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Did Mugabe Perform Well, Below Expectations as African Union Chairperson?

FILE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe began his one-year term as chairman of the African Union at the start of the summit Friday.
FILE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe began his one-year term as chairman of the African Union at the start of the summit Friday.

Some Zimbabweans say as African Union chairperson, President Robert failed to contain various issues affecting Africa, including political and armed conflicts, hunger, poverty, disease and drought.

But others argue that Mr. Mugabe, who took over the ceremonial post last year, championed the empowerment of women, fought for the implementation of the African continent’s economic blue print, Agenda 2063, and as usual, was a thorn in the flesh on Western nations widely seen by most leaders on the continent as neo-colonialists seeking to overexploit African resources without empowering poverty-stricken people in various nations.

President Mugabe told the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly last year that the African Union supported most of the organization’s priorities, which were designed to empower billions of people in the world. Mr. Mugabe was happy that Sustainable Development Goals set by the U.N dovetailed into development initiatives of the AU, which was under his chairmanship.

“The African Union welcomes the priorities you have proposed for they are in tandem with our own developmental plan, the Agenda 2063, which recognizes the intrinsic and inextricable linkages between peace, security, development, and the full realization of human rights.

He went on to attack the West for failing to pave the way for Africans to have permanent seats in the critical U.N Security Council, dominated by developed nations.


Some people back home paid attention to the president’s calls while others believed that he was back to his old ways – attacking the West for any African problems.

One year after taking over as AU chairperson, some people strongly believe that President Mugabe’s leadership was a complete waste of time and resources.

Local resident, Wisdom Mgagara, says Mr. Mugabe was one of the most ineffective African Union chairperson as political and armed conflicts gripped the continent during his tenure of office.

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“I strongly believe that he is the worst chairman ever as he failed to deal with the crisis in Burundi where (President) Nkrurunzizah killed a lot of people. He failed to deal with the problems in the CAR (Central African Republic) and Lesotho, nothing has been solved.

“We also have our crisis that has led to the suffering of most Zimbabweans and nothing has been done. He has not been leading by example, instead he has taught other African leaders how to be cruel to their own people.


Mgagara adds that Zimbabwe suffered economically when Mr. Mugabe was the AU chairperson.

“We suffered by having him as chair of AU. Most of the time he was moving all over Africa spending a lot of money and straining the fiscus. We lost more than gaining anything.”

The president travelled to various nations as the chairperson of the AU and Zimbabwean leader with funds being derived from both the African Union and struggling southern African nation. His AU and national travel budgets have not yet been made public though indications are that he may have spent millions of dollars in allowances and related expenses.

Kudakwashe Tsiga, another Harare resident, believes that this worsened Zimbabwe’s economic problems as some of the funds spent on foreign trips should have been channeled towards reviving the economy or feeding hungry people currently facing a serious drought fueled by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

“It was a big strain on the economy. He was allocated $17 million in the (national) budget but by September he had spent $33 million. It was a big strain visa-vis the demand elsewhere in terms of bonuses for civil servants and their salaries and the impending drought, among other issues. The government failed to cope.”


Tsiga says President Mugabe let down millions of people in Africa as he did not play an active role in quelling political and armed conflicts.

“His role was more of a reactive role in terms of the crises that occurred on the continent. He was supposed to lead from the front but people did not see that. As a country there was no benefit for Zimbabwe.”

But Harare resident, Anna Kombora, says Mr. Mugabe has proved that he is a true African statesman.

“Mugabe left a mark on the continent. There was a lot of instability which I believe he managed to deal with e.g in Lesotho his diplomatic interventions made it possible for elections to be held. He also handled the South African crisis well which threatened to destabilize the region by leading the continent to engage with South Africa.”

Despite being impressed by the role of Mr. Mugabe during his tenure, Kombora agrees that Zimbabwe did not accrue a lot of benefits from chairing the African Union.

“To a less extent Zimbabwe benefitted especially (in issues like) the campaign against child marriages which the AU sought to expand last year. Zimbabwe has launched a lot of these campaigns and with the recent ConCourt judgment (banning early child marriages) on child marriages we can say Zimbabwe has done well.”


There are some Zimbabweans, who argue that it is unfair to judge the president’s capabilities based on his one-year stint at the helm of the African Union in which he was merely a ceremonial leader.

One of the backers of this school of thought is local resident, Tongai Kasukuwere.

“The president achieved his goal and that of the regional body as there was relative peace on the continent. The AU is not a voluntary body and despite what Mugabe could do you realize that membership and participation is at the discretion of the country. He is trying to intervene in Burundi but look at the challenges.”

Mr. Mugabe is set to hand over the AU chair to another African leader within the next few days.

His tenure has been characterised by unrest on the continent such as political conflicts in Burundi, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Swaziland and Lesotho. Terrorist attacks, which left hundreds of people dead in Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria and Somalia, also took place when he was leader of the African Union.