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25 Jun 2008 07:25
Southern African leaders will hold an emergency meeting in Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane, on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe, officials said.
Earlier, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the United Nations to isolate President Robert Mugabe and said a peacekeeping force was needed in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe has shrugged off Monday’s unprecedented and unanimous decision by the UN Security Council to condemn violence against the opposition and declare that a free and fair presidential election on Friday was impossible.
The Mbabane meeting has been called by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), amid mounting international pressure on Mugabe to resolve his country’s political turmoil and economic meltdown.
The leaders of Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland would attend the meeting in their capacity as the SADC’s troika organ on politics, defence and security, the Tanzanian government said in a statement.
“Others who have been invited to attend the meeting are the current SADC chairperson [President] Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, and the SADC mediator for Zimbabwe, [President] Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,” said the statement.
“The meeting will discuss how the SADC and its troika organ on politics, defence and security can help Zimbabwe to get out of its current state of conflict.”
Tsvangirai, who has withdrawn from the election and taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare since Sunday, said Zimbabwe would “break” if the world did not come to its aid.
“We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe,” Tsvangirai wrote in the Guardian.
“For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force,” said Tsvangirai.
“Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers.
They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.”
Pressure has increased on Mugabe from both inside and outside Africa over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, blamed by the West and the opposition on the 84-year-old president who has held power for 28 years.
The United States has urged SADC to declare both the election and Mugabe’s government illegitimate.
Angola’s state-run Angop news agency quoted SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao as saying foreign ministers agreed at a meeting on Monday that a “climate of extreme violence” existed in Zimbabwe and that the government must protect the people.
Friday’s vote was meant to be a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change won a parallel parliamentary election in March, sending Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party to its first defeat since independence from Britain in 1980.
Both Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and the leader of the African National Congress said Friday’s election must be postponed after Tsvangirai’s withdrawal.
Zuma, who rivals Mbeki as South Africa’s most powerful man, called for urgent intervention by the United Nations and SADC, saying the situation in Zimbabwe was out of control.
South Africa under Mbeki has been an advocate of “quiet diplomacy” with Mugabe and has resisted calls to use its powerful economic leverage over landlocked Zimbabwe.
But Zuma, who toppled Mbeki as ANC leader last December, has become increasingly outspoken over Mugabe.
On Tuesday, Mugabe dismissed the pressure and told a rally in western Zimbabwe that Friday’s election would go ahead.
“The West can scream all it wants. Elections will go on. Those who want to recognise our legitimacy can do so, those who don’t want, should not,” said Mugabe.
Mugabe has presided over a slide into economic chaos, including 80% unemployment and the world’s highest inflation rate of at least 165 000%.
He blames Western sanctions for his country’s economic woes.
Mugabe a ‘Frankenstein’
Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu has labelled Mugabe a “Frankenstein” figure and called for international action to prevent the country descending into bloodshed.
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town told Australian television Zimbabwe’s best hope was an international peacekeeping force primarily comprised of Africans with non-African nations providing logistical support.
Swift action was needed to prevent another Rwanda, he said, in a reference to the 1994 genocide that the UN says led to the deaths of approximately 800 000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.
“Rwanda happened despite all the warnings that the international community was given, they kept holding back and today we are regretting that we did not, in fact, act expeditiously,” Tutu said, speaking from Cape Town late on Tuesday.
“I hope in this case we are not going to wait until several more people have been killed.”
Tutu said Mugabe had gone from being a liberation leader who helped his people throw off the shackles of colonialism to a figure who was thumbing his nose at the international community and holding his country to ransom.
“He has mutated into something that is quite unbelievable, he has really turned into a kind of Frankenstein for his people,” Tutu said. - Reuters, AFP
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