United States President Barack Obama says he is “heartbroken” about President Robert Mugabe’s failure “to serve his people well”, blaming Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence for the country’s economic decline and political crisis.
“I’ll be honest with you. I am heartbroken when I see what has happened in Zimbabwe,” Obama said. “I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter and, I’m just going to be very blunt, I do not see him serving his people well.”
The US leader was speaking at a White House event, on Tuesday, to discuss Africa’s future.
But Zanu PF has dismissed as “frivolous, unjustified and with no substance” Obama’s attacks on their leader, saying President Mugabe was “revered as an icon of the African revolution”.
Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu PF spokesperson, said problems bedevilling Zimbabwe were brought about by the US, the United Kingdom and their European allies who did not like a “strong” African leader.
Gumbo said Obama’s attack on the Zanu PF leader was unwarranted as it was countries like the US that championed “illegal sanctions” that had brought misery to the people of Zimbabwe.
“What we have said before is that (President) Mugabe is revered as an icon of African revolution,” Gumbo said. “When he (Mugabe) speaks, he speaks for the continent and not Zimbabwe alone.
“They do not like (President) Mugabe (because) he doesn’t like the exploitation of our natural resources,” Gumbo said.
“They brought sanctions in order to bring him down and they failed. They will continue to fail.
There is an inclusive government that is working well.
They accused us of not working with other parties.
Now we have an inclusive government. We are involved in a constitution-making process. What else do they want?”
Obama attacked President Mugabe’s human rights record and warned Africa not to repeat the mistakes that had betrayed the hopes of an “independence generation,” which included his father.
The US President invited 115 young Africans, selected as the continent’s future leaders, to take part in a three-day forum marking the 50th anniversary of independence in many of their countries, while looking toward the next 50 years.
Obama said sanctions and other punitive measures against President Mugabe and his lieutenants should be maintained.
Foreign media reports say most of those in attendance were clad in traditional African garb.
The US leader sounded sceptical that the power-sharing pact was yielding results saying: “(Morgan) Tsvangirai has tried to work despite the fact that he himself has been beaten, and imprisoned.
“He has now tried to work to see if there is a gradual transition that might take place. But so far the results have not been what we would have hoped.”
Obama said he had deliberately reached beyond the current generation of African leaders to talk to young people who would shape the region’s future and urged them to understand that corruption was the continent’s enemy.
“If at a time of great constraint, we are coming up with aid, those aid dollars need to go to countries using them effectively,” he said.