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Annan denies Mugabe claims

Ray Matikinye

THE office of the UN Secretary-General has refuted President Mugabe’s claims that Kofi Annan pulled out from mediation in the Zimbabwe crisis because

he did not want to be sullied by undue influence from the British government.

Annan, whom President Mugabe said had pulled out of the mediation because he was “an African secretary-general”, denied this assertion. His press officer, Yves Sokorobi, also refuted the claim that Annan promised at their meeting in the Gambia that he would use his office to deal with the West’s sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The denials by Annan’s office this week put paid to Mugabe’s attempt to portray the Gambia meeting as a diplomatic victory for Harare against Britain.

At the meeting in Banjul, held on the sidelines of the African Union Summit earlier this month, Annan endorsed former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa as mediator in what Mugabe has depicted as a dispute between Britain and Zimbabwe.

Annan said his trip to Harare was no longer necessary in the light of Mkapa’s diplomatic initiative.

Since the brief Banjul encounter, Mugabe has tried to put a spin on what transpired at the meeting, portraying it as a major victory against the West’s attempts to put Zimbabwe on the agenda of the Security Council.

The presidential assertions are however being denied by Annan.

Sokorobi, in response to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent on Tuesday, said from New York that Annan’s withdrawal from mediation had nothing to do with him being “an African secretary-general”.

He also denied that Annan had made an undertaking to use his office to get the EU and the United States to lift their sanctions.

Asked whether it was true that Annan withdrew from the mediation because he is an “African secretary-general”, Sokorobi answered: “No.” Mugabe told the ruling party’s central committee in Harare on Friday: “He is an African, a secretary-general from our continent. We reminded him that we did not want him to be tarnished and he added: ‘I am also your in-law.’ It would have been sad, very sad indeed, if he had obeyed the bidding of the Blair government on Zimbabwe.”

Mugabe applauded Annan for refusing to be reduced to a tool of British manoeuvres over the land issue that has been blamed for economic decline over the past seven years.

“We have always respected the office of the UN Secretary-General,” Mugabe was quoted as saying, “which is why we protected it and its African incumbent by blocking a mission which would have compromised its integrity.”

While Mugabe’s spin on the Annan meeting is looking increasingly threadbare, there are also problems with Mkapa’s mediation efforts which are being dismissed by European countries and the United States as based on a false premise. They have said the mediation efforts are not necessary as what is required is for Zimbabwe to deal with its own internal problems while the international community can only assist.

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