Sentamu urges Mugabe action

Gordon Brown has raised hopes of a response to the crisis in Zimbabwe within days after the Archbishop of York urged him to take action against President Robert Mugabe.

The Prime Minister spoke to John Sentamu last night as the Archbishop publicly called on him to lead an international campaign against the Harare regime.

Dr Sentamu appeared encouraged today by his conversation with the premier and expressed optimism that an announcement might be imminent.

The Archbishop disclosed that Mr Brown had watched a major BBC Newsnight report last week detailing the poverty and repression inflicted on Zimbabwe by Mr Mugabe.

"He's concerned," Dr Sentamu said. "I'm hoping the Prime Minister this week is going to make some kind of response."

The Archbishop went on to suggest the premier was sympathetic to concerns that an "African solution" did not appear to be forthcoming.

"He says part of the trouble has been whenever the international community has wanted to do something the African Union has said we will give it an African solution," Dr Sentamu told BBC1's Sunday AM.

"But I don't think they're (going to), just as I don't think they've been successful in Darfur already."

The Archbishop called for a full boycott of the Zimbabwean economy and its sport.

He added that countries should also look at reducing Zimbabwe's embassy staff, alleging that their diplomatic privileges were used to take money out of the African nation.

Ahead of last night conversation with the Prime Minister, Dr Sentamu penned an article for today's Observer urging Mr Brown to look past Britain's " colonialist guilt" in the former Rhodesia.

Former prime minister Tony Blair repeatedly refused to get directly involved in the crisis, arguing it was a matter for Zimbabwe's African neighbours to tackle, particularly South Africa.

But Dr Sentamu wrote that the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, had failed to meet the challenge.

"The time for 'African solutions' alone is now over," he said. "Despite his best efforts, president Mbeki has failed to help the people of Zimbabwe.

"At best he has been ineffective in his efforts to advise, cajole and persuade Robert Mugabe that it is time for him to reverse his unjust and brutal regime.

"At worst, Mbeki is complicit in his failing to lead the charge against a neighbour who is systematically raping the country he leads."

Britain has been wary of intervening in Zimbabwe as it slides towards economic collapse for fear of playing into Mr Mugabe's hands.

The 83-year-old, a former guerrilla rebel against Ian Smith's former white minority government, periodically blames the UK for the country's ills.

But Dr Sentamu, who saw his homeland Uganda ravaged by the tyranny of Idi Amin, said: "Mugabe is the worst kind of racist dictator.

"Having targeted the whites for their apparent riches, Mugabe has enacted an awful Orwellian vision, with the once oppressed taking on the role of the oppressor and glorying in their totalitarian abilities."

Dr Sentamu called on those who opposed apartheid in South Africa and the Ian Smith government of Rhodesia, to now direct their efforts at ridding Zimbabwe of Mr Mugabe.