AU summit wrap: Anti-West rhetoric threatens to drown out regional agenda

New bloc chair Robert Mugabe maintains tough stance while Kenya's president level's fierce criticism at top world court.

ANTI-Western rhetoric featured highly at the African Union high-level summit that concluded Saturday and which was attended by scores of regional heads of states and government, threatening to drown out the meeting’s full in-tray of pressing issues.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe shrugged off concerns that his appointment as new AU chair would harm relations between the pan-African bloc and the West.

“What the West will say or do is not my business,” Mugabe told a news conference at the close of two-day summit held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“My business is to ensure the decisions we take here are implemented. My concern is on uplifting the life of our people, giving them something that will raise their standard of living,” he said.

And Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta told fellow African leaders that the International Criminal Court’s crimes against humanity trial of his deputy will collapse, and again levelled fierce criticism against the tribunal.

Kenyatta said the Hague-based ICC’s case against Kenyan Vice President William Ruto was “exhibiting the same pattern of weakness as the case against me.”

“We look forward to its conclusion so that my Deputy can join me in focusing exclusively on transforming Kenya and serving our people,” he said, according to a transcript released on Saturday by his office.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto were charged by the ICC over the the country’s 2007-08 post-election violence, the worst in its history since it won independence from Britain in 1963.

‘Politicised cases’
The case against Kenyatta was dropped in December, with prosecutors complaining that their case had been undermined by a lack of cooperation by the Kenyan government, as well as the bribing or intimidation of witnesses.

Kenyatta, however, accused the ICC of “bringing weak, politicised cases to court”, and said that “facts and evidence were completely disregarded”.

The ICC, he said, “poses a grave risk to peace and security not only in Africa, but to the whole world” and was in need of fundamental reform.

Although he stopped short of directly calling for a mass pull-out from the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, Kenyatta said African nations “have the right to chart our own course and correct our mistakes while staying accountable to our people.”

Mugabe, who is subject to travel bans from both the United States and European Union in protest over political violence and intimidation, maintained the restrictions were out of order.

‘Control our ways’
“For more that 10 years I have been under sanctions, my country has been sanctions. If they want to continue it’s up to them but these sanctions are wrong,” the president said.

“If Europe comes in the spirit to cooperate and not the spirit to control us and control our ways, they will be very welcome,” he added. 

Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president at 90, took over the rotating post of African Union chairman on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. 

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 over political violence and intimidation.

The meeting was expected to among other pressing issues address terrorism and mitigating against diseases such as Ebola. (Read:

The official theme of the meeting was  women’s empowerment, and Mugabe gave his opinion on this. 

We are different,” he told reporters. “There are certain things men can do and that women can’t do. And there are things women can do that men cannot do. You can’t bear babies in your tummy, can you? Even the gay ones cannot.”

“But what we have done in Zimbabwe is that our women can become ministers, judges, farmers, pilots. We have three pilots,” he added.


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