British PM Cameron 'must meet Mugabe'
13 February 2014, 18:12
Cape Town - British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to boycott a major EU-Africa summit if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends is hypocritical, says a political analyst and author based in the UK.
In an opinion piece published in The Guardian, Blessing-Miles Tendi said Cameron should resist pressure from inside and outside government to stay away from the summit.
This comes amid reports that Cameron faced a dilemma over whether to attend the two-day summit scheduled for Brussels, Belgium, in April.
The summit is expected to focus on strategic priorities under the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown boycotted a similar EU-Africa meeting in Lisbon in 2007, because Mugabe was invited. Kate Hoey, a Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, has called on Cameron to emulate this example.
EU ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia recently confirmed that Mugabe had been invited to attend the summit along with other African leaders.
The invitation came despite the Zimbabwean leader being officially banned from visiting any EU member state. Mugabe is accused of presiding over serious human rights abuses in his country.
Tendi said it would be hypocritical for Cameron to boycott because of Mugabe’s presence, and yet say nothing about the participation of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is accused by the International Criminal Court of orchestrating post election violence in 2007-8 in which more than 1 000 people were killed.
Tendi said other likely attendees, such as Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, Equatorial Guinea leader Teodoro Obiang, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh and Swaziland’s King Mwati III were also expected to be present at the summit and yet they “are hardly paragons of human rights protection either”.
Controversial land reform
He said the more the UK unevenly interfered in the affairs of African states in the name of advancing human rights, the more it undermined the advance of the human rights doctrine in Africa.
Tendi also said the UK was disillusioned to think that the disappearance of Mugabe from Zimbabwe’s political scene would resolve the diplomatic conflict between the two countries. He said there was likely to be a continuity of Mugabe’s policies even after he leaves office.
“When Mugabe eventually leaves office, he will ensure that his successor is a politician from his Zanu-PF party, who will not reverse most of his policies. There will be more continuity than change, long after Mugabe has left power”, he wrote.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain deteriorated at the start of Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme that resulted in more than 4 000 white farmers being kicked off their farms.
But Tendi insisted: “Cameron must be pragmatic and attend the EU-Africa summit in April because it is an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its commitment, as part of the EU, to genuine partnership and co-operation with Africa”
He said engaging Mugabe was “the only way the UK can have constructive influence in Zimbabwe and bring to an end a detrimental diplomatic conflict which many politicians on both sides no longer have the stomach for”.
Blessing-Miles Tendi teaches African politics in the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development and is the author of Making History in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: Politics, Intellectuals and the Media