The working schedule of the Belarusian president is always very busy. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds government conferences and working meetings on the most pressing issues of the country's development, regularly travels to the regions, makes foreign visits and receives foreign guests, talks to journalists, signs decrees and laws. Even when there are no public events, this does not mean that the head of state is not working. However, even during the time off, whether it is a hockey practice or chopping wood, Aleksandr Lukashenko will often find a reason for another assignment. As he likes to say, you have to proceed from the facts of life.
The President's Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.
What are the prospects for Belarus in Africa, why did Aleksandr Lukashenko go to Zimbabwe and why is he grateful to the West for the sanctions? These matters and also the visit of the head of state to the United Arab Emirates, a frank and friendly meeting with the leader of the country and a dozen areas for cooperation are covered in the new installment of BelTA's President's Week project.
ANTHEMS, DANCES AND EVEN A CROCODILE. Warm welcome for Lukashenko in Zimbabwe
The Belarusian president arrived in Zimbabwe on a state visit on 30 January. The hot weather of the African summer was complemented by an incredibly warm welcome for the Belarusian leader at the airport.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to meet the distinguished guest from Belarus personally. Together they were enthusiastically welcomed by several thousand supporters of the Zimbabwean leader. Some of them held large crocodile soft toys. This is not just a tribute to the local fauna, but a sign of support for the president of Zimbabwe, who received the nickname ‘Crocodile' during the guerrilla anti-colonial war for his resolve, hard stance and political acumen.
The presidents were greeted with flower garlands and Zimbabwean dancers. Under the hot sun, the dancers did incredible moves. For a moment you could forget about the seriousness of the occasion.
A long welcome ceremony also included traditional things. The guard of honor, the anthems of the two countries, salute volleys– everything was at the highest level, as it should be in accordance with the protocol at the state visit.
Aleksandr Lukashenko and Emmerson Mnangagwa left the airport in the same car with two presidential flags on it. The program of bilateral communication at the highest level included an informal dinner on that day. Although the details of such communication are not covered in the press, it is during such conversations that the most significant agreements are sometimes reached and approaches to the development of cooperation are discussed.
The arrival of the Belarusian head of state in Zimbabwe was preceded by a Belarusian-Zimbabwean business forum, which brought together more than a hundred officials and representatives of business from both sides. All the days of the visit, the members of the delegation worked hard, held negotiations, visited local enterprises and organizations. This work resulted not only in the plans for the future but also in quite specific agreements. For example, about the supply of several thousand Belarusian tractors and other equipment to Zimbabwe in the next couple of years.
THE BASIS FOR CONTINUED COOPERATION. What did the presidents of Belarus and Zimbabwe agree on?
The official talks of the heads of state took place at the State House, the official residence of the Zimbabwean leader, in Harare on 31 January. Before the talks, Aleksandr Lukashenko visited the National Heroes Acre memorial and laid a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier. The memorial was designed to commemorate the Patriotic Front guerrillas killed in the Rhodesian Bush War, and also contemporary Zimbabweans whose dedication or commitment to their country justify their interment at the shrine.
After that, the president's motorcade headed to the venue of the talks. The presidents met one-on-one and then were joined by members of the delegations. Following the talks, eight bilateral documents were signed in the presence of the heads of state. They included the agreements on the promotion and mutual protection of investments, on the establishment of a joint standing commission for cooperation, a memorandum of understanding on the mutual recognition of documents on education, an intergovernmental agreement on double taxation avoidance and prevention of tax evasion with respect to taxes on income and property. Another agreement that was signed was the agreement on the establishment of sister city relations between Minsk and Harare.
“Today, the president and I have held substantive talks. We took stock of the progress to implement the agreements, and also exchanged views on topical issues of the international agenda and the difficult situation in the world,” the Belarusian leader said. “We have discussed in detail the promising avenues of bilateral cooperation that has gained a lot of steam in recent years.”
Belarus has opened an embassy in Zimbabwe and expects that Zimbabwe's diplomatic mission will appear in Minsk soon.
