ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA —
The 24th African Union Summit ended here Saturday with President Robert Mugabe saying he’s not concerned with the West’s opinion over his election to chair the Pan African body.
Addressing journalists together with the AU chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the end of the summit, Mr. Mugabe rejected concerns that his election could cause friction with the West.
“I don’t know that the West will say or do. What the West will say or do, that’s not my business," said Mr. Mugabe.
"My business is to ensure that the decisions the that we have arrived at here are implemented and they are all decisions which have to do with the development of Africa and that is my concern, concentrating on uplifting the lives of our people, giving them something that will raise their standards of living.”
He said he will, during his tenure, work to ensure the continent uses its resources to uplift the lives of the people.
“As for the West, well it’s up to them do what they choose to do, after all for more than 10 years, our country has been under sanctions,” said Mr. Mugabe.
“If they want them to continue then that’s up to them but we say that sanctions are wrong because they are not based on any valid grounds at all but the West seems now to be coming forth.”
The Zimbabwean leader has over the past decade been criticized by Western governments and rights groups for suppressing political opponents and allegedly rigging elections, among other issues.
He dismisses the vilification saying the West is punishing him for his land reforms that displaced thousands of former white commercial farmers.
The Zimbabwean president and members of his inner circle are under Western sanctions that include a travel ban and an arms embargo.
The European Union has started removing some of the so-called targeted measures but those imposed by the United States for allegedly undermining democratic processes in Zimbabwe remain in place.
Mr. Mugabe was asked to explain his views earlier in the week in an interview with the VOA, suggesting that it was not possible for women to be equal to men.
“Parity with women, that is what we have been working for. Equal work for equal wages," he said. "But total parity — because we are different biologically, there are certain things men can do that women may not be able to do. You can’t suck babies can you, can your bear them in your tummies, even the gay ones cannot.”
This year's summit theme was: "The Year of Women's Empowerment Towards Agenda 2063."
While Mr. Mugabe’s election preoccupied much of the meeting, AU leaders also addressed key security issues, in particular what they are describing as the terrorism menace as presented by the growing Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa and Al Shabab in the east of the continent.
The AU Peace and Security Council agreed to seek a new multinational African force of 7,500 troops to stop the Islamist group, based in Nigeria, from spreading across the region.
Smail Chergui, AU commissioner for peace and security, said Saturday that the first meetings on the formation of the force would take place in Cameroon in the coming days, followed by consultations at the United Nations to seek endorsement and funding for the mission.
Another pressing security challenge, the conflict in South Sudan, has been put aside as the security commission decided to postpone consideration of an AU inquiry report on that country.
The report allegedly names and shames those responsible for committing war crimes in the country during more than a year of fighting. Human rights groups have called for the AU to make the inquiry public.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has organized a separate summit in the Ethiopian capital to get South Sudan’s warring parties to sign a power-sharing agreement.
The summit adopted the continent’s development blueprint for the next 50 years, Agenda 2063, which chairperson Dlamini-Zuma said should take Africa to the next level.
She said the plan will only succeed if all 54 African countries that make up the AU domesticate it to suit their developmental needs.
“It’s a good idea to have a long term plan and now that we have adopted one, it also means that we have to make sure that the three levels at which we operate - the continental, the region and the national - we are able to separate what is done where and at which level – that is the work that’s going to be done between now and the next summit,” said the AU chief.
"Our generations of Africans, young and old, men and women, face the challenge to fulfill the mission we set ourselves."
"I dare say, we are the generations that will eradicate poverty, disease and hunger, as we set out to do in our Common African Position on post-2015 development. We are the generation that shall manage diversity and silence the guns," she continued.
Agenda 2063 is therefore a call to action – to governments, civil society, academics and private sector; continental and regional bodies, the Diaspora, Africans of all ages, men and women alike, the AU chair said.
"Our aspirations and the concrete programmes in Agenda 2063 are very clear: to diversify our economies and industrialise; to have a skills and entrepreneurial revolution, unleashing the creativity and energy of our young people, and to effect an agricultural and agro-processing transformation, so we can feed ourselves and contribute to feeding the world."
The next AU summit will be held in South Africa at the end of June.