PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe once again proved his star power on the world stage on Wednesday night when he stole the show at a dinner hosted by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who had just been sworn in for a new term.
After proceedings had started with an opening prayer, President Mugabe walked into the Speke Resort Munyonyo hotel in Kampala “to the ululation of the guests and a standing ovation from his colleagues”, Uganda’s Monitor newspaper reported.
The host, President Museveni, arrived at the dinner at 9.34PM, the New Vision newspaper reported. President Mugabe, meanwhile, walked in at 10.30PM “when all the formalities were done, and as the 16 heads of state and other invited dignitaries were settling to a sumptuous dinner”, according to the Monitor.
“When Mugabe, 92, walked in so gently a few minutes after the opening prayer, everyone sprung to their feet and cheered,” the country’s biggest daily newspaper, The New Vision, reported.
Under a headline “Mugabe steals show at Museveni State dinner”, The Monitor drew parallels between the reception for President Mugabe and that given to South African president Jacob Zuma and the vice president of Burundi who “also arrived late but did not receive the kind of reaction Mr Mugabe had.”
Said the Monitor: “Some thought Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, one of the world’s oldest and longest-serving heads 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.”
President Mugabe’s warm reception in Uganda is the customary reaction on his travels across Africa, where he is revered for his bold stand against colonialism and championing the total emancipation of blacks from all forms of subjugation by the former white colonial masters.
Museveni thanked his counterparts, who included Presidents Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Idriss Deby (Chad), Edgar Lungu (Zambia), John Magufuli (Tanzania), Mohamadou Issoufou (Niger) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea) for “showing solidarity with us on this special occasion.”
“Uganda is very much honoured by this fraternal solidarity,” he said, before raising his glass in a toast.