PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, who is coming under growing pressure to resolve the current crisis or quit, is expected to meet United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki in the Gambia in a fortnight.
Diplomatic sources said yesterday a meeting has already been organised for the three leaders in Banjul on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit from June 25-July 2. Heads of state usually meet during the last two days of the summit.
“The three leaders are expected to meet in Banjul, the Gambia, to discuss the Zimbabwe situation and map the way forward,” a source said. “Relevant officials have already made preparations for the meeting.
“It will lay the ground for Annan’s expected visit to Harare and the anticipated Mugabe/Mbeki meeting over Zimbabwe.”
UN spokesperson Yves Sokobi said Annan had “expressed interest” in meeting Mugabe in Banjul. He added Annan had said: “The international community must not allow Zimbabwe to collapse and should assist.”
Annan will be attending the AU summit for the last time before his term of office expires at the end of the year and sources say he is determined to sort out the local crisis.
Sources said Mbeki also wants the situation resolved before he goes in 2009. Last week he dispatched his Intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and top intelligence officials to Harare to arrange a meeting with Mugabe.
While South African Deputy Foreign minister Aziz Pahad this week said he was not aware Kasrils wanted to lay the ground for a Mugabe/Mbeki summit, the sources said there were plans for such a meeting.
“We are not aware of any attempts by Minister Kasrils to use his visit to set up a meeting between our two presidents,” Pahad told journalists. He said Kasrils’ trip was just a visit to see State Security minister Didymus Mutasa.
But Mbeki recently sent Kasrils to London before his trip there to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two discussed Zimbabwe for the second time this year.
Pahad, who again voiced concern about the Zimbabwe economic crisis, raising alarm over the 1 193% inflation, suggested a policy shift in Pretoria by saying that South Africa and the international community now want to “engage with Zimbabwe through the UN”.
Mbeki has for six years pursued a “quiet diplomacy” policy which has however failed to resolve the situation. His recent remarks in London that everyone hoped that Annan would crack the Zimbabwe problem revealed a shift in policy.
Annan’s expected visit to Zimbabwe has been engulfed in controversy as Mugabe is apparently trying to block the UN boss from coming to Harare to prevent putting the Zimbabwe crisis on the UN Security Council agenda.
The forthcoming AU summit will end on the day when the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights holds its first meeting. Zimbabwe is on the agenda of the AU’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which in 2004 compiled a damning report on the country’s human rights record.
On December 5 last year the commission adopted a resolution censuring arbitrary arrests, detention and forced displacement but the motion was defeated on legal technicalities at the January AU summit in Khartoum, Sudan.
Sources said some African leaders were currently pushing for an AU resolution on Zimbabwe in Banjul. The previous AU summits in South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Libya and Sudan failed to tackle the Zimbabwe problem.
AU leaders often find themselves divided over critical issues such as UN reform and even whether a leader whose government stands accused of human rights abuses should be the chairman of the organisation. There were deep divisions in the AU before the Khartoum summit over whether President Omar al-Bashir should be the chair in view of the Darfur atrocities.
A compromise was however found and President Dennis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo became chairman. The AU is proving to be a toothless bulldog on Zimbabwe like its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. AU chairperson Alpha Konare last year sent an envoy, Tom Nyanduga, to Harare to assess the
effects of Operation Murambatsvina but he was turned away and the AU did nothing.
Zimbabwe also snubbed former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, who was appointed by the then AU chairman, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo, to facilitate a negotiated political settlement in Zimbabwe but he was also rejected and the AU again failed to act.