The head of state drew attention to agreements on personnel training. The parties also agreed on investment and cooperation projects in various fields, which will become the basis for the further cooperation. “In manufacturing, trade, agriculture, energy, transport and mining. We have also agreed that these contracts and the arrangements that we have reached today will become the basis for continuing our cooperation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“Today we have signed an agreement to set up a Belarus-Zimbabwe standing commission on cooperation, as well as a number of other bilateral agreements and memorandums. There are already about 20 of them. The potential of our cooperation is huge. And I am sure that regular direct contacts at various levels will allow making the most of this potential. We have additionally agreed that we will put together separate groups of specialists to deal with agriculture and defense,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“If Zimbabwe is interested in creating joint ventures in Zimbabwe and Belarus, we are ready for it. Together with your specialists, we will process raw materials from Zimbabwe at enterprises in Belarus and share the profit. We would also welcome Zimbabwean capital in the capital of our enterprises,” the Belarusian leader said. “The president and I did not rule out barter schemes, either. A special group of experts will compile the appropriate list of goods.”
The president assured that Belarus is always ready to help out Zimbabwe in any situation.
“You need to know that in the center of Europe there is a country called Belarus which is always ready to give you a helping hand in any situation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “We will put results of this visit on the scale of peace and progress.”
Belarus is intent on working together with the leadership of Zimbabwe for the benefit of the people of this country: “We deeply respect and are grateful to the people of Zimbabwe. I'd like to emphasize that we go to Africa not for the sake of bringing some illusive democratic values. We go in order to work together with your leaders for the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe.”
The head of state noted that as part of the program launched in 2020 to mechanize Zimbabwean farmers Belarus has supplied over 1,800 tractors and about 80 grain harvesters. These machines helped ensure the country's food security. “It is just the beginning. We've launched the third phase of the program to the tune of over $66 million. It provides for shipping over 3,700 tractors, 60 harvesters to the local agrarians within the next 1.5 years,” he noted..
Fire trucks of Belarusian make are now being shipped to local municipalities in Zimbabwe. Apart from that, BelAZ haul trucks are already successfully used in Zimbabwe. The parties agreed to ship over 30 BelAZ haul trucks to Zimbabwe in the near future.
ATTEMPTS TO DIVIDE AND CONQUER. What did Lukashenko warn the people of Zimbabwe about
Aleksandr Lukashenko addressed Zimbabwe citizens and noted that today the world's largest countries are trying to divide and redivide the planet. They are trying to subjugate countries like Belarus and Zimbabwe and benefit from doing so.
Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that Zimbabwe is richly endowed with mineral resources, and this is the reason why this country will never be allowed to live a calm life. It is one of the reasons behind sanctions. “Americans imposed sanctions against you not because you are not democratic. But because you've decided to take your country and mineral resources under your own control. You do not let various international crooks and swindlers use your mineral resources. It is the reason behind the sanctions. Like in the past centuries they are once again trying to bring you to your knees. But the president and the government of Zimbabwe do not want that. Hence the sanctions,” he said.
“You will be subjected to stronger attempts to sow discord in your society, to bring you to your knees. But you must stand strong. And you will get through if you are united, if you do not allow clashes between your own people inside the country due to some geopolitical ambitions or illusory promises of the West and the United States,” the Belarusian leader stressed. “We have to get past this complicated period in the life of our planet no matter what. Preserve peace! If you fail to do it, you will be subjected to colonial oppression once again.”
“Be vigilant and careful. Don't trust those who talk big. You can secure your prosperity only through your labor,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said while referring to the election campaign, which is supposed to take place in Zimbabwe this summer.
Aleksandr Lukashenko's speech was accompanied by applause many times.
Africa woke up long time ago. What Belarus is bringing to the continent
Journalists asked the Belarusian president how he saw the development of cooperation with the African continent in general. “Africa woke up a long time ago. The world has no future without Africa. Without Africa, the world cannot develop. The future belongs to Africa,” the president is confident.
“These are our friends. We sign agreements for the sake of our peoples. We are a peaceful nation. We are not coming here the way the colonialists once did. We are bringing technology and training specialists,” the Belarusian leader said talking about cooperation with the countries of the African continent.
