Zimbabweans following the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on the weekend took notice that the leaders issued no statement on Zimbabwe despite intense lobbying from President Robert Mugabe for the AU to endorse his push for new elections this year.
In the summit’s main business, elections for a new AU Commission chairman Monday ended in a deadlock between incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon, seeking a new term, and his main challenger, Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma of South Africa.
Deputy Commission Chairman Erastus Mwencha of Kenya will hold the chair until new elections are held at an African Union summit in June.
During the run-up to the AU summit, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appeared to back opposing candidates for the chairmanship.
Gabon sent a top official to Harare to lobby for Ping, but ZANU-PF took exception when Ping visited Mr. Tsvangirai as well as Acting President John Nkomo, accusing Gabon of supporting Mr. Tsvangirai's former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Executive director Thabani Nyoni of the Bulawayo Agenda and also a spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, in Ethiopia to pressure for reforms before new elections in Zimbabwe, said that although the AU did not issue a statement on Zimbabwe, it received a presentation from South African President Jacob Zuma on the situation.
Civic groups said SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao is planning a fact-finding mission to Harare for talks with stakeholders and an independent assessment of the political situation in the Zimbabwe before taking a stand on the issue of elections.
Global Post Africa Editor Andrew Meldrum said it is interesting that the continental leaders, like Zimbabwe's, could not agree on a new commission chair.
Meldrum said the AU’s silence on the Zimbabwe elections was significant.
“It’s not a make or break issue for Mugabe or for the 2012 elections which he wants to have very much and without the reforms that have been called for, but it shows that he is pushing himself further out on a limb with less support from the African Union and also I think you will see less support from SADC," Meldrum said.
Commentator Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Chris Gande that ZANU-PF is unhappy the Zimbabwe issue was ignored despite Mr. Mugabe’s lobbying for the question to be brought up on the to sidelines of the AU summit.