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CSOs Concerned by President Mugabe's Possible Election as AU Chair

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters at the elective congress in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec. 4, 2014.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters at the elective congress in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec. 4, 2014.

A network of Civil Society Organizations working on and in Africa has expressed concern that Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, may be elected chairperson of the pan African body at the end of this week’s 24th African Union Summit.

Speaking at a press conference called late Monday following deliberations on the state of the African Union and emerging challenges and opportunities on the African continent in 2015,

Yves Niyiragira of The AU We Want Coalition said the office of the chairperson of the AU is a position that embodies the ideals and principles espoused by the AU, which they CSOs say Mr. Mugabe does not currently respect.

“We are concerned by the trend of electing presidents who do not espouse the core values of respect for human rights, promotion of democratic institutions and good governance, nor demonstrate their commitment to these principles,” he said.

“An indication of possible election of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a major concern,” he continued, adding members of the AU We Want Coalition, were calling on the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government to elect a President who embodies the principles of good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law as articulated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

President Mugabe, who’s also the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson, is expected to assume the chairmanship of the AU at the end of this week.

Niyiragira said at present 14 Heads of State on the continent have been in power cumulatively for 323 years, adding this was a major cause for concern.

He said the coalition is also concerned by the tinkering of national constitutions by leaders to increase their or tamper with their time limits, citing the examples of Benin, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Sierra Leone.

“The emerging contestation between legality and legitimacy where leaders use legitimate institutions and processes to arrive at illegitimate ends… is a threat to peace and stability to the continent,” said Niyiragira.

The coalition met on the margins of this year’s summit and deliberated on trouble spots on the continent, the Ebola crisis, elections and related issues. It aims to strengthen and support existing Pan African institutions and monitor the implementation of AU mechanisms, among other things.