A DIPLOMATIC storm has erupted between Zimbabwe and the United States following reports that United States President Barack Obama will not invite his Zimbabwean counterpart President Robert Mugabe for a US-Africa summit in August.
Obama, who has had problems with the veteran Zimbabwean leader over governance matters and human rights, will invite 47 out of 54 African leaders to the summit seeking to widen US trade, development and security ties with an increasingly dynamic continent to which he traces part of his ancestry.
He has, however, invited Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who is facing charges of crime against humanity at the International Criminal Court following the 2007 violence that left more than 1 000 people dead.
The snubbing of Mugabe has riled the Zimbabwean government with Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba yesterday saying: “If the summit is about US and Africa, then maybe the US President would need to be reminded that Zimbabwe and Egypt are in Africa and of Africa. His decision not to invite those countries can only get people to realise that it’s not about US and Africa, it’s about US and certain African countries.
“You want to know that the African Growth and Opportunity Act came and went without Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe remains. The world is larger than America. So we are not bothered,” Mugabe’s spokesperson said.
“In any case, it would have been very cynical for an American President presiding over runners of sanctions against Zimbabwe to invite its president for dinner.”
Obama is expected to send out invitations to all African nations currently either in good standing with the US or are not suspended from the African Union — meaning there will be no place for countries like Egypt or Zimbabwe.
The talks will be on August 5 and 6 and they will seek to cement progress from the American president’s trip to Africa last year. A White House statement said the trip would “advance the administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people”.
Egypt, which has caused the Obama administration to thread a foreign policy needle with an erstwhile ally after a military takeover, is not eligible to attend as it is currently suspended from the African Union.
The United States maintains sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Mugabe and key officials over suppression of democracy and what Washington sees as politically motivated violence.
Other notable absentees on the invitation list include Sudan and Madagascar.