"So Africa woke up a long time ago. Without it, there can be no development. Therefore, all the powers-that-be are here: the United States, China, Russia, the UK, the entire European Union and so on. The future belongs to Africa," Aleksandr Lukashenko summed up.
Aleksandr Lukashenko told reporters that the talks with the president of Zimbabwe included a discussion of the prospects for cooperation with Mozambique and also how the experience gained with Zimbabwe could be scaled up to that country.
The Belarusian head of state explained that Emmerson Mnangagwa is on good terms with the leadership of Mozambique and can assist in this matter.
"At the initiative of my friend, we discussed the cooperation between Zimbabwe, Belarus and Mozambique. Mozambique is a large country nearby, with the coast of a thousand kilometers, an agrarian country. It needs huge investments in agriculture. We already have experience. The president said that he is on very good terms with the president of Mozambique. He promised to discuss with him the ways to apply the experience of cooperation between Zimbabwe and Belarus with regard to Mozambique,” Aleksandr Lukashenko shared the details.
“Thank you for the sanctions”. Why Belarusian president thanked Western countries
After the official talks Aleksandr Lukashenko and Emmerson Mnangagwa took part in a ceremony to hand over Belarusian machinery to Zimbabwean farmers.
The heads of state were greeted by Zimbabwean women in Belarusian national costumes holding a round bread. It was baked using the local crops harvested with the help of Belarusian machinery. The presidents were briefed on the supplies and maintenance of the Belarusian machinery in Zimbabwe. After that the two leaders spoke at the ceremony.
"I would like to thank the United States and the entire Western world for the sanctions. Otherwise, these would not be Belarusian tractors on this huge field today but U.S. and German ones," he said. The participants of the event supported the head of state with a big round of applause. Among those present there were many farmers who would use the machinery in the future.
The president recalled that once the current leader of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa asked him for assistance in the development of agriculture. "The history of the Zimbabwean people, their past were not easy. The president asked us for help in feeding the people, reviving the agricultural sector," the head of state recalled. "And I promised to help. Agriculture and about 1,000 tractors that we see here today are just the first trial step," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
"Please remember: we are separated by thousands of kilometers but we are always ready to help you and to accept your help. We are ready to lend you a helping hand any time, anywhere, in solving the most complex problems and tasks," the Belarusian leader assured.
He called on the people of Zimbabwe to stay united and wished everyone happiness, peace and good and also bread on the tables.
Aleksandr Lukashenko gifted a tractor to his Zimbabwean counterpart who will be able to use it on his personal subsidiary plot. In turn, Emmerson Mnangagwa gave the president of Belarus a taxidermy lion - the king of animals and one of the strongest animals in Africa.
“We have developed some chemistry”. How the leaders of Belarus and Zimbabwe became friends
In his public statements, the president of Zimbabwe spoke very figuratively and sometimes with humor. He also spoke about why he and Aleksandr Lukashenko had developed friendly relations. "We have developed some chemistry since the first meeting. We realized that we see things and the way forward for our countries the same way. Since then, we have been friends and have been working together for the benefit of our peoples," Emmerson Mnangagwa said.
He noted that both Zimbabwe and Belarus are subject to Western sanctions, so it is not surprising that the countries began to cooperate. “We cooperate by practically helping each other,” the Zimbabwean leader stressed.
The agricultural sector accounts for a large share of Zimbabwe's economy, and the country has ensured its food security. “We have a vision and a friend who shares it. We have achieved this with the support of my brother, Aleksandr Lukashenko,” Emmerson Mnangagwa said.
“We are willing to be friends with all countries that share our approach. It cannot be that one country is a horse and another is a drover. We are either all horses or all drovers. We should be in the same boat and have the same vision,” the Zimbabwean leader stressed.
At the ceremony to hand over the machinery, he noted that the presidents of both countries do not believe in long speeches, but believe in real deeds and results of cooperation that can be touched or counted. Like the tractors in the field where the ceremony took place. “If you don't believe me, you can go and touch them,” the Zimbabwean leader joked.
