4 hours 55 mins ago
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone with South African President
Kgalema Motlanthe and said Pretoria had an important role to play in helping
resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis, the White House said on Wednesday. Skip
"President Obama emphasized the importance of South Africa's leadership role
as a strong and vibrant democracy in Africa. The two leaders discussed their
shared concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe," the White House said in a
"The president noted that South Africa holds a key role in helping to find a
resolution to the political crisis in Zimbabwe," the statement said.
Zimbabwe's economy is in ruins with runaway inflation. A cholera epidemic
has killed nearly 2,900 people since August.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, have been deadlocked in talks to
form a power-sharing government.
The State Department said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
was concerned by Mugabe's refusal to reach a deal and wanted South Africa,
which has the most regional economic and diplomatic clout, to put more
pressure on him.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:40pm GMT
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The United States wants the United Nations to
take strong action to push Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to reach a
power-sharing deal with the opposition, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
A State Department official said the Obama administration was pushing
Zimbabwe's neighbors to use their influence over Mugabe but was also
exploring U.N. Security Council action to help ease the economic and
humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, in power since 1980, is widely blamed for economic ruin in Zimbabwe,
once seen as the region's breadbasket. The country suffers from runaway
inflation and a cholera epidemic and its infrastructure and basic services
"We are looking at what can be done and what the United Nations can do to
bring added pressure on Mugabe to accept real opposition membership in
government," said the official, who declined to be named as he was not
authorized to comment publicly.
"Our goal is to get strong, concerted action in the best form possible at
the United Nations," he added when asked whether it would be a resolution
that included sanctions.
Mugabe and his entourage are subject to a host of U.S., British and European
Union sanctions but the United Nations has not so far imposed punitive
Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reached a power-sharing deal
in September but it has not been put into effect. Regional leaders decided
at a summit in South Africa on Tuesday that a unity government should be
formed next month.
The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, is expected to
push for U.N. measures, a senior U.S. official said, but added he did not
know what they would include.
NEW SANCTIONS CONSIDERED
Russia and China last July vetoed a Western-backed Security Council
resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe over the
violence-ridden presidential election.
A European diplomat at the United Nations in New York said getting Russian
and Chinese support for U.N. measures now would depend on how bad the
situation in Zimbabwe was deemed to be.
"The Russians have always said that they haven't ruled out being able to
agree to a sanctions resolution," the diplomat said.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood declined to discuss in detail what
action the United States wanted the U.N. to take but said Washington had
been discussing the possibilities with other member states.
He said Mugabe was not interested in getting an "equitable solution" to the
current political crisis and blamed him squarely for Zimbabwe's economic
"He's completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. His people are
suffering greatly," said Wood.
A cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is deepening and the U.S. Agency for
International Development said on Wednesday it was sending more aid to help
ease the crisis, including 440,000 bars of soap to be distributed via the
U.N. Children's fund.
The World Health Organization estimates cholera has killed more than 3,000
Zimbabweans and infected at least 57,000, making it the deadliest outbreak
in Africa in 15 years.
The United States has pledged $6.8 million in emergency aid for Zimbabwe's
cholera outbreak, USAID said. (Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at
the United Nations, Editing by David Storey)
January 28 2009 at 01:34PM
Independent Political Bureau and Foreign Service
Former Director-General in the Presidency Frank Chikane, now a
presidential consultant and still a facilitator in the Zimbabwean crisis,
tells journalists that none of the parties in Harare can govern without the
Chikane is briefing journalists now in Pretoria.
This comes as negotiators from Zimbabwe's three political parties are
to meet from tomorrow to try to thrash out remaining differences so that the
long-delayed unity government can be launched on February 11.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai
clarified yesterday that he had indeed agreed at a regional summit on Monday
to join President Robert Mugabe in this unity government on February 11 -
but subject to the resolution of outstanding issues that he described as
"work in progress".
He also said that in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
summit in Pretoria on Monday, Mugabe had made some concessions on three of
the MDC's five main demands.
These were on the re-appointments of provincial governors, national
security legislation and passage of constitutional amendment number 19
giving legal effect to the September 15 unity agreement.
Negotiators from Mugabe's ZanuPF, Tsvangirai's MDC (MDC-T) and the
smaller MDC of Arthur Mutambara (MDC-M) would meet from tomorrow (Thursday)
to try to resolve these outstanding "work in progress" issues, he said.
