Magazine article New African

Lisbon Summit Africa Stands United: George Shire, a Zimbabwean Academic and Political Analyst, Was in Lisbon for the EU-Africa Summit, and Sent Us This Report

Magazine article New African

Lisbon Summit Africa Stands United: George Shire, a Zimbabwean Academic and Political Analyst, Was in Lisbon for the EU-Africa Summit, and Sent Us This Report

Article excerpt

The second EU-Africa summit (8-9 December) ended with a declaration that African and European leaders were determined to give the new strategic partnership the necessary means and instruments to fulfil their Joint Strategy and Action Plan. To do so, they have created a comprehensive and effective follow-up mechanism that would deliver on their goals by the time the third summit came round in 2010. The joint statement declared, much to the satisfaction of the African leaders present, that they had resolved to build a new strategic political partnership for the future, overcoming the traditional donor-recipient relationship and building on common values and goals in their pursuit of peace and stability, democracy, rule of law, progress and development. The summit had long been trailed in the media over the attendance of the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. Africa stood firm in his support. On the streets of Lisbon and close to the summit venue, there were hundreds of Africans representing many diaspora organisations from right across Europe. They responded to Muammar Gadaffi's call for compensation for the colonial era and to the plight of the Zimbabwean people by chanting "Mugabe One Africa, Gadaffi One Africa!". They were joined by many Portuguese nationals who have connections with Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau, carrying big banners with pictures of Robert Mugabe held high with his legendary fist salute, with the words "Britain hands off Zimbabwe" held up for all to see.

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They were also joined by a group of Zimbabwean youths who stood firm in support of the Zimbabwe government and President Mugabe. They berated the European Union to scrap the sanctions that it has imposed on Zimbabwe. Interestingly, almost all the cameras of the Western media were trained on a small group of anti-Zimbabwe protestors on the far side of the square.

In the hotels where African delegates were staying, the talk was about standing firm. It was about how African states could no longer be merely exporters of raw materials or mere import markets. I heard government ministers talk with passion that after the failure of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), to suggest that the neo-liberal prescriptions that Africa should liberalise, privatise, and cut government spending--show the world its liberal principles--is untenable.

They spoke of the need for an alternative cartography of the world which carries the memory of routes of political and cultural exchanges and of commerce less turned towards the North but based on a revived spirit of pan-Africanism. They said they were more interested in South-South connections and turning their faces towards China. Inside the conference hall itself, the mood and contributions of the African leaders were defiant, united and focused. A deal on the two continents' cooperation in trade, investment, peace and security, and many other issues could only be built on a partner-ship of mutual respect, they said.

President Mugabe responded to the critics of the Zimbabwean government with gusto and he was supported by many other African heads of state. They attacked Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who had led the onslaught of the misinformed: "The current situation in Zimbabwe is harming the image of the new Africa," Merkel had said in a speech at a closed-door session, a copy of which was obtained by the media. "The situation in Zimbabwe concerns us all, in Europe as in Africa. …

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