By Garikai Chimuka
THE current standoff between the EU and the AU regarding President Mugabe’s participation at the EU-AU summit to be hosted by
Portugal next month has raised a number of interesting points.
As it is now clear that Mugabe will attend and the summit will still go on even if British Prime Minister Gordon Brown does not attend, focus has now shifted to how to send a clear message to Mugabe that the EU does not tolerate what is happening in Zimbabwe.
In whatever way the EU chooses to communicate this message to Mugabe, it must be wary of elevating Mugabe to a martyr, for it is what he is exactly looking for. Mugabe’s strategy at the summit is to be the point of focus through his predictable, now monotonous anti-British and anti-EU rhetoric.
Given that he has dismally failed at home where his self-serving policies have spawned an economic crisis never seen outside of a war zone, his approach will be to shift focus from domestic problems and use his usual land rhetoric to cast Zimbabwean problems into the hands of Britain and the EU.
He believes, that playing the victim of the British and the EU, he can gain sympathy, particularly from other African countries and those uninitiated about the realities of the genesis of the Zimbabwean crisis.
So if the EU formally introduces debate on the human rights situation as has been suggested in some media reports, Mugabe will simply outsmart them by deflating the discourse from human rights to land issue.
It is in this context that I strongly believe that the best position for the EU to take at the summit will be to focus mainly on the issues on the agenda and totally ignore Mugabe as if he were not there. This does not however mean sweeping the Zimbabwe issue under the carpet but rather quietly coming up with decisive actions behind the scenes with other African countries to settle the Zimbabwean issue.
Obviousily, if Mugabe realises that he has been ignored, he will try by all means to initiate a media war himself. The EU should proactively work with the other progressive African countries to make sure that he is not given the time to grandstand on any issues at the summit.
Chimuka writes from the Netherlands.