via Obama snubs Mugabe – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 1, 2015
UNITED States President Barack Obama will not be meeting President Robert Mugabe on his last official visit to Africa this month despite his itinerary including a visit to the African Union (AU) headquarters.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe is the AU chairman and has made it a point to attend every high-level event involving the continental body since he landed the post in January. He also chairs Sadc.
Mugabe has made over 15 trips since his return from annual leave in January. Last Thursday he travelled to Mozambique for that country’s 40th independence celebrations.
Obama is scheduled to visit Kenya and Ethiopia later this month, where he will tour the AU headquarters and meet the secretariat.
But Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha told NewsDay yesterday that the government had not “received any indication” from Obama that he would want to meet Mugabe during his visit.
“There are no arrangements (for the two to meet). This is basically a bilateral visit by Obama to Ethiopia and maybe the AU leaders he is talking about are those leading the (AU) Commission,” he said.
“We have not received any indication regarding that, the Commission (headed by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) basically runs the AU.”
Visiting US Congressman Gregory Simpkins was evasive over the issue.
“Perhaps, I do not think he (Obama) is going to avoid him (Mugabe),” he said.
The US embassy in Harare said it was not aware of any meeting between the two leaders.
“President Obama will meet with AU leadership. However, we do not yet have any further details about those meetings,” the embassy said in a statement.
“What we do know is that this visit underscores US efforts to work with the countries and citizens of sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve security.
“The visit will represent President Obama’s fourth trip to Africa since becoming President. He will travel to Ethiopia following his visit to Kenya for bilateral meetings.”
The embassy said Obama will also take time to attend the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Ethiopia.
Simpkins insisted that while the US recognises Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s President as elected in the disputed 2013 polls, he needed to reciprocate overtures for normalisation of relations.
“We have issues with the way the elections (in 2013) were run, but nobody has ever said he is not President of Zimbabwe. The conduct of the elections denied people the right to freely participate.
“We have reached out to the Zimbabwean government, but there has to be a corresponding hand coming out of the government.
“It is important to note that we have similar issues with the Ethiopian government, but at least they have been willing to dialogue.”
Simpkins accused authorities in Harare of being stuck in the past.
Relations between Harare and Washington have been frosty for the last decade and a half amid accusations that Mugabe was responsible for a plethora of human rights abuses and election-related offences.