EU / Africa A love- hate relationship

Article published on Nov. 15, 2007
Article published on Nov. 15, 2007
The second summit between the European Union and Africa is scheduled for the 8th and 9th of  December - but will it really take place? Yet, at the head of the European Union until the end of 2007, Portugal has been working very hard on it. Lisbon was  already  the main instigator of the first official meeting between the European Union  and Africa in 2000, in Cairo (Egypt).

One of the top priorities of he EU was to counter the ever-growing presence of China in African economies.

The bone of contention jeopardizing the summit is between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. Since 2003, Tony Blair has always refused to participate to any official event to which the president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe was invited. Now head of the British government, Gordon Brown seems to adopt the exact same strategy: he threatens not to attend the summit if Mugabe is.

"Pan African solidarity regardless"

 Even if numerous African leaders are opposed to the authoritarian government of Mugabe -  at 83 years old he is the oldest head of state in Africa- most of them don't accept the critics coming from Europe, and would be ready to cancel the summit for solidarity’s sake. For example, take the Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, that had previously compared Zimbabwe economic crisis and inflation of 8000%to the "sinking of  the Titanic". Well, even Mr Mwanawasa would refuse to attend if Mugabe is not invited as well. "Gordon Brown may be right when he mentions the lack of rights and the state-organized repression in Zimbabwe, but when and the way he said it was inappropriate" confirms Takura Zhangazha, an independent Zimbabwean political analyst working for the AFP ( Regardless, "When a European leader says that type of comments about an African state, it has consequences". Hence the question is: will the British Prime Minister change his mind before December? "It is a good thing that Mugabe takes part in the summit, if the goal is to confront him about his violation of laws and his lack of good governance in Zimbabwe" replies the political analyst Takavafira Zhou of the Harare University. And for the German head of state Angela Merkel, this option seems best, so as to "unveil all the critics" made about Zimbabwe's "disaster".

" 80% unemployment and a life expectancy of 37"

In truth, despite the British  threats of boycotting the summit  and the sanctions that are already targeting Zimbabwe, namely restrictions on  official development assistance and  freedom to travel - Mugabe can not set a foot in the European Union- despite all that, the ways of the Zimbabwean government have not changed one bit. And Gordon Brown to sadly confirm that the situation Zimbabwe is getting worse "Four millions people have left the country and because of the famine, another four millions are surviving thanks to food aid [...] 80% unemployment and a life expectancy of 37" (Source BBC world. Even so, crucial topics are on the summit's agenda : foreign aid, consequences of climate change or the European military presence in Darfur (Source AngolaPress. another fight that undermines the relationship between Africa and Europe - a love-hate relationship.

Landmark dates for Zimbabwe:

-           1885-1886 : colonization of  Zimbabwe by the United Kingdom. At the head of the country is Cecil Rhodes, who will bestow his name to the Southern part of Zimbabwe (and now Northern Zambia):  Rhodesia.

-           1980 : Robert Mugabe, leader of the radical fringe of the Nationalist Movement, is elected head of state at the first free elections. Part of the White minority goes into exile, but still controls most of the country’s resources.

-           1987 : establishment of a presidential regime. Mugabe is reelected in 1990 and 2002. His government becomes more and more authoritarian. 

-           2000 : toughening of the land reform (expropriation of White farmers, using violent means). A severe economic crisis ensues.

-           2003 : Zimbabwe leaves the Commonwealth.

Johara BOUKABOUS / Translation : Juliette ABBESSE

Photo : AFP/Reuters/Photomontage L. Mouaoued pour RFI