Munyonyo- Some thought Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, was tired and needed to rest and for that reason, had opted to skip a grandiose State dinner ahead of President Museveni’s swearing-in yesterday.
Others, particularly those who had no idea about his arrival, thought “Uncle Bob” was not in the country yet. But when all the formalities were done, and as the 16 heads of state and other invited dignitaries were settling to a sumptuous dinner at about 10:30pm, the 92-year-old Zimbabwean leader arrived to the ululation of the guests and a standing ovation from his colleagues.
The guests cheered President Mugabe as he stole the show, stretching his right hand to greet President Museveni, the host of the sumptuous dinner at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort Hotel on Wednesday. Mr Mugabe’s politeness was warm and engaging as he mingled with other African leaders.
He looked frail on account of his advanced age, yet strong-willed, shaking hands with Mr Museveni and other presidents before taking a seat at the front dinner tables reserved for special guests.
South African president Jacob Zuma and the vice president of Burundi also arrived late but did not receive the kind of reaction Mr Mugabe had.
Opposition leaders (Mr Jimmy Akena and his mother Miriam Obote) attended the President’s state dinner. US Ambassador Deborah Malac and other dignitaries also attended the dinner hosted for the heads of state that came to show solidarity with President Museveni as he celebrated his fifth term victory on the eve of his swearing-in ceremony.
Earlier, there was a small brawl at the door caused by a slight security slip-up when the security personnel sealed the door before Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and other leaders accessed the dinner room.
This prompted yelling from the respective presidents’ guards, ordering the security personnel to open the door. The glitch was instantly resolved and normalcy returned.
In his short speech, Mr Museveni, who proposed a toast that marked the start of a five-year term after winning the disputed February elections, ridiculed the West and called for political integration of Africa.
After the 1994 freedom in South Africa, the whole of Africa had been liberated, President Museveni said. “We expected stability and progress. However, in some parts of Africa such as Burundi, Somalia, Central African Republic, the Boko-Haram in West Africa, Libya, Niger and others, we still have instability that has caused concern,” he said.
In these conflicts, President Museveni said, people die and development is undermined and delayed, adding that “this is the reason why foreigners are taking advantage of our weaknesses. Africa has the capacity to deal with these problems.”
“We have sent our soldiers to Somalia and CAR yet we don’t share borders with these countries. We were sure that we would succeed. The defeat of Joseph Kony and al-Shabaab proves this point. Our problem is not lack of capacity; it is lack of consensus on what needs to be done. Let Africa sit down and discuss these issues,” he said.
On his new dream for integration of Africa, Mr Museveni congratulated African leaders for working for African economic integration.
Although Mr Museveni noted that in the peaceful parts of Africa, “economies are growing”, he was quick to add that economic growth alone cannot guarantee economic security.
He reminded his peers that the first victims of Germany aggression were developed nations such as France, Belgium, Denmark and Norway.
“Africa should address the issue of political integration to avoid future colonisation and marginalisation,”
Mr Museveni said. “For the first time, Africa’s population has hit 1.23 billion people” and that this boom surpasses the population of India or China. “Africa is four times bigger [area] than China and 12 times bigger than India.”