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President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson has reportedly described President Barack Obama’s visit to the African Union (AU) headquarters as “just a visit by another visitor”.
George Charamba said this after Mugabe, who is the current AU chairperson was excluded from meeting Obama during his visit at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday.
Mugabe also chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Charamba said Mugabe was “unmoved” by Obama’s visit to the AU headquarters, according to a local daily.
Mugabe “does not run the AU centre. Obama has come to Ethiopia for an official visit and to address the staff there. There are many dignitaries who come to the AU headquarters and you can imagine if all come wanting the president’s [Mugabe] input,” Charamba was quoted as saying.
Charamba said Obama was merely a head of state visiting Africa and the AU headquarters “by virtue of his ancestry”.
Political analysts, however, said strained relations between Harare and Washington could have influenced the absence of Mugabe in Ethiopia.
Relations between the US and Zimbabwe have remained frosty for years over allegations of human rights abuses levelled against Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party.
Mugabe, aged 91, has ruled Zimbabwe since the country’s independence in 1980.
During his speech at the AU headquarters, Obama condemned African leaders who refused to give up power, according to AFP.
“Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end,” Obama said, drawing huge applause and cheers from some sections of the audience in the AU’s Nelson Mandela hall.
“No one should be president for life,” he said, explaining that he was personally relishing handing over office in 18 months.
“I love my work, but under our constitution, I cannot run again. I actually think I’m a pretty good president, I think if I ran again I could win, but I can’t,” he said.
Obama’s speech marked the end of his short tour that saw him visiting Kenya, his father’s birthplace, and Ethiopia.