The second day of the World Economic Forum in Durban began with the sight of 93-year-old Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe shuffling on to the world stage for the umpteenth time, in his 37 years of power, to pronounce and provoke, on a stage shared with a Hollywood film star, with harsh words about Islamic States.
Mugabe was a panellist on a debate about fragile states in the main hall at the International Convention Centre that included diverse voices from former AFDB head Donald Kaberuka to Hollywood actor Forest Whittaker. The first question went to Mugabe about whether he thought Zimbabwe, with its economic troubles, is a fragile state.
“We are not a poor country, you can’t call us a fragile state, you can call America a fragile state,” says Mugabe to chuckles from the hundreds in the audience.
Mugabe pointed to his country’s vast resources, 14 universities and 90 per cent literacy rate. He believed conflict in his country was mainly down to rival political groups, but had sharp words for Islamic states.
“If you look into the Islamic world and talk about ISIS, and various other groups, it will appear the belief is the more violence you inflict on the population the greater the people will listen to you and join your side. That is a dangerous one and I do not know how it will be remedied.”
Greater truth to political power came from the youngest member of the panel Victor Ocho -an activist from Uganda who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and grew up in the violence in the north of his country. He told Forbes Africa he was once so angry about the violence he stoned soldiers with tears in his eyes.
“When young people complain it is called a protest. When leaders speak it is called an excuse,” he says.
“Every year hundreds of Africans die in the Mediterranean Sea trying to escape Africa. Why to do they leave what is wrong ? It is because of the lack of integrity of power.”
Whittaker told how he was working in camps in South Sudan to try to get former child soldiers to put down the gun.