OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week said he hoped South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent vi
sit to Harare was not aimed simply at advancing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) agenda ahead of the G8 meeting which begins on Sunday in France.
Addressing G8 ambassadors in Harare on Monday, Tsvangirai said it would be unfortunate if Mbeki and Obasanjo came to Zimbabwe to promote their continental project at the expense of the local crisis.
“We certainly hope that this initiative is not yet again one of those short-lived diplomatic efforts, such as what happened in 2002 ahead of the G8 meeting, in marketing Nepad, and will soon lose momentum afterwards,” Tsvangirai said.
“It would be a tragedy if efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis were routinely linked to the calendar of multilateral summits and are then allowed to wither after every such summit.”
Mbeki’s critics say he came to Zimbabwe with Obasanjo and President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi basically to ease pressure on themselves at the G8 meeting which begins on Sunday and ends on Tuesday at Evian-les-Bains.
They say Obasanjo was also here for the same reason although he primarily wanted to clear the Zimbabwe issue ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja in December.
Before the G8 meeting last year in Kananaskis, Canada, Mbeki stepped up his efforts to tackle the Zimbabwe issue only to relax them after the summit.
Mbeki left on Wednesday for Abuja, Nigeria, to attend a Nepad Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee meeting. Yesterday he attended the swearing-in ceremony of Obasanjo together with other leaders including President Robert Mugabe.
Mbeki will tomorrow proceed to France where he will attend the G8 meeting together with other Nepad movers, Presidents Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Obasanjo.
France has dismissed recent reports that Mugabe had also been invited to the G8 meeting.
But the Zimbabwe crisis might come up at the summit. Last week the United States-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights called on the G8 countries to deal with the crisis at their meeting.
In a letter to G8 leaders, the lawyers’ group said Zimbabwe was a test case for Nepad. Mbeki and some leaders of developed countries have been trying to deny this.
“The crisis in Zimbabwe is a litmus test for the efficacy of your discussions,” the lawyers said. “The situation in Zimbabwe starkly contradicts the principles contained in Nepad and supported by the Africa Action Plan. Moreover, Zimbabwean civil society groups are routinely being persecuted, which hampers their efforts to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.”