Mugabe denounces Europe and US as he vacates AU chair
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe vacated his yearlong position as chair of the African Union (AU) in a blaze of defiance and pride.
In a speech that exceeded his allocated 10 minutes – by almost an hour – delivered at the opening session of the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday, Mugabe took a stab at US president Barack Obama and told UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that Africa would withdraw from the world body if not given an equal say.
Mugabe, who turns 93 next month, stumbled slightly as he stepped up to the podium in the Nelson Mandela Hall.
“All of us here are born out of the struggle of our elders,” he told heads of state and representatives from the 54 AU member countries as well as international diplomats and observers.
“We were all once upon a time colonised,” he said, adding that all present were slaves, servants or disadvantaged before.
He said many Africans were “dragged across the oceans” to become slaves, to a country where they “laboured, toiled and died” – and it was no better today.
He went on to say the US had Obama, whose father was Kenyan, “but ... what is Obama, a voice made to speak their language, to act their hand, not our hand”.
Mugabe said in the US whites were still superior, whereas black people had to go to Harlem in New York City, where the education and healthcare were inferior.
He said black people were shot in the streets, “and nobody seems to talk about it, but today instead they still want to talk about us”.
He said the West was everywhere in Africa, “if not physically, then through NGOs”, a comment which drew audience applause.
He said they were also on the continent as “spies, pretenders; some say they are here in Africa to assist us, even in armed groups in our territories” effecting regime change.
Mugabe then turned to Ban – who smiled and nodded his head nervously but politely at times, taking many sips of water during Mugabe’s speech – and said: “Every year ... we pay lots of money to go to the UN, we make speeches and we go home.”
He said still, the powerful countries in the UN called the shots. “We have asked and asked for security council reform,” he said.
“You’re a good man, Mr Ban Ki-moon, we can’t make you a fighter. That is not your mission. We can fight for our own identity as Africans, we are Africans.
“If we decide one day not to be members of the UN, we can’t be members of it; only those with the white skin decide. If the UN is to survive, we [Africa] must be equal members of it,” he said, to deafening applause.
He told Ban to tell the world that Africans “are also human. Tell them that we also belong to the world.”
Mugabe told Ban the UN’s headquarters were misplaced and should be in more populous countries such as China, India or Africa.
Mugabe thanked Ban for working with Africa in fighting Ebola and helping fight terrorism and other crises.
He lashed out against his critics, saying even though Zimbabwe was independent, the rest of the world called for regime change, saying Mugabe should go. “Someone complaining that he’s been in power too long, someone else must take over. Is that democracy?”
He said, to laughter, the criticism came from Europe, “tell them to shut their mouth”.
At the end of his speech, Mugabe handed over the revolving chairmanship to Chad’s President Idriss Déby, saying: “Whatever support you want, I’ll still be there,” to more laughter and applause.
DEFIANT Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe delivered an almost hourlong farewell speech to AU dignitaries