MDC-T's national executive council is to meet on Friday to ratify the
summit's decisions that the unity government, with Tsvangirai as Prime
Minister and Mugabe as President, should be launched early next month.
Though MDC officials had earlier insisted the council would reject the
decision, Tsvangirai seemed optimistic that it would in fact endorse it and
that optimism is shared in the MDC in Harare.
January 28, 2009
By Our Correspondent
HARARE - Lawyers representing human rights activist Jestina Mukoko on
Wednesday filed a bail application with the High Court seeking her release.
One of Mukoko's lawyers Harrison Nkomo filed the bail application pending
the hearing of her constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court.
In the constitutional court application, which cites Police
Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and four other senior police officers
Mukoko asks the High Court to protect and enforce her rights, which should
have been protected in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Mukoko, who is the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) director, also seeks to be
released and not be further prosecuted on the same charges, pending a full
investigation into her abduction and prosecution of all those involved.
Mukoko, a former newscaster, has spent close to two months in detention
since her abduction from her Norton home last month.
The police who initially denied holding her in any of their stations accuse
the crusading human rights activist of recruiting Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) supporters to undergo military training in Botswana.
As the defence team steps up efforts to secure the freedom of the detained
MDC members, another defence lawyer Andrew Makoni also filed a bail
application at the High Court for Concillia Chinanzvavana and five others
detained MDC members pending an appeal hearing at the High Court.
Meanwhile, Meki Makuyana, the MDC legislator for Chipinge South, is
languishing in a Chipinge jail following his arrest on allegations of
kidnapping a fortnight ago.
Makuyana was arrested at his Chiredzi business offices on allegations of
kidnapping. Although Makuyana was first granted bail by a Chipinge
magistrate, State prosecutors later invoked Section 121 of the Criminal
Procedure and Evidence Act to keep the Member of Parliament in custody
pending appeal of the decision to grant bail by the State.
The incarceration of human rights and MDC activists, the sharing of
provincial governors' posts and the inequitable allocation of ministerial
portfolios are among issues stalling a power-sharing agreement between
Zanu-PF and the MDC.
The MDC's national council, the party's supreme decision making body meets
on Friday to make a decision on whether to join an inclusive government
following a SADC summit this week.
January 28, 2009
By Our Correspondent
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) said Wednesday that the death toll from
the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has now passed the 3 000 mark.
WHO said a total of 3 028 people are now known to have died from the
water-borne disease while 57 702 have been affected, the organisation said
in its latest update.
The latest death toll represents an increase of more than 1 000 deaths over
the past 15 days in the country, which is in the midst of a political and
economic crisis which has led to the collapse of the health services.
Harare remains the worst-hit region, with over 1500 deaths recorded and 30
The latest toll came even as the US-based group Physicians for Human Rights
called for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to be charged with crimes
against humanity over rights abuses and the collapse of the nation's health
The recommendation came in a damning 45-page report following the group's
mission to Zimbabwe last month, which found the health crisis stemmed from
serious human rights violations by Mugabe's Zanu-PF party
Government put the cholera death toll at just under 2 200, because the
country's president Robert Mugabe is no record saying he does not believe
the disease is present in Zimbabwe.
At a state funeral last year for a ruling party official, Mugabe insisted
the outbreak of the waterborne disease had been "arrested" with the help of
the World Health Organization and other aid agencies.
Mugabe lashed out at critics who have been calling for his ouster - and even
military intervention - as concerns about Zimbabwe's deepening humanitarian
"So now that there is no cholera, there is no cause for war anymore. We need
doctors, not soldiers," he said at the funeral on December 11.
However a lot of cholera-related death have remained unreported, especially
from rural areas, independent medical experts estimate that over 2 500 have
died from cholera since August.
Widespread cholera outbreak, an under-resourced and under-staffed health
system, and inadequate access to safe drinking water and hygiene are
threatening the wellbeing of thousands of Zimbabweans.
So bad is the situation that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has
established a cholera control and command centre, in conjunction with the
Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MoHCW) and other health partners, to
respond in a coordinated manner to Zimbabwe's health challenges. WHO said it
was seeking donor support its cholera response plan.
