African strong man President Mugabe of Zimbabwe took over AU chairmanship

Addis Ababa, January 31, 2015 (GMN) - African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa have chosen the continent's oldest head of state, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, as AU chairman for the coming year. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe took over the post of African Union chairman on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

 Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president aged 90, shook hands with Abel Aziz in front of fellow leaders to applause at the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital.

“By electing me to preside over this august body, with full knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies ahead, I humbly accept your collective decision,” Mugabe said, as he thanked leaders for granting him the position.

Mugabe, a former liberation war hero who is Africa’s third-longest serving leader, is viewed with deep respect by many on the continent.

Mugabe described his memories of attending the AU’s forerunner in 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), also in Addis Ababa.

“Africa has come a long way since then,” he said. (capitalfm)

Mr Mugabe, who is 90, drew applause when he denounced colonialism.

He also spoke of the "scourge of terrorism" from Boko Haram and said there needed to be "lasting solutions" to the issue in Nigeria and Cameroon.

In his address to leaders, Mr Mugabe spoke of the need to take advantage of Africa's mineral wealth and agricultural potential, and guard against exploitation by foreigners.

He said African countries wanted relationships with "friends", but "colonialists and imperialists" had no place in the continent.

Later, he received applause when he referred to the long-running territorial dispute in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

"As long as our brothers in Western Sahara are under Moroccan occupation we are not totally free," he said.