Zim crisis not on African Union agenda

african_unionThe ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe failed to make it on to the agenda of the Africa Union (AU) summit this week, despite the political stalemate that has left the country in limbo.

AU leaders gathered in Uganda this week for the bodys 15th ordinary session summit, which was opened by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday. The worsening crisis in Somalia topped the agenda of the three day meeting which ended Tuesday, overshadowing the summits official theme of maternal health. Other conflicts, such as in Sudans Darfur region and in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also dominated the summit. But the agenda did not include any discussion on Zimbabwe and critics say it is disheartening that Zimbabwes long-running and festering crisis had slid off the agenda.

Diplomats have reported that the assembled leaders are under more pressure to act on the crisis in Somalia than on the situation in Zimbabwe, now that Somalias violence has exploded beyond the countrys borders. Earlier this month the countries al-Shabaab militants launched their first attacks outside the country. The rebels suicide attacks on two bars in Uganda killed 76 people watching the football World Cup final.

Civil society activists, under the umbrella of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, also gathered in Uganda to lobby the AU to take action in Zimbabwe. Dewa Mavhinga, the groups regional coordinator in South Africa, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that although they werent expecting Zimbabwe to be high on the AU agenda, they were still disappointed by the lack of action by the AU.

The AU does have the authority to stand against dictatorships, but the question that remains is whether the AU has the political will to do so, Mavhinga said. This is yet to be demonstrated.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has been urging the AU to pressure the Zimbabwean government to implement major electoral reforms, ahead of national elections that many believe will be called next year. Activists warned the AU that there could be a repeat of the kind of deadly violence seen in the 2008 elections. The Coalition lobbied the AU secretariat last week urging them to help start preparing the ground work for Zimbabwes elections, to make sure they are free and fair.

Mavhinga told SW Radio Africa that the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalitions campaign in Uganda has also been to dispel the myth that the unity government has brought change to Zimbabwe. He explained that there was a widespread false perception that the challenges had been resolved as a result of the government of a national unity.

But a clear picture is now emerging that there has been no real change, and that there is lot more than needs to be done in terms of key reforms before Zimbabwe is ready for elections that are democratic, free and fair, Mavhinga said.

The AU, together with the Southern African Development Community, is meant to be the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which formed the basis for the unity government. But despite ZANU PFs refusal to abide by this GPA, the renewed political violence against MDC supporters, and widespread hunger and poverty, the AU and SADC have remained virtually silent.

Observers meanwhile have questioned whether the AU has the strength to resolve any crises in Africa. Critics say the body is toothless and just a club of dictators. Although the continent is trying to shake its negative reputation and attract investment, the same conflicts push discussions on economic growth and poverty reduction to the bottom of the agenda at AU meetings every year.

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