Approximately half of cholera cases have been recorded in Budiriro, Glen
Norah and Glen View, heavily populated suburbs on the western outskirts of
the capital, Harare. Other major concentrations of reported cases include
Beitbridge, on the South African border, and Mudzi, on the border with
The outbreak could surpass 60 000 cases, according to an estimate by the
Zimbabwe Health Cluster, which is a group coordinated by WHO and comprising
health providers, non-governmental organizations and the MoHCW.
The estimate is based on six million people, or half of Zimbabwe's 12
million population, potentially being at risk of contracting cholera, with
an estimated 1 percent of those at risk of actually suffering from cholera.
With the rainy season which commenced a month ago and increased transit of
people likely because of the Christmas season, there are risks for further
spread of cholera if strong measures are not taken.
To make matters worse, panic has set in. Many Zimbabweans are fleeing their
country, bringing cholera to neighbouring Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.
There are also serious regional implications, with cholera cases crossing
into South Africa and Botswana.
January 29, 2009
Jan Raath in Harare
President Mugabe's secret police found a new method of persuasion when they
wanted Jestina Mukoko to confess that she was a terrorist bent on
overthrowing the regime.
They forced the human rights activist to kneel on a pile of sharp chips of
gravel for hours on end. "It's like walking on glass," said her lawyer,
Beatrice Mtetwa. "After a short while the chips push into your skin and you
have to move to relieve the pain. But when you do that, it only makes it
worse. It's hell."
The kneeling routine was in addition to long bouts of the falanga - beating
the soles of the victim's feet, a method of torture perfected over recent
years in Zimbabwe. Those who have endured it often face excrutiating pain
with every step they take for the rest of their lives.
Ms Mukoko, 41, an affable single mother who once worked for a Zimbabwe state
radio, was running the Zimbabwe Peace Project when she was kidnapped. Her
organisation has monitored and recorded instances of political violence for
almost eight years, cataloguing the increasing violence and intimidation
that the regime's loyalists have meted out.
She was snatched from her home in the small town of Norton, 25 miles (40km)
west of Harare, at dawn on December 3, and disappeared.
For almost a month court orders compelling officials to reveal her
whereabouts were won, and ignored.
Then Didymus Mutasa, the Security Minister, announced in late December that
Ms Mukoko was among a group comprising mainly human rights workers and
opposition activists who were in "clandestine detention" as part of an
operation of national security.
They were accused of banditry, insurgency, terrorism and sabotage. The group
of 18 appeared in court early this month. About 12 others who were rounded
up as part of the original swoop remain unaccounted for.
Charges are yet to be filed against Ms Mukoko, but she is being detained as
a dangerous terrorist suspect based on vague allegations that she undertook
terrorist training in neighbouring Botswana, with the ultimate aim of
bringing about the overthrow of Mr Mugabe. President Motlanthe of South
Africa has dismissed the accusations as unbelievable.
Concerned by her client's injuries and deteriorating health, Ms Mtetwa began
a legal battle to have Ms Mukoko's injuries treated in hospital.
Godfrey Chidyausiku, the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, ordered authorities on
January 8 to ensure that Ms Mukoko was given "appropriate medical attention
as a matter of urgency". It took eight days to bring her in leg irons and
surrounded by guards carrying automatic rifles to the private Avenues
Clinic. Still shackled, she was X-rayed and had an ultrasound scan. Doctors
had just attached her to a drip when a senior prison official burst in and
ordered that she be taken back to jail immediately.
Ms Mukoko's friends believe that her incarceration is a clumsy government
attempt to show that the political opposition is bent on violence and cannot
be trusted to share power with Mr Mugabe. It also suits Mr Mugabe, who has
ruled Zimbabwe for 29 years, to embarass Botswana, which is the most
outspoken critic of his regime.
Death and disease
More than 3,000 people have died in Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic
At least 57,000 people have been infected in the deadliest outbreak in
Africa for 14 years
Zimbabwe's epidemic is unusual in Africa, affecting an entire country rather
than a single region
About half the population of 13 million are surviving on food handouts and
by Patricia Mpofu Thursday 29 January 2009
HARARE - The government has directed school heads to take disciplinary
action against teachers who fail to report for duty as the strike by
teachers entered its second day on Wednesday.
It also emerged that the government had asked the Zimbabwe United Passenger
Company (ZUPCO) to transport teachers to and from school as part of
strategies to ensure that schools had a full complement of teachers during
the commencement of the first term of 2009.
