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UK to engage Sadc leaders on Zim

Constantine Chimakure/ Loughty Dube

BRITAIN will engage Sadc leaders on Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crisis on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Hea

ds of Government (Chogm) meeting in Kampala, Uganda, amid media reports that the former colonial master once considered military action in the southern African nation.

The three-day meeting starts on November 23.

In a question and answer session in the UK parliament this week, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said the meeting with the regional leaders would revolve on the political situation in Zimbabwe, with particular regard to democratic freedoms and human rights.

“My Lords, as Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, those matters will not be on the formal agenda of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda. The issue is, however, likely to be discussed at the margins of the meeting,” Baroness Royall said. “My noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown, who is today (Monday) at the Commonwealth meeting discussing Pakistan and his ministerial colleagues, will certainly raise the issue in bilateral discussions with regional leaders.”

Zimbabwe pulled out of the Commonwealth December in 2003 after indications that the club of former Britain colonies wanted to extend the country’s suspension from the grouping on allegations of human rights abuses, among others.

Baroness Royall said the UK would work with civil society and Zimbabwe’s neighbours to find a solution to the crisis.

“We also want to use the opportunity afforded by the Commonwealth People’s Forum and the civil society organisations affiliated to the Commonwealth to provide the people of Zimbabwe with greater support. We want to work not only on the margins of Chogm, but with those other civil society organisations,” Baroness Royall added.

Asked by Lord Howell of Guildford whether or not it was now prudent to look for another candidate to spearhead talks between Zanu PF and the MDC after Sadc’s pointman, South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, was proving “a damp rag”, the Baroness Royall said:

“My Lords, I note the views of the noble Lord and I understand and share his frustration at the time that this is taking. However, it is important to note that President Mbeki has a task and a timescale in which to deliver. We must wait until the end of November before looking for other candidates. I am afraid that that is the situation. That does not prevent us having discussions with other countries in southern Africa on the margins of Chogm.”

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