Commonwealth differs on Zimbabwe

Members of the Commonwealth have succeeded in excluding Zimbabwe from a Commonwealth summit in Nigeria, but they remain at loggerheads on how to resolve the crisis in the southern African country.

    Mugabe accused Britain and the Antipodes of white racism

    Host President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Harare earlier in November ahead of the December 5-9 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja.


    Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe used the occasion to declare that he looked forward to attending CHOGM after denouncing the leaders of former colonial power Britain, Australia and New Zealand as "white racists" for opposing his attendance.


    But on Tuesday Obasanjo fell in line telling reporters that Mugabe "will not have an invitation".




    Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 after Mugabe was re-elected in a poll which international observers said was marred by violence and ballot-rigging. The expulsion was extended until December over objections from African nations.


    Commonwealth spokesman Joel Kibazo said in London on Wednesday however that "there isn't one African country that has exactly the same position on Zimbabwe as another".


    "There's a range of about three or four positions," he said


    One of the most extraordinary manifestations of the rift on Zimbabwe came at a summit of southern African leaders in August in Dar es Salaam, where hundreds of delegates greeted the 79-year-old Mugabe with shouts, applause and ululation.


    Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa declared that US and European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe were unwarranted and ineffectual.


    "The repressive legislations have been used extensively to shut down the media and civic groups" 

    Brian Raftopoulous,
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

    Festus Mogae, the president of neighbouring Botswana, on the other hand has been the only African leader to publicly attack Mugabe over his policies.


    Amid this, Zimbabwe has seen little improvement in the political, economic and social factors that provoked its suspension.


    Root causes


    An association of civic groups, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said last week that the root causes for Zimbabwe's suspension persist.


    "Has the arbitary arrest, detention, harassment and torture of citizens stopped?" asked its leader Brian Raftopoulous. "Why were pastors carrying crosses, and women carrying roses brutally assaulted, arrested and incarcerated in prison?"


    Raftopoulous said the government "does not deserve to be invited to the Commonwealth because the situation has deteriorated”.


    "There is no movement in (inter-party) dialogue. The repressive legislations have been used extensively to shut down the media and civic groups," he said.


    Hundreds of pro-democracy and labour activists have been arrested in recent months for staging anti-government protests, and the country's only independent daily, the Daily News, was shut down in September. 



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