Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mbeki keeps mum on Zim

16/04/2008 21:20  - (SA)

New York - The UN secretary-general and the leaders of Britain and the African Union urged Zimbabwe on Wednesday to ensure that the outcome of the presidential election reflects the will of the people and is not rigged.

"A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on African peace and security issues.

After 18 days, Zimbabwean electoral officials have yet to say whether President Robert Mugabe or opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won March 29 presidential elections.

Brown, whose country was the former colonial ruler of Zimbabwe, was the most outspoken, saying "no one thinks, having seen the results at polling stations, that president Mugabe has won this election".

'There is no crisis'

Meanwhile, SA President Thabo Mbeki who chaired the council meeting, made no mention of Zimbabwe, focusing instead on UN-AU relations and especially the issue of funding regional peacekeeping operations.

After meeting with Mugabe in Zimbabwe on Saturday, just before the SADC summit, Mbeki said "there is no crisis".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned at the failure to release the election results.

"Absent a transparent solution to this impasse, the situation could deteriorate further with serious implications for the people of Zimbabwe," he warned. "The credibility of the democratic process in Africa could be at stake here."

Brown echoed Ban saying, "the credibility of the democratic process depends on their being a legitimate government".

"So let a single clear message go out from here in New York, that we are and will be vigilant for democratic rights, that we stand solidly behind democracy and human rights for Zimbabwe and we stand ready to support Zimbabweans build a better future," the British prime minister said.

Praise for SADC

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, whose country heads the African Union, praised the Southern African Development Community, known as SADC, for its "tremendous job ... that has enabled the people of Zimbabwe to hold peaceful elections this time around".

"SADC remains seized of the situation in Zimbabwe to ensure that the will of the people of Zimbabwe is respected," Kikwete said. "This is the spirit of the meeting last week and it will be the spirit of future meetings to be held soon."

The leaders of SADC held a summit in Zambia that ended before dawn on Sunday with a weak declaration that failed to criticise the absent Mugabe.

The declaration called for the expeditious verification of election results in the presence of the candidates or their agents "within the rule of law", and urged "all parties to accept the results when they are announced".

Tsvangirai says he won the election outright and has accused Mugabe of withholding the results to maintain his 28-year grip on power. Independent tallies show Tsvangirai won, but not by enough to prevent a runoff.

International observers

Ban said "if there is a second round of elections, they must be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, with international observers".

"I urge the leaders of SADC to continue their efforts," he said. "The UN stands ready to provide assistance in this regard."

South Africa, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, organised the meeting to focus on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, and African crises on the council's agenda. South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo insists that Zimbabwe is not on the agenda because it is being dealt with by SADC.

Mbeki, Kikwete and Brown all welcomed Ban's proposal to establish an AU-UN panel to consider how to finance and support peacekeeping operations undertaken by the AU and other regional organisations.

Mbeki-Brown meeting cancelled

Brown's scheduled meeting with Mbeki just before Wednesday's council meeting, where Zimbabwe's post-election crisis was expected to be high on the agenda, did not take place. It wasn't clear whether it was cancelled or would be rescheduled.

Brown told the council that in line with Kikwete's comments, "Britain supports those in the African Union and SADC who are working to ensure that the will of the Zimbabwean people be upheld".

"We will do everything to encourage these efforts and I'm pleased that SADC is to meet again this weekend," Brown said.


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