Thousands of Zimbabwean teachers went on strike for more pay as the new
school term started on Tuesday, highlighting the country's deepening crisis
amid uncertainty over the future of a power-sharing deal between President
Robert Mugabe and the opposition.
Education permanent secretary Stephen Mahere urged provincial education
directors to institute disciplinary measures against teachers taking part in
"Where teachers absent themselves from duty or turn up but fail to perform
their normal duties due to work stoppage, strike action, go slow or sit-in,
head offices should invoke the relevant provisions of the Public Service
Regulation in line with provisions of the Statutory Instrument Number 1 of
2000," said Mahere in a circular to directors.
He said provincial education directors should freeze salaries of teachers
that absented themselves from duty for 14 days and action taken to discharge
them after 30 days of absence.
Meanwhile, to ease transport problems for the poorly paid teachers the
government has asked ZUPCO to ferry teachers to and from school and charge
fares in local currency.
Most public schools had to send children back home on Tuesday after teachers
failed to turn up. There was still not much learning taking place at many
public schools on Wednesday with children seen playing in school grounds
because there was no one to teach them.
Teachers unions want the lowest paid teacher to earn about US$2 300 per
month, joining nurses and doctors who have also been boycotting work
demanding to be paid in hard cash to cushion them against runaway inflation.
With its value eroded by the world's highest inflation of more than 231
million percent, the Zimbabwe dollar is nearly worthless and every worker,
consumer or trader is increasingly shunning the currency in favour of hard
A collapsed currency is the most visible sign of Zimbabwe's deepening
economic and humanitarian crisis that is marked by acute shortages of food
and basic commodities.
Zimbabwe's crisis is also seen in a cholera epidemic that the World Health
Organisation says has infected nearly 60 000 people and killed close to 3
000 others since it began last August.
Mugabe, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a breakaway faction of the MDC,
agreed last September to form a power-sharing government, sparking hope that
Zimbabwe could finally emerge from its crisis.
But the deal has failed to take off because Mugabe and Tsvangirai cannot
agree over control of key ministries and other top government positions.
Tsvangirai's MDC said in a statement after the Southern African Development
Community (SADC)s summit in Pretoria that it would make known its final
position on power sharing on Friday after a meeting of its national
executive council in Harare. - ZimOnline
by Andrew Moyo Thursday 29 January 2009
HARARE - Military police had to be summoned on Tuesday to evict scores of
soldiers and war veterans from Harare municipality-owned residential flats
they had invaded.
The soldiers and former combatants of Zimbabwe's 1970s war of independence
moved into the flats that are still under construction claiming they had
nowhere else to stay because they could not afford the foreign currency that
most landlords were demanding.
Sources in the City of Harare said city fathers spent the whole of Tuesday
trying to persuade the group of about 40 war veterans and soldiers to move
out of the three blocks of flats so that construction work could continue.
But the invaders insisted they would move out only if Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono gave them hard cash to pay for accommodation
"They told us they had fought much bigger wars and would not be intimidated
. . . They said we should tell Gono to give them foreign currency or they
would not move," said a municipality official, who did not want to be named
because he did not have permission from his superiors to speak to the media.
Most landlords in Zimbabwe's cities and towns now demand rentals in hard
currency after Gono last year authorised selected shops to sell basic
commodities in foreign currency.
However, every shop, business and service provider is now charging in hard
cash, a major setback for the majority of citizens who do not have access to
Unable to move the invaders, officials at the Infrastructure Development
Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) that is jointly funding construction of the flats
with the Harare city council sought help from acting Minister of Finance
Patrick Chinamasa and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine
Chiwenga who sent military police to evict the mob.
IDBZ chief executive Charles Chikaura as well as Chiwenga and Chinamasa
could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the incident but sought to
downplay the matter saying: "It was not an occupation as such, it was just a
group of people who had camped there but they have been dispersed."
Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said; "They have been removed by the military
Zimbabwe's soldiers - who this month received salaries of about Z$30
trillion (US$10 on the black market), enough to buy 10 loaves of bread -
have in recent months become restive and violent.
Last week 15 armed soldiers looted a shop belonging to opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) party legislator Amos Chibaya in Masvingo
province and got away with goods valued at over R6 500, saying they were
Two weeks ago unidentified soldiers raided Gono's farm in Norton and
forcibly took 175 chickens valued at US$787.50.