Victoria Falls. What Lukashenko compared the water of the famous natural wonder to
The state visit of the Belarusian president to Zimbabwe ended on 1 February. On the last day of the visit, the Belarusian leader visited Victoria Falls and the contact zoo together with the president of Zimbabwe. “The irresistible power of the water stream is comparable to the power of the people of Zimbabwe,” Aleksandr Lukashenko made an entry in the book after his visit to one of the main attractions of the country and the natural gems of Africa.
Victoria Falls was so named in the mid-19th century in honor of the British Queen Victoria, and in the language of the indigenous population is known as Mosi-oa-Tuсa (The Smoke that Thunders). It is the world's only waterfall that is more than 100 meters high and more than a kilometer wide at the same time. It is the fourth widest in the world and one of the largest in terms of water flow.
After visiting the waterfall, the heads of state held talks without the press and cameras and summarized the results of the visit.
Emmerson Mnangagwa saw off Aleksandr Lukashenko at the airport. The farewell ceremony was as solemn as the one on the first day of the visit - with a guard of honor, anthems, local dances and songs.
Aleksandr Lukashenko received a photo album with memorable moments of the visit as a present from the Zimbabwean leader. “Quick work,” the Belarusian leader thanked. “I am taking it.”
A dozen areas. Details of the four-hour talks between the presidents of Belarus and UAE
After his visit to Zimbabwe, the Belarusian leader headed not for Minsk, but for Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The next day, on 2 February, the Belarusian leader met with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The talks lasted for about four hours. The UAE leader invited his Belarusian counterpart home and the meeting took place in an absolutely friendly atmosphere. First the meeting was held with the participation of the delegations and then one-on-one.
Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Aleksandr Lukashenko at his car. After a brief greeting, the heads of state headed to the palace for the talks.
"Mr. President, I am a very straightforward person, so you know what I think about you. I have always had the highest regard for you and your friends," Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the beginning of the meeting.
"The Emirates are not changing," the UAE president replied.
"They are changing for the better," the Belarusian leader noted.
The meeting was attended by the eldest and youngest sons of the president of Belarus, which also attested to a special nature of the relationship, a truly friendly one.
The leaders of Belarus and the United Arab Emirates agreed to cooperate in more than a dozen areas, including cooperation in trade, economy and investment. The focus was also placed on humanitarian activities. According to the agreements, a large delegation of experts is set to arrive in Belarus in the near future to work on specific issues in the outlined areas of cooperation.
The results of the talks were summarized by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to the United Arab Emirates Andrei Luchenok. “Speaking about the meeting of the heads of the two countries, we can note that, firstly, it turned out to be very friendly as always. Secondly, the talks were result-oriented. The parties discussed virtually all the areas of bilateral cooperation - both traditional (trade, investment projects) and promising ones. There were about ten of them in total. We are getting ready to work. We hope that this work will be productive,” he told the media.
Aleksandr Lukashenko touched upon the theme of cooperation with the United Arab Emirates during his recent visit to the Intellectual Belarus expo. The two countries are implementing a number of large-scale projects. The head of state was particularly interested in developments in the field of artificial intelligence. He had discussed this topic earlier during his meetings with foreign partners, including partners from the United Arab Emirates, a country where artificial intelligence is one of key areas of focus. In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko said he was ready to assist in the development of cooperation of the Emirates with Belarusian partners. “They invite me to the Emirates. They are seriously working on artificial intelligence there. If you need help, please, I can do it. Because, oddly enough, I was at the origin of the Emiratis' work on artificial intelligence. The Chinese scientists were also there. They [the Emirates] brought them together, gave them money. They worked hard. They asked me to help them work in Belarus. I said that they were most welcome here I am going to meet with the person who deals with the matter and provide finances.”
In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled the Northern Waterfront project to build an experimental multifunctional complex in Minsk. “Why did I fall for this: not only because of the $5 billion in investments, but also because they promised me to create this smart city, as well as a powerful educational platform for artificial intelligence. There will be a university there. If you need support or contacts with these people (they have greatly advanced in this field), feel free to ask,” the head of state said.
In general, trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and the UAE has been steadily developing. Joint interests and prospects of cooperation lie in such areas as investment, industry, agriculture, banking and finance, transport and logistics, education and scientific research, sports and tourism, and others.