Mu­gabe de­nounces Europe and US as he va­cates AU chair

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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.

PHOTO: SI­MONE KLEY

DE­FI­ANT Zim­babwe’s Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe de­liv­ered an al­most hour­long farewell speech to AU dig­ni­taries

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