Africa Union leaders holding a summit in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa have roped in one of their controversial counterparts, President Robert Mugabe to mediate in the Ivory Coast crisis.
News from Ethiopia of President Mugabe’s drafting in has angered human rights activists and his political foes in Zimbabwe.
Reports say President Mugabe (87) joins in the expanded mediating team that includes South Africa leader, Jacob Zuma, Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria) and the President of Mauritania.
Odinga will also be part of the panel set up by the AU Peace and Security Council, which AU Commission chief Jean Ping said the mediation already undertaken by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was part of the building stones towards achieving a realisable goal of peace in Ivory Coast.
The AU on Friday announced the setting up of a five-member heads of state panel to make binding recommendations on the Ivory Coast rivals within a month.
Ping said on Saturday the panel would help Alassane Ouattara “exercise power” through a negotiated deal, reports say.
The AU leaders began talks yesterday to reach a common strategy on resolving Ivory Coast’s protracted crisis and tackle other continental trouble spots.
Ping said the multiple issues arising from the crisis require an African approach to deal with the problem in Cote d’Ivoire.
The drafting in of President Mugabe has been seen by his rivals as an endorsement of being “legitimately elected” by African leaders.
“This is a travesty of justice. How does (President) Mugabe whose country is under South Africa Development Community (Sadc) mediation be chosen to be a peace broker in another country whose problems are similar to his” asked Steven Chivero of Stand Up for Zimbabwe.
Chivero said this shows that African leaders “fear Mugabe”.
Other groupings said President Mugabe’s appointment would “have a negative bearing on Sadc mediation role” in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe, who participated in Friday’s Peace and Security Council decision kept power through a negotiated agreement after an apparent electoral defeat.
Ivory Coast has been gripped by a political crisis since the Election Commission named Alassane Quattara (69), as the winner of presidential elections in November 2010. But incumbent Laurent Gbagbo (65), has refused to concede defeat, alleging voter fraud.
Gbagbo early this month dispatched an envoy Zoge Abie to seek the counsel of President Mugabe, as his political life hangs by a thread.
Abie met then acting President John Nkomo in a meeting that was also attended by Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Herbert Murerwa.
His visit came after Gbabgo had said he understood how the likes of Mugabe felt at the prospect of losing power and, therefore, instituted measures to protect themselves.
“When you go through what I’ve been through, you tell yourself: ‘Perhaps Mugabe wasn’t completely wrong after all’,” the Ivorian President said in reference to how Mugabe clung to power after the 2008 harmonised elections.
Gbagbo is under pressure to relinquish power from the world super powers and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which said he must hand over power to Ouattara who they recognise as the legitimate winner.
Gbagbo like Mugabe in 2008 is facing a legitimacy crisis. He has since been slapped with sanctions by the European Union while he faces the possibility of military action if he continues with his resistance to vacate office.