Police records show that six armed soldiers driving a white Chinese-made
truck arrived at Gono's New Donnington Farm and asked farm manager Philip
Musvuuri to load all the chickens at gunpoint.
The soldiers are said to have told the manager that they would not pay for
the chickens because Gono owed them money.
Last month some soldiers looted clothes and cash in Harare after the RBZ
failed to provide adequate cash in the banks for them to access their
salaries and only stopped after the army and police launched joint patrols
in the city.
Soldiers, civil servants and other workers in the country are demanding that
they be paid salaries in foreign currency, shunning the Zimbabwe dollar that
continues to lose value faster than any other currency on earth.
A collapsed currency is the most visible sign of a severe economic crisis
blamed on President Robert Mugabe's policies and seen in shortages of food
and every essential commodity, deepening poverty and a cholera epidemic that
has killed close to 3 000 people since August.
However, through all this, the army and veterans of Zimbabwe's independence
war have been the most loyal to Mugabe, always ready to use brutal tactics
to crush the slightest sign of public discontent.
Analysts rule out the possibility of well-paid top army generals staging a
coup against Mugabe. But they have always speculated that worsening hunger
could at some point force the underpaid ordinary trooper to either openly
revolt or to simply refuse to defend the government should Zimbabweans rise
up in a civil rebellion. - ZimOnline
The Editor, the Times Newspaper
Published:Jan 29, 2009
Country's collapse has led to women being forced to sell their bodies for
EDITORIAL: THE world's most blighted, ridiculed and unstable currency, the
Zimbabwe dollar, is dead. According to a research note by Standard Bank,
Zimbabwe's finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, will today announce that all
taxes are to be paid in foreign currency from now on.
And he is expected to make school fees payable in foreign currency.
Civil servants are to be paid with "coupons" denominated in US dollars that
will be redeemable only at certain shops.
The move comes as the Zim dollar's value has gone into a tailspin, despite
several efforts by the beleaguered government of President Robert Mugabe to
stabilise it - including lopping off 10 zeros on currency notes last year .
The Times reveals today the human cost of the collapse of Zimbabwe - women
are selling their bodies for food at refugee shelters in Limpopo.
A human tide is engulfing the northern reaches of South Africa as thousands
face death from cholera, unleashed by the drying up of the foreign currency
needed to maintain and replenish water-purification equipment.
The demise of the Zim dollar is evidence of just how tough survival in that
country has become.
It is now virtually impossible for all but the most powerful of the elite to
lead a normal life, and even they often find themselves without electricity
and potable water.
But Zimbabwe's leaders appear to be unmoved. They are prepared to drag the
heads of government of southern Africa through 14-hour meetings without
forging ahead on a unity government - the precondition for the
implementation of an international rescue package.
The demise of the Zim dollar would have been funny two years ago. Now it is
evidence of a grotesque human tragedy with no end in sight.
28/01/2009 23:29 - (SA)
Harare - A South African farmer in Zimbabwe had to slaughter 1 000 of his
pigs and feed the meat to crocodiles because farm invaders had decided that
no pig feed would be allowed on the farm.
Louis Fick has been farming with pigs, crocodiles, cattle, fish and grain
near Chinhoyi since 1993.
He said the last of 3 500 pigs will be finished off within weeks, while all
his cattle had already been killed.
This is partly due to the ban on animal feed and partly because the senior
Reserve Bank official who had seized the farm in July 2007 was limiting
Fick's farming activities to 5ha of the 400ha farm.
Nothing was happening on the rest of the land, said Fick from Zimbabwe on
Going to approach SADC tribunal
He is part of a group of farmers who will now once again approach the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal to try and force
President Robert Mugabe's government to reinstate their ownership of
On 28 November the tribunal ruled in Windhoek, Namibia that the
expropriation of the farms of 78 farmers was illegal, but Fick said thus far
no SADC country has been prepared to help enforce the ruling.
Zimbabwe has rejected the judgment.
Fick and Deon Theron, deputy president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU)
of Zimbabwe, said on Wednesday they were going to request the tribunal to
rule Zimbabwe in contempt of the judgment.
"In the long-term Zimbabwe will have to honour the judgment, but in the
short-term it is very frustrating," Fick said.
