On Friday, Robert Mugabe, the 90-year-old president of Zimbabwe, was named the chairperson of the African Union (AU), a collection of 54 African countries devoted in theory to promoting economic and diplomatic solidarity.
Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and has presided over a massive crash in the Zimbwaean economy and constant repression of political opponents and human rights in general.
I mean, it's hard to blame the AU for being pretty cool with this. These are the standards, taken from the AU Charter, that states have to uphold in order to be members in good standing.
Notice anything missing? That's right: any sort of flag wave towards democracy. This despite being composed of 52 republics and two kingdoms.
The only thing that ever winds up getting a country suspended from the AU is when a coup takes out a leader, like when Egypt was suspended in 2013, after the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi. (Don't worry, they were let back in last year.)
So if you value continuity over everything else, why not promote someone like Mugabe to be the chairperson? Especially when he joins past chairs such as Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi (2009-2010) and Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang (2011-2012)?
At least, as Piers Pigou, Southern Africa project director for the International Crisis Group tells the AP, the move is symbolic at best. But, he said, it does send "a negative signal of African solidarity of leaders who've misruled their countries."
...Ok! Enjoy having Mugabe as your public face, African Union.