President Robert Mugabe was extended an invitation, but his spouse, Amai Grace Mugabe, a public figure who works on children’s rights and education, was denied a visa.
Zimbabwe said it would not attend and was deeply offended over how the EU was approaching the meeting. In response to a question from Zimbabwe Herald editor Herbert Zharare asking how the EU chose who would participate, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, the EU envoy to Zimbabwe, revealed that the Europeans intended not to invite the whole African Union but only individual states on the African continent.
Zharare pointed out, “On the list there are some countries like Egypt, where President Mohamed Morsi was deposed with the assistance of the military and the AU has made its position clear on that.” (Zimbabwe Herald, March 28)
Dell’Ariccia responded, “You have to consider that the EU-Africa Summit is the meeting between the European Union and African continent. I want to be very clear on that, it is not the AU-European Union meeting. Participation is not guided by the membership of the African Union.”
The EU envoy continued, “This event is the highest incidence of political dialogue between the European Union and Africa and the intention of the European Union is to make it possible to talk to all who are relevant to the subject of the event, investing in people, prosperity and peace, and be able to talk very frankly with them and to have progress in these partnerships between the European Union and this region. That is why Egypt has been invited, despite the fact that it has been suspended from the African Union.”
Thus, the EU intends to bypass the regional structures established by the AU and in fact to defy decisions made by the continental organization in regard to the seizure of political power outside an electoral framework; an elected government is a cardinal principle of the body. Egypt was suspended by the AU after a coup led by military leader Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
A delegation from the AU has visited Egypt in an effort to resolve the internal crisis.
South African president announces withdrawal
On March 31, President Jacob Zuma announced that he would not participate in the summit. South Africa maintains good relations with Zimbabwe and other states throughout that region of the subcontinent.
Zuma said, “I think the time must pass wherein we are looked [on] as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come…. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness. I thought the AU and EU [were] equal organizations representing two continents, but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others.” Although Zuma personally will not attend, the South African government will send representatives. (Business Day Live, March 31)
The EU says the Republic of Sudan has not been invited to the summit. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been targeted by the West for years. International Criminal Court prosecutors have issued warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest over alleged crimes against humanity involving Khartoum’s handling of the war against rebels in Darfur. The EU says that al-Bashir’s appearance in Brussels could prompt his arrest.
Eritrea in the Horn of Africa has also not been invited to the EU-Africa Summit because of alleged human rights violations. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic from the Western Sahara, which is still under occupation by the U.S.-backed monarchy in Morocco, has not been invited either due to Morocco’s objections.
It appears as if some African leaders will attend the summit. Reports indicate that the president of Zambia, Michael Sata, and others had arrived in Brussels. (postzambia.com, March 30)
Nonetheless, the AU Permanent Representatives Committee advised in late March that member-states should stay away from the meeting. Irrespective of how many African leaders will attend, the withdrawal of leading states and presidents will damage the credibility of the meeting.
The EU and the U.S. have been escalating their military and political interventions in the affairs of independent African states. Both Washington and Brussels have maintained sanctions against the governments of Zimbabwe and Sudan, despite continuing opposition from AU governing structures.
Both the EU and the U.S. are involved in training a military force in Libya three years after the Pentagon-NATO war of regime change in this North African state. Both EU naval forces and the Pentagon also maintain warships off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.