"There is no urgency among the (SADC) countries to attend to the matter. We
are in constant contact with the South African government through the
embassy (in Harare), but we're not getting any feedback."
In the meantime the campaign against the farmers is intensifying.
Fick said prominent employees of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank were increasingly
On his farm the new owner prohibited the supply of animal feed for the first
time in April last year, and then again since last week.
Farmers forbidden to plant
"They are making it incredibly difficult and are in effect allowing no feed.
"We have to throw the feed over high security fences and then load it onto
vehicles, but then they lock up the vehicles so that we can't move. It's not
fair towards the animals. Fortunately I can feed the pigs to the crocodiles.
In its heyday, the farm as an integrated enterprise supported 3 500 pigs, 12
000 crocodiles, 1 500 cattle and a fish hatchery. Eighty hectares had been
planted with wheat and soya.
Theron said most of the remaining 300 white farmers were currently being
forbidden to plant and the persecution of farmers who refused to stop
farming was continuing.
"It's a nightmare."
- Media24 Africa
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Country's widespread troubles push visitors -- and their money -- to
Karin Brulliard / Washington Post
VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe -- This hamlet is swathed in lush emerald jungle, a
serene place that is 500 miles from political turmoil in the nation's
capital but seems a galaxy apart.
And then there is the attraction for which the town is named, one of the
world's Seven Wonders: the mighty Victoria Falls, a mile-long, 350-foot-high
cascade best seen from here in Zimbabwe, residents insist -- not from across
the chasm in Zambia.
All of which mattered not a whit to Manhattan resident Michael Marsh on a
recent morning. He stood on the Zambian side, his baseball cap damp with
waterfall spray, and offered a list of reasons why he passed on the view
"I didn't even consider going across the border," said Marsh, 70, a retired
dentist who was staying with his wife, Andrea, 67, in a tony lodge outside
the Zambian falls town of Livingstone. "Starvation, cholera, desperation, an
irrational dictator. I'd love to be able to support the people, but I can't
support the government."
And so it was that once-thriving Victoria Falls lost two more tourists to
its once-desolate northern neighbor, a continuation of a trend that
illustrates the reverberations of Zimbabwe's boom-to-bust economy and
chaotic politics under President Robert Mugabe's 28-year reign and, many in
Victoria Falls say, the power of bad press.
Ten years ago, Victoria Falls hotels were often full amid a tourism gold
rush, and guidebooks were advising those in search of a less theme-park feel
to head across the Zambezi River into Zambia. Livingstone -- named for
British explorer David Livingstone, the first European to see the falls --
was an undeveloped nook in a country that had abandoned communism a decade
Then Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, triggering the collapse of
Zimbabwe's agricultural economy and widespread international condemnation.
The years since have been marked by disputed elections marred by violence
and repression, inflation that has skyrocketed past 231 million percent and
shortages of food and currency.
Now Zimbabwe, a former tourism mecca, is the subject of many Western
nations' travel warnings. Tourism revenue dropped from $777 million in 1999
to $26 million in 2008, according to figures from Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank,
which are considered the most reliable. The World Economic Forum, relying on
sunnier data from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, predicts the industry will
contract more than 1 percent annually for the next decade.
"The tourism sector has suffered because of the bad publicity we have
received from our enemies," said Karikoga Kaseke, chief executive of the
tourism authority, referring to the Western nations that Mugabe's government
blames for its problems.
Whatever the reason, Zambia saw an opening and began marketing its side of
the falls, sometimes as "Victoria Falls Livingstone." Big hotel chains
arrived, and risk-averse corporations moved conferences there. National
tourism revenue doubled to $176 million from 1999 to 2006, according to
government statistics. The Livingstone Tourism Association says the number
of hotel rooms in the town has swelled from 700 to about 1,900 in the past
"Initially, it was a negative for us," Tanya Stephens, a longtime
Livingstone resident who manages the new Livingstone branch of the South
African Protea Hotel chain, said of Zimbabwe's slide. "Then Zambia started
to go out and say, 'You can still see Victoria Falls. You can come to
Zambia, the safe side of the falls.' "
January is in the off-season, and the global recession has slowed tourist
traffic, but even now Livingstone feels like a town in the midst of a an oil
boom. Footpaths along the waterfall were humming on a recent weekend, and
recently opened and in-progress guesthouses marked the landscape.
