For the first time since the beginning of the 1980s, back when the African Union (AU) was still the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the 30th African Union Heads of State and Government Summit is to kick off in Addis Ababa on Sunday in the absence of an animated figure and outspoken “comrade” Robert Gabriel Mugabe with three new faces expected to grace the summit in his place.
Mugabe, who had donated a million dollars to the AU in a move to push the African countries finance the continental body and to untangle it from foreign influence, said that he brought the money from the proceeds of the sale of 300 cattle in Zimbabwe.
“When I returned to Zimbabwe and informed my party and people of this pledge, they said to me, ‘Ah… Comrade Mugabe, Comrade President, this is a very innovative idea for a very noble cause and we would like to be part of it’,” Mugabe narrated at the time.
Although self-reliance is one of agenda topics for the AU Heads of States and Government Summit in Addis Ababa from January 28 to 30, 2018, Mugabe is not among the dignitaries, for the first time since the 1980s and certainly consecutively since the formation of the AU. He is said to be remembered for not being afraid in criticizing the West including US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Mugabe is also credited for floating bold and important agenda topics for discussions in summit.
Self-financing of the AU was what Mugabe has been campaigning for during his time as the chair of the AU from 2015 to 2016.
But, in an unexpected intervention from the military in the power transition in Zimbabwe, Mugabe was forced to step down after 37 years of tenure, bringing his deputy, Emersom Mnangagwa to the helm.
Mnangagwa, who is said to be more revolutionary than his predecessor, is now the new face of Zimbabwe and he is expected to grace the AU 30th heads of state meeting the starts tomorrow.
The last independence fighter among the gathering gone, the vibe in the summit is left for the attendees to judge.
Another new addition to the Summit this January is going to be the former football star and the only African to win the Ballon d’Or and the erstwhile FIFA World Player of the Year awards – the new president of Liberia – George Weah.
Weah succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia, in a two rounds of election. For her support for the football star and little backing she gave to her party’s candidate in the election, Joseph Boakai, Sirleaf is said to have been suspended from her party.
But, what the sportsman turned head of state will contribute to the continental body is to be seen soon.
Another new blood in the gathering will be João Lourenço, former defense minister turned Angola’s third president, secured 64.5 percent of the vote for the presidency. Although The Reporter could not confirm whether Lourenco will be in attendance of the heads of states summit until press time, the AU Commission chairperson told him at his inaugural ceremony that the chair looks forward to welcoming the new president at the AU’s Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
However, commentators say, it is ironic that only three new heads of state are joining the Summit this January in spite of the more than five elections the continent saw this year.