Mugabe: Commonwealth is 'Animal Farm'

Chris Chinaka,And Ed Johnson,Nigeria
Sunday 07 December 2003 01:00
Comments

Commonwealth leaders last night agreed Zimbabwe would remain suspended from the 54-nation group and appointed the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, to monitor Zimbabwe's progress over the next two years, diplomatic sources said.

The decision, to monitor Zimbabwe until the next Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting, represents a victory for Britain and the anti-Mugabe camp. But, according to the sources, Thabo Mbeki, the South African President who has fought hard to get Zimbabwe readmitted, said this did not mean President Robert Mugabe's regime would be off the agenda for the rest of this meeting. This ensures Zimbabwe will continue to dominate proceedings today.

Last night, the only official word on the decision of a six-member committee appointed by CHOGM to discuss Zimbabwe came from the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who said: "They have a form of words which they are still negotiating and they will continue to negotiate over this evening.

"I understand that a clear view of a majority of the group is that the suspension should continue and it should be made clear what benchmarks Mr Mugabe should have to make to be let back in."

Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe's President Mugabe said his government would pull out of the Commonwealth after his ruling Zanu-PF party passed a resolution calling for Zimbabwe's withdrawal.

The suggestion that the Nigerian President should, as host of this conference and chairman for the next two years, monitor Zimbabwe had been turned down at a meeting of African and Caribbean leaders. President Obasanjo had hoped to get the issue agreed early on in the three-day conference. Yesterday's full meeting, including 40 heads of state, turned the Zimbabwe issue over to the committee of six, consisting of two countries in favour of readmitting Zimbabwe ­ South Africa and Mozambique ­ two against ­ Australia and Canada ­ and two others, Jamaica and India.

That committee recommended Mr Obasanjo's original proposal be accepted and Mr Mbeki backed down, sources said. The decision comes as a great relief to the British, who regard the Nigerian leader as a safe pair of hands. Although in favour of readmitting Zimbabwe earlier in the year, Mr Obasanjo changed his mind two weeks ago when he went to Harare to assess things for himself. He found Mr Mugabe as unaccommodating as ever.

Earlier, a South African- sponsored challenge to the exclusion of Zimbabwe was defeated when the heads of government voted 40 to 11 in favour of Mr McKinnon continuing as secretary general. The election was seen as a protest against the policy on Zimbabwe. It also destroyed the myth of African solidarity over Zimbabwe. Eleven votes for the rival candidate, a former Sri Lankan foreign minister, showed that only a handful of African countries support South Africa's stand to have Zimbabwe returned.

Mr Mugabe's threat to withdraw was made at a two-day meeting in Zimbabwe where, before 3,000 cheering delegates, he said the Commonwealth had been hijacked by racists who were interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. He said there was no backing down from the resolution, because his government had been treated unfairly.

"The Commonwealth is a mere club, but it has become like Animal Farm, where some members are more equal than others. How can Blair claim to regulate and direct events and still say all of us are equals?" he said.

Commonwealth leaders suspended Zimbabwe last year, saying Mr Mugabe had rigged his re-election in 2002 and harassed opponents.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in