Rwandese President Paul Kagame yesterday paid a courtesy call on President Mugabe at his hotel where they discussed a number of issues among them items on the agenda of the 27th Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly, bilateral relations between the two countries and international affairs.
President Mugabe, the continental bloc’s immediate past chairman, is here for the AU mid-term summit that is expected to focus on, among other things, full integration of the continent through establishment of Free Trade Area and Africa’s quest for two permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council in line with the common African position on the proposed reform of the United Nations also known as the Ezulwini Consensus of 2005.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said there were fears that some African Union countries were now backtracking on the Ezulwini Consensus due to the time it has taken to reform the UN.
Speaking to the media after a closed-door meeting between President Mugabe and President Kagame, Minister Mumbengegwi said the courtesy call was in recognition of President Mugabe’s role as the immediate past chairperson of the African Union and a member of the Bureau of the of the AU in his capacity of rapporteur.
“They discussed a number of issues that are coming up during the summit in the very preliminary manner,” said Minister Mumbengegwi.
“But they spent a lot of time discussing broader world issues as well as bilateral issues where they felt that the two countries were not working hard enough to see that we work upon our economic relations between the two countries that we can be able to cooperate in a number of areas which the two ministers of foreign affairs have been tasked to explore the possibilities of much deeper cooperation between Zimbabwe and Rwanda.”
Minister Mumbengegwi said so far, senior officials and ministers of foreign affairs had been meeting to prepare the agenda for the summit and to consider issues under the purview of the executive council.
To integrate the continent, Minister Mumbengegwi said this would be done through creation of the continental Free Trade Area that is expected to come into effect in 2017.
As a result, the continent intends to introduce an African passport that seeks to facilitate free movement of people, goods and services around the continent with holders of that passport accessing all African countries without requiring a visa.
“At present, it looks like we are slightly behind time. But we think we can speed up the process so that this comes into effect next year. This will facilitate trade, movement of goods throughout the African continent,” he said.
Minister Mumbengegwi said the leaders were also expected to deliberate on the proposed reforms to the UN in general and the Security Council particular where the continent is demanding two permanent seats with veto powers just like other member states.
“Africa will not accept a second class permanent membership because a permanent membership without veto is in fact non-permanent membership because the rights and privileges of any member who is not wielding the veto will be the same as any other non-permanent member.
“It looks as if there may be some impatience getting into some of the member states of the AU because a phenomenon has developed where African Union members of the United Nations have joined other groupings like the L69, like the Uniting for Consensus whose positions are not exactly the same as that of the Ezulwini Consensus. So this is a point of concern and we are quite sure that the Heads of State and Government are going to address this issue and see if they can come up with a solution.
“It is believed that there are members who are getting impatient and are now saying it’s taking too long to get permanent membership with a veto, so why don’t we as an interim measure accept permanent membership without a veto?
“But that is totally against the provisions of the Ezulwini Consensus. So this special meeting during the first session of the Summit is going to address these issues and see to it that we all speak with one voice from the same page.”
The summit is running under the theme: “2016: Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”.
To this end, Minister Mumbengegwi said the African leadership will deliberate over this with the intention of fulfilling the AU’s position that there must gender equality in leadership positions.
He said the summit will also conduct elections for the African Union Commission chairperson, deputy chairperson and eight other commissioners. herald