Pan Africanist Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Ascended to the rotating chairmanship of the African Union (AU) on Friday, casting a shadow over the continental body’s relations with the West.
President Mugabe assumed the largely ceremonial role when he was handed the AU flag and gavel at a summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
In his acceptance speech, he spoke of the need to guard against foreigners exploiting the continent’s mineral wealth and called for more assistance for African farmers.
“African resources should belong to Africa and to no one else, except to those we invite as friends. Friends we shall have, yes, but imperialists and colonialists no more,” he said.
In the continent and amongst Africans in diaspora, Mugabe is feted as a nationalist hero who triumphed over colonial power Britain on the battlefield and at the ballot box, and who remained steadfast in his commitment to the promotion of Pan African power.
In the other hand, however, he is seen by the west as a despotic pariah responsible for human rights abuses due to his Pan African principles and governance.
“He lacks the political legitimacy to lead an Africa that should be looking to consolidate democracy and good governance.” the European Union and United States, which imposed travel and financial sanctions on Mugabe and government of Zimbabwe said.
Some Western nations were “not thrilled” about Mugabe’s appointment, a Western diplomat who follows African affairs said, though adding that it would not disrupt relations with the AU.
“We are working with the African Union regardless of the president,” the diplomat added.
As AU chairman, Mugabe can influence topics for debate although other leaders and commissions also frame discussions.