Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe this week revived calls for a "president for a United States of Africa", echoing his slain ally Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader.

Mr Mugabe told visiting African Union (AU) chairman, President Yayi Boni of Benin, on Tuesday that a single pan-African president would help to unite Africa. The 88-year-old leader made the suggestion as part of solutions for the conflicts in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

"We need a president for Africa, that is what we are going to discuss at the AU summit. Africa is not a united continent. We are not at the stage our founding fathers wanted us to be when the organ was formed," he said.

Mr Mugabe also tried to deflect the AU’s attention from Zimbabwe’s long drawn-out political crisis. He told Mr Boni in their two-hour meeting at State House that the country’s political rivals had learnt political tolerance and the coming elections, likely to be held in June, would be friendly.

"We have groomed ourselves into that kind of understanding and I think our elections are going to be very friendly in the sense that there will be a political fight, but it will be a fight in the knowledge that we belong to each other," he said.

The Movement for Democratic Change Wednesday issued a strong rebuke, saying Mr Mugabe had tried to "gloss over" the country’s pertinent political troubles ahead of next week’s AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Delays in completing a new constitution and rolling out the national voter registration exercise have placed the four-year-old unity government on a knife edge.

Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the meeting was indicative of ground-covering attempts by the AU chief ahead of the summit. "But overall this reflects that the AU still has some interest and its eyes are on Zimbabwe … It’s not a forgotten conflict," he said.