African Union new chairman is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

January 30, 2015 12:46 pm

90 year old Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe has been named the new
Chairman of the . He took over from Mauritania’s President
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz at a ceremony which held at the Union’s
secretariat in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia this morning. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe took over the post of African
Union chairman on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould
Abdel Aziz.Mugabe, ’s oldest president aged 90, shook hands
with Abel Aziz in front of fellow leaders to applause at the AU summit
in the Ethiopian capital.
“By electing me to preside over this
august body, with full knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies
ahead, I humbly accept your collective decision,” Mugabe said, as he
thanked leaders for granting him the position.
Mugabe, a former
liberation war hero who is Africa’s third-longest serving leader, is
viewed with deep respect by many on the continent.
But he is also
subject to travel bans from both the United States and European Union in
protest at political violence and intimidation.
Mugabe, a former
guerrilla leader who has ruled since independence in 1980, is
accused of crushing opponents to ensure his ZANU-PF party won every
election for more than three decades.
Mugabe described his
memories of attending the AU’s forerunner in 1963, the Organization of
African Unity (OAU), also in Addis Ababa.
“Africa has come a long way since then,” he said.
Last
year Mugabe boycotted an EU-Africa Summit in Brussels after he was
given a rare invitation — but his wife was still denied a visa.
The 90-year-old was elected by his fellow heads of state to replace
Mauritania’s Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz in the role, which rotates between
the continent’s five regions.
“By electing me to preside over this august body, with full
knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies ahead, I humbly
accept your collective decision,” Mugabe said as he was appointed at the
AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Africa’s longest-serving leader is still viewed with
respect by many on the continent after he led Zimbabwe to independence,
however, he is subject to travel bans in the European Union and US.
He was given a rare invitation to an EU-Africa summit in Brussels last year, but boycotted it after his wife was refused a visa.
When he initially took power he was seen as promoting reconciliation,
but controversial land reforms that forced out white farmers from 2000
onwards drew ire in the West.
Since then, he has increasingly been accused of human rights abuses and vote-rigging as his ZANU-PF party has clung on to power.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe took over the post of African
Union chairman on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould
Abdel Aziz.
The veteran leader, Africa’s oldest president aged 90, shook hands
with Abel Aziz in front of fellow leaders to applause at the AU summit
in the Ethiopian capital.
The new chairman of the African Union, Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe, is the continent’s oldest leader — and one of its most
controversial post-colonial figures.
He initially won favour in Western capitals when he preached racial
and national reconciliation after taking power in 1980 in the wake of a
brutal guerrilla war against white-minority rule.
To most of Africa, he was an anti-colonial hero.
But Mugabe’s lustre quickly faded.
From crushing political dissent to ushering in disastrous land
reforms that saw the economy crumble, many accuse Mugabe of turning the
regional breadbasket into a basket case.
Despite this, Mugabe — who turns 91 next month — remains  admired in
much of Africa and was already serving as the chairman of the regional
Southern African Development Community.
Aditi Lalbahadur, analyst at South African Institute of International
Affairs, described Mugabe’s appointment as AU chairman as “an
endorsement by the leaders of Africa”.
As for the role he might play in his new post, Harare-based
independent political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said Mugabe would fare no
differently from his predecessors.
“Problems affecting the continent are complex and Mugabe will only be
exposed to them and no changes are expected,” Mudzengi said.
“It’s not a very encouraging sign,” sighed one African diplomat, who
asked not to be identified. “The Mugabe style belongs to a past
generation, the one that takes power hostage, and this is no longer the
AU creed.”
Born on February 21, 1924, at Kutama Mission northwest of the capital
Harare, Mugabe was raised in a Catholic family and was described as a
loner and a studious child.
After his father walked out on Mugabe’s mother and siblings when he
was 10, the young Robert Mugabe concentrated ever harder on his studies,
and qualified as a schoolteacher at the age of 17.
An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, he enrolled at Fort
Hare University in South Africa, meeting many of southern Africa’s
future black nationalist leaders.
As a member of various nationalist parties that were banned by the
white-minority government, Mugabe was detained in 1964 and spent the
next 10 years in prison camps or jail.
He used his incarceration to gain three degrees through correspondence courses, but the years in prison left their mark.
Released from jail in 1974 he became leader of the Zimbabwe African
National Union (ZANU) and left for neighbouring Mozambique to wage a
guerrilla war against Ian Smith’s white-minority Rhodesian government.
Economic sanctions and war forced Smith to negotiate, after which ZANU came to power in 1980 elections.
The bespectacled intellectual — sporting a moustache oddly
reminiscent of Hitler — extended education, healthcare and opportunity
to formerly disenfranchised blacks.
Britain, the former colonial power, made him an honorary knight as he
swapped his Maoist outfits for Saville Row suits, showing a love for
cricket and shopping at Harrods in London.

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