President Robert Mugabe is a tried and tested statesman who demonstrated unparalleled leadership qualities during his tenure as African Union chairperson, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe has said. Gnassingbe, who opened the 57th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo yesterday, said achieving peace in a delicate hotspot like Mali and calling for unity in the fight against the Ebola pandemic, were some of the many notable achievements President Mugabe scored as AU chair.
Speaking at a banquet hosted in his honour by President Mugabe at State House on Thursday night, the Togolese leader said the period 2015 to 2016 had proved to the “doubting Thomas” that the Zimbabwean President was indeed a “cut above the rest”.
“I was touched and felt honoured to be invited to come here and be the guest of honour at the official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair,” he said.
“I was elated because I knew I was heading back (having been in Zimbabwe last year) to an elderly statesman who is preoccupied with pushing the Pan-African vision forward. President Mugabe clearly demonstrated his unmatched wisdom and vision with the way he helped to bring peace in Mali as well as overseeing the defeat of Ebola, which was threatening the whole continent. He is indeed a veteran and an elderly statesman.
President Mugabe in May last year oversaw the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the Malian government and Tuareg separatist rebels. He implored the warring parties to ‘turn swords to ploughshares” and the West African country has recorded tremendous progress on most fronts. Gnassingbe said his visit to Zimbabwe would open a new chapter of his country’s relations with Zimbabwe.
“I’m also here to foster a deep friendship and bilateral ties,” he said. President Mugabe said to Zimbabwe, Gnassingbe’s visit was a special one and an opportunity to “reaffirm our brotherly bonds that tie us together as Africans.’
“In this world where developing countries continue to be marginalised, the exchange of visits provides appropriate fora for our countries to identify and address the challenges, which threaten the consolidation of our hard won independence,” he said.
“Our two countries need to develop a strong cooperative relationship for the good of our people. There are numerous areas where we could co-operate on, the fields of agriculture, energy, mining, tourism, education and health. I’m confident that your stay will afford us a good opportunity to exchange views on matters of importance to our two countries.”
President Mugabe said he was glad that already there was progress on the agriculture front with the two respective Ministers negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding.
The MoU, President Mugabe said, would be a milestone in the development of bilateral economic cooperation and pave way for more agreements.
He said Africa’s regional economic communities were the building blocks for the continental agenda and should be taken seriously.
“Zimbabwe’s progress as well as its peace and stability haven’t been achieved in isolation but through the invaluable assistance of our regional and continental bodies — Sadc and the African Union,” President Mugabe said.
“In the area of conflict prevention, management and resolution, this relationship will reinforce our guiding principle of providing African solutions to African problems. Zimbabwe appreciates the decision taken by the AU at its June 2015 Summit to ensure that we take responsibility for financing our organisation. This, Mr President, is the only way we can take ownership of our continental organisation and its programmes. Failure on our part to do this will enable those who fund our programmes to dictate the direction we should go and in the process introduce their hidden agendas.”
President Mugabe said ZITF was a premier annual event that promoted international and intra-regional trade and as such Togolese companies should be participants.
“It (ZITF) is well supported by the various sectors of our economy as well as the international community. The fair affords various exhibitors an opportunity to showcase their products as well as network with a view to explore trade and investment opportunities. It’s our hope that your presence will open up avenues for Togolese companies to exhibit in the future.” herald