ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe’s supporters are already in overdrive celebrating the soon to be 92-year-old leader’s perceived successes as the chairperson of the African Union (AU) for the past 12 months.
Mugabe’s term ended yesterday after an underwhelming tenure that was blighted by his failure to provide leadership when the crisis in Burundi started flaring.
The AU secretariat was principled in its stand against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, but Mugabe spoke with a forked tongue on the matter, leading to inaction by the continental body at a time innocent civilians were being butchered.
Mugabe even shamelessly defended the growing tendency by African leaders to manipulate their countries’ constitutions so that they could rule beyond the permitted two terms, in a cruel reversal of gains made by the continent over the years on the democracy front.
As if that was not enough, the Zimbabwean leader shielded Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir who was issued with a warrant of arrest during an AU summit in South Africa last July.
The Sudanese leader had an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant of arrest hanging on his head for alleged crimes against humanity in the Darfur region when he was protected by the AU.
Mugabe refused to stand with the victims of dictatorship in Sudan and Burundi as he consorted with power-hungry leaders from those countries.
He even went to the extent of trying to lobby African countries to ditch the ICC, claiming that the Hague-based court was biased against weaker nations.
Zimbabwe is not even a member of the ICC and Mugabe’s obsession with the court does not make sense at all.
As the ceremonial head of the AU, Mugabe was only visible at inauguration ceremonies for newly-elected African leaders from Mozambique to Nigeria.
The irony that he was witnessing peaceful transfer of power in all these countries seemed to escape the Zimbabwean ruler,who has been in power since 1980, and has been stubbornly refusing to embrace true democracy.
However, his overworked spin doctors are not deterred by the evident failure as they try to whitewash the disastrous record that Mugabe carved for himself as the least effective AU chairperson in history.
People’s Democratic Party secretary Gorden Moyo was spot on when he called Mugabe’s bluff after the veteran ruler waxed lyrical about the AU’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
Mugabe had told journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that Nepad had been a major success in steering the continent’s development, yet history shows that he stridently opposed the establishment of the same initiative.
If it wasn’t for the non-compromising former South African president Thabo Mbeki and his Senegalese counterpart Abdoulaye Wade, Nepad would have suffered a stillbirth.
Moyo rightly pointed out that Zimbabwe is also yet to accede to the Nepad Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance of 2002, which established the African Peer Review Mechanism.
Such double standards show why Mugabe’s tenure at the AU was doomed from the start.
His track record in wrecking Zimbabwe’s once vibrant economy was evidence enough that the 12 months he spent as the head of the AU would just go down the drain.
The praise-singers would sing for their super, as expected, but this would not mask the unmitigated disaster that was Mugabe’s flirtation with leadership at continental level.
Africa’s development and democracy trajectory is being undone by the continued election of leaders with redundant ideas such as the stale notion that they are ordained to rule their countries until death.
The Africa rising narrative would remain a mirage as long as the continent continues to entrust its future on yesteryear men like Robert Mugabe.