Robert Mugabe has resigned as President of Zimbabwe. The decision seemed inevitable considering all that happened in the last two weeks in that country. Mugabe’s resignation reminds me very much of an AU Summit that I was privileged to participate in, in July 2008 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. As Press Secretary to President Kufuor I had the opportunity to participate in many Summits but this particular Sharm El Sheikh AU Summit made a great impression on me. As I write this I can picture the whole event as though it happened only yesterday. This meeting was President Kufuor’s last one as substantive President of Ghana having done his two four-year terms.
President Kufuor gave his valedictory speech at that summit and as he spoke I looked round the the oval setting and saw Presidents Mubarak of Egypt, Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Nguesso of Congo Brazaville, Bongo of Gabon, Campoare of Burkina Faso, Museveni of Uganda, Teodore Obiang of Equitorial Guinea and several other Presidents. Of course Gaddafi of Libya was also at the Summit but he was too busy in the lobby pursuing his African Unity Government to listen to a valedictory speech of a President who in his view was no longer relevant in the scheme of things.
What struck me at this Summit is that when President Kufuor arrived at the AU as a ‘novice’ in 2001 all these Presidents were already there. And now eight years later President Kufuor was saying goodbye and they were still sitting there! I looked at their faces and tried to read their minds. Did they feel any sense of guilt? Did they think Kufuor was a fool to adhere strictly to the constitution and to decide to leave after eight years? I just could not tell what they were thinking. Most of them pretended to be dozing but I knew they just did not want to make eye contact with Kufuor. President Mubarak actually left in the middle of Kufuor’s speech.
Fast forward*** to 2017 (eight years after that Summit )where are these Presidents? Mubarak I think is still in detention. Gaddafi died a miserable death. Campoare was chased out of his country, Bongo died a natural death and now Mugabe has resigned, under not too honorable circumstances. Museveni, Nguesso and Obiang are still sitting there as though they are under a spell. What are they waiting for? Can’t they see?