Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has pleaded with the African Union to forcefully campaign for the lifting of Western sanctions against him and his allies, saying the measures should be removed before Harare holds its next elections.
Mugabe challenged the AU at a summit that ended Monday in Ethiopia, to emulate the regional Southern African Development Community, SADC, by actively pushing for the lifting of all travel and financial restrictions without conditions.
“May we get a word from this meeting that these sanctions are unjustified, these sanctions continue to impact on our people, these sanctions must go,” the 88-year-old politician challenged the continental bloc late Monday.
Mr. Mugabe’s statement came as the African Union inaugurated its new chairman, President Boni Yayi of Benin, West Africa, who took over from Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Basango.
South Africa's Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also took the oath of office as new AU Commission chairperson, making history of being the first ever woman to occupy the position.
Political commentator Effie Dlela Ncube of the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda told VOA the Zimbabwe question is now likely to dominate the AU with the influence of Dlamini-Zuma.
The AU has previously demanded the lifting of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union several years ago against Mugabe and his inner circle over human rights violations - without success.
But given it's full schedule of more serious challenges, including political crises and security issues in several countries, the continental body has had little, if any time at all, to focus on Zimbabwe, living the task to SADC.