Across the river in the center of Victoria Falls was a shuttered bar and a
lonely square. Tourists must bring cash -- preferably U.S. dollars or South
African rand -- to pay for warm sodas at the partially lighted grocery
store, because ATMs no longer dispense Zimbabwe's worthless currency.
MBARE - 27 January 2009
Behind the church premises where I live, in a quiet back street, garbage is
piling up. Often I see men, unkempt, in old rags, going through this waste
material and picking out items that they let disappear in old fertilizer
bags. Since this garbage is what people throw away that are barely surviving
in their poverty, one would expect there is nothing of any use to anyone to
be found. Not so. Even the smallest scrap of sadza is being picked up.
The City Council is evicting widows and their families from a block of
flats very crammed, dirty, overflowing with sewage which is reserved for
city police. Their husbands left work or died, so the dependents or widows
have to leave. All very legal. But causing great hardship anyway. Where are
they supposed to go? This was the great problem of Mbare even before
Independence. Life was very insecure then: once out of a job you also lost
your house. For some life has not changed much since then.
"Housing for all by the year 2000". The old advertising spot still echoes in
my mind. Aren't the politicians who made these false promises feeling
ashamed, and yet continue to make promises, promises? How can they live with
themselves? Have they silenced, killed their consciences if they ever had
any? And those who have so little hope left cling to these promises, because
no man can live without hope. "Maybe there will be a unity government
tomorrow, then things will improve.". Poor fools. There is no hope as long
as you put your hope in totally corrupted people. How many more times do you
have to be fooled before you stop trusting these inveterate liars? There is
no hope unless you give up all false hopes.
Today schools reopen, at least they are supposed to. In fact some do, some
don't. The number of uneducated children will grow. A whole generation of
frustrated, discontented youngsters will hang around our streets, ready to
follow any big-mouth promising them food, beer and 'mbanje' (marijuana). The
great headmaster is not concerned. His children's education is guaranteed.
Parents lay siege to church schools to get their children in since
government schools remain closed: no teachers. People think that if they can
elbow their way in, the great calamity our country is in will not touch
A young man, well educated, with several diplomas in his pocket, stole my
time by pestering me about getting funds for doing a course in South Africa.
Not because he needs that course, but merely to get out of Zimbabwe. The
rats are leaving the ship. Everyone is trying to jump overboard and land
somewhere better. Some 'are lucky', some are not, they drown. The leaders'
selfishness is monstrous, and many follow their disastrous path.
This week our parish centre was all hustle and bustle. Two workshops ran
parallel, both on how to give care to injured, sick people, one for
youngsters, one for their mothers. Maybe some people do after all care about
one another and show some compassion. Maybe.
Oskar Wermter SJ
Source: Mbare Report No 68 Jesuit Communications
January 25, 2009
Sophie Shaw in Harare
PUPILS as young as five years old were being turned away from school gates
by President Robert Mugabe's army last week as Zimbabwe's education system,
once one of the finest in Africa, became the latest victim of his ruinous
corruption and economic mismanagement.
A week after the scheduled beginning of the academic year, all state schools
remain closed. They are not expected to reopen until at least the end of
February. As far as the state is concerned, if its own schools are shut,
then the private ones have no right to be open.
Jocelyn, whose 10-year-old son Tafadzwa attends the private St George's
primary school in Harare, described what happened when she arrived for the
start of term last Monday.
"Soldiers were at the gates telling the pupils to go away. They said that
other children couldn't go to school, so St George's children should stay
away until the government decided when term should begin."
Jocelyn works for an international agency and is paid in American dollars.
By making substantial sacrifices, she can afford to educate her children
privately at schools offering a sound education and a stable teaching staff:
because they charge fees in US dollars, they can pay their teachers in hard
But the fees at St George's are US$600 (£440) a term, far beyond the means
of soldiers earning less than $10 (£7.35) a month and indeed of the large
majority of Zimbabweans.
Army units have grown increasingly mutinous in recent weeks, infuriated by
low wages and prone to run wild in Harare, stealing from street vendors and
money changers. Their harassment of private pupils appeared to reflect their
anger that their own children are being denied education.
Zimbabwe's state education system, in which all schools charge small fees,
is collapsing as many of the country's 100,000 teachers move abroad. South
African schools offering salaries in rand routinely recruit Zimbabwean state
teachers earning worthless local currency. The Progressive Teachers' Union
of Zimbabwe estimates that more than half its members have fled.
