Moo-gabe's gift: Zimbabwe leader sells cows to fund AU
Addis Ababa (AFP) - As the African Union struggles to get members to pay dues, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe took the bull by the horns and sold his own cattle for a sizeable donation to the body.
Mugabe handed over $1 million (880,000 euros) at the start of the AU's bi-annual summit in Addis Ababa, after auctioning off 300 of his own cattle, as well as those belonging to some of his supporters.
The gift was a bid to show his resolve for making the AU self-supporting as the tricky questioning of financing tops the agenda.
"As an African and a farmer, the donation of cattle came naturally to me, given that our continent is rich in cattle and cattle are held as a store of wealth," said Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since its independence from white minority rule in 1980.
An AU official said Mugabe had initially offered the cows themselves, but decided to auction them off when the union replied that there was no space for them at the AU's shiny Chinese-built headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The AU is trying to wean itself from the foreign donors that finance the majority of its budget and has called on member states to impose a 0.2 percent levy on certain imports to cover its costs.
Funds from the import levy are supposed to cover 100 percent of the AU's operational costs, 75 percent of its program costs and 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget.
But so far, only a handful of the union's 55 member states have taken steps to implement the tax.
"Unless and until we can fund our own programs, the African Union will not be truly our own," Mugabe said.
Despite nagging questions about Mugabe's health, his ruling party claims that at 93, he is still as strong as an ox.
He is drumming up support ahead of elections next year when he plans to seek office again, steadfast in his plan to rule until the cows come home.