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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Outrage as African Union fires outspoken Zimbabwe-born envoy

The dismissal of outspoken Zimbabwe-born African Union Ambassador to the United States, Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao on Monday, has angered many Africans around the globe, prompting an online petition that had by last night attracted at least 15 000 signatures.

Dr Chihombori-Quao, a pan-Africanist, did not mince her words on neo-colonialism and had strong views against Western Europe’s interference in the independence and governance of Africa.

The diplomat’s dismissal has been viewed as an attempt to silence a strong pan-African voice.

She won the hearts of many Africans when she demanded that former colonial powers like France return artefacts of 14 African countries held since the 1960s.

After uttering the words, the African Union told her to pack her bags by October 31.

A letter from African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat to Dr Chihombori-Quao dated October 7 was published on the African Union website, as well as online.

Former Ghanaian president Mr Jerry John Rawlings, on his twitter account, posted his displeasure over the termination of Dr Chihombori-Quao’s contract.

“The dismissal of Arikana Chihombori-Quao, AU Ambassador to the United States raises serious questions about the independence of the AU,”

Jerry Rawlings tweeted.

“For someone who spoke her mind about the detrimental effects of the colonisation and the huge cost of French control in several parts of Africa, this is an act that can be best described as coming from French-controlled colonised minds.

“How can this shameful behaviour emanate from us? Woman with all that it takes to galvanise our continent is chopped down by French colonised power mongers good enough to be cleaners or pruning trees at the Elysée Palace. With leaders of this kind, how can this continent ever progress?”

There has been speculation that Ambassador Chihombori-Quao’s immediate woes stem from her attack on the current relationship imposed by France on its former African colonies.

The currencies of several former West African French colonies are tied to the Franc. This means these countries do not really control their monetary policy.

An online petition started by lobby group, the African Diaspora Union, attracted more than 10 000 signatures by Monday morning to have her reinstated.

Yesterday it had reached 15 000 signatures

“Dr Chihombori-Quao was treasured by her African Diaspora and was successful in uniting African people to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development,” the petition reads.

“The questions are: why was she dismissed, or better, who benefits from her removal?” reads the petition.

“Were African heads of state and governments consulted? Who called the shot? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neo-colonialism?”

Yesterday, the African Union Commission released a statement through its spokesperson, Ebba Kalondo, in response to the social media backlash from people around the world.

“Political appointees at the African Union, including Dr Chihombori, are appointed at the discretion of the appointing authority,” said Kalondo.

“The duration of such political appointments is also determined at the discretion of that appointing authority.”

“Dr Chihombori received a letter on 7 October, 2019 bringing her tour of duty to an end, in line with the terms and conditions governing her contract of appointment, after serving three years as Permanent Representative of the African Union Mission to the United States of America, and appreciating her contribution to the Union during her tenure. This is normal diplomatic practice for political appointees everywhere.”

Dr Chihombori-Quao is a medical doctor and an entrepreneur, and has been the AU’s envoy to the United States since 2017.

Before becoming a permanent ambassador, she worked in various capacities for the AU on African-Diasporan relations.

Through her work, she had built an image of speaking truth to power, especially on neo-colonialism.

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