African leaders pass key test in clinching Zimbabwe deal

Sharm El-Sheikh- Egypt (PANA) -- African leaders, facing the prospect of undermining the credibility of their continental organisation, moved on to clinch a deal of sorts on Zimbabwe as they authorised the formation of a unity government Tuesday, the last day of the two-day summit in this Egyptian resort.
In what would stand as a landmark for an organisation whose predecessor had used the non-interference in the affairs of member states to get many dictators off the hook, the African leaders also pushed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to respect his pledge to negotiate with the opposition on the formation of the unity government.
Political analysts said the decisions would have great implications for the African Union, a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which had championed the continent's liberation from colonial domination.
With the continent fully liberated from colonial domination, the AU is expected to help propel it to better governance which will in turn speed up economic and social development for the benefits of Africa's long suffering peoples.
In their communiqué issued after the intense talks on the Zimbabwean crisis, among several other issues of development, the leaders authorised the kick-starting of a process that will lead to Zimbabwe's return to democracy.
South African President Thabo Mbeki received recognition from the African leaders for his 'quiet diplomacy', which has been bashed for slowing down the hunt for the much-needed Zimbabwe political breakthrough.
The leaders reached a decision on Zimbabwe, against an environment of pessimism over the potential for a political breakthrough.
International pressure on the AU rested on the potential and even hope that a political solution might not be prescribed, amidst calls that the leaders ignore President Robert Mugabe's re-election.
Few did comment on whether President Mugabe was legitimately elected and called for his expulsion from the pan African body.
In a statement, Botswana, one of Africa's most stable democracies, called for Zimbabwe's immediate expulsion from the AU, saying Mugabe's presence at the Summit suggested that he was legitimately elected.
Botswana also sought Mugabe's expulsion from the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Botswana's Vice President Mompati Merafhe said the election of Mugabe should not be recognised and the "representatives of the current 'Government' in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending the AU meetings.
"Botswana's position is that the outcome of these elections does not confer legitimacy on the government of President Robert Mugabe.
In our considered view, it therefore follows that the representatives of the current 'Government' in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC and the African Union meetings.
"Their participation in the meetings of the two organisations would give unqualified legitimacy to a process which cannot be considered legitimate," Botswana's position is that such a scenario would be unacceptable," the VP added.
But Botswana said it supported the consensus that seems to be emerging, which calls for the two parties to be brought together to find a political solution to Zimbabwe's problems, but warned that ''the personalities for the mediation process should be acceptable to both parties.
" Perhaps, in the end, the leaders were jolted by the admonition from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who said the AU risked losing its credibility in the wake of the Zimbabwean crisis unless it could find an acceptable, negotiated solution to it.

01 july 2008 20:13:00




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