Sunday, March 30, 2014

Editorial Comment: Why Africa Must Disengage, Re-strategise
The Republic of Zimbabwe will not attend the EU-Africa Summit in Belgium during April 2014.
March 31, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwe’s decision to skip the EU-Africa summit needs to be analysed in its proper context. What exactly is the bigger picture behind Zimbabwe’s actions and what is the broader context of EU-Africa relations? It has always been an emotive issue and like all emotive issues one that requires 20-20 vision, for Zimbabwe did not just wake up and decide to boycott a seemingly important gathering.

To believe that this is a mere boycott because the First Lady was denied a visa is a failure to grasp issues bedevilling all post-colonial states.

It’s no secret that the Anglo-Saxon world treats Africa not as a group of sovereign states, but a homogeneous state or cluster of villages.

If Europe can be represented by its continental bloc, why should it dictate different terms for Africa? After all, the gains emanating from the summit will also be enjoyed by non-EU members and non-AU member states.

The EU wants to be the piper who calls the tune and tells Africa how to dance to it and Africa seems comfortable with that; dancing along without reflection.

Now more than ever we must rethink the bilateral and multilateral relations between AU member states and other countries and various international bodies.

This is something that should occupy the minds and attentions of the entire AU.

It means revisiting the agreements the AU and its member states have with international organisations such as the Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and more.

Do their terms of reference dovetail with Africa’s aspirations? Why is it that in most —if not all — of them, Africa is treated without respect and is dictated to?

Where is Africa’s voice in the matrix?

It’s time Africa stopped pretending that it is business as usual when there is unequal treatment and when divide and rule tactics are imposed on the continent.

Denying First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe a visa was used as a cheap catalyst to see how Zimbabwe and Africa would react.

And Europe knew that Africa was easy to divide, as the continent and its docile media rushed to focus on the First Lady as a person while totally ignoring the card that was being played, as well as the very important issues of Eritrea and more so the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Maybe we should ask former United States president Bill Clinton who in 1993 defended Hillary Clinton’s involvement in governance issues saying the American people were “getting two for the price of one”.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba succinctly related to those values when he said, “It is very strange that the EU has not extended an invitation to the First Lady.

“What God has put together, the EU is trying to separate. Do they expect the President to respect the EU and disrespect his own marriage?”

Maybe Europe also needs to be reminded that 100 years ago, the Sarajevo incident of June 1914 directly resulted in the outbreak of World War I after an Austrian archduke and his wife were assassinated.

The ill-fated summit does not provide for a “win-win” situation because it is on the EU’s terms in every sense of it.

The way forward is to treat each other as equal partners, with respect and honour. This is the 21st century, where Africa’s growth cannot be ignored nor blocked by these divide and rule tactics.

And if Africa starts to appreciate that it is not treated as an equal partner, then it should disengage and only re-engage when the rules of engagement are premised on mutual respect.

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