The tragedy for ordinary Zimbabweans is that the collapse of education is
ending their proud tradition of being the best-educated people in Africa.
Loveness is a domestic worker who commutes every week to Harare. She can
read and write in English as well as Shona and has O-levels in maths,
English and history. But she is concerned that her children will not be
allowed to match her achievements at a state school. "There have been so
many school closures and lack of teachers. And the fees keep going up. Now
they want US$20 per term. If I can't pay, they send my children home. If my
son doesn't read and write, what will he do?
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Interview with Phandu Skelemani, the Foreign Minister of Botswana
An abbreviated transcript of an interview by journalist Violet Gonda,
originally broadcast on January 23, 2009 on SW Radio.
Violet Gonda: Today I have the pleasure of welcoming the Botswana
Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani on the programme Hot Seat, talking about
Botswana's position on the crisis in Zimbabwe. On Monday, SADC is holding an
emergency summit on Zimbabwe in South Africa, so I first asked what we
expect from the regional body in light of this upcoming meeting...
Phandu Skelemani: We look forward to a firm resolution, with SADC
telling the rest of the Zimbabweans, particularly the leadership, that
enough is enough. They must form a government at least; otherwise they
should go back to the people and hold a ballot.
VG: Right. What has been your assessment, though, of how SADC's role
has played out since September last year?
PS: Well as we've said before, we at SADC have failed the people of
Zimbabwe. We have failed to tell the political leadership in Zimbabwe that
what they are doing is wrong and undemocratic, and that they ought to
respect their own people. It is unfortunate but true.
VG: And why do you think it hasn't succeeded?
PS: My opinion is that too many of the leadership in SADC feel some
kind of obligation towards Mugabe, possibly because they saw him as a
freedom fighter. But we think they're confusing the part played by Mugabe
during the liberation and that which he wants to play now. The SADC is
divided because it wants to put an individual first rather than the people.
VG: Botswana seems to be a lone voice in SADC in terms of siding with
the people of Zimbabwe. Do you know any other countries in the region that
have been as forthright in their criticism of Mugabe's regime?
PS: I think the late President Mwanawasa of Zambia was quite clear
that what Mugabe was doing was unacceptable. Recently I think other people
in private have spoken out, but since they haven't spoken out publicly one
is careful not to be naming names.
VG: What sort of things do they speak of behind the scenes?
PS: Clearly that what Mugabe is doing is wrong, that he can't pretend
to act as if he won an election because he didn't. And then there's the
ridiculous idea of having two ministers in charge of a ministry, because it's
the ministry he abuses. How that can possibly function? Even in theory I
think it's silly.
VG: Do you feel it likely that SADC will finally accept it has failed
and hand the matter to the African Union?
PS: I don't think it should. SADC should tell the Zimbabweans that
they had better form a government that is going to function. If they don't,
SADC should then tell Mugabe that if your own people can't agree, don't
expect SADC to come and prop you up. What can the AU do if SADC fails? SADC
must first take a position and then ask the AU to help implement that
VG: Why does SADC continue to keep Mbeki on as mediator, especially
when the MDC has repeatedly said he is not an honest broker?
PS: Well up to now you know there were expressions of dissatisfaction
on both sides. We felt this must mean that Mbeki is doing something right.
And we couldn't tell the Zimbabweans not to have Mbeki as long as they felt
he could broker a peace deal. But clearly if one of the parties feels that
enough is enough then obviously SADC should think again. It's no use keeping
Mbeki if one of the parties has totally lost faith.
VG: You were mentioning earlier on that perhaps it's time for someone
else to take over. Who do you think would be an honest broker in dealing
with the Zimbabwe situation?
PS: That's a tough one. I think what we need is somebody going in with
Mbeki. I think in retrospect it probably would have been wiser if, right
from the first meetings, Mbeki had been given some other people, either from
the UN or the AU itself, to help him broker peace.
VG: People continue to die in Zimbabwe while politicians continue to
play these games, and while SADC keeps on calling for these endless
meetings. Now the Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, and people like
Bishop Desmond Tutu have actually called for military intervention. Do you
see military action for humanitarian purposes as a reality?
PS: Well if you go in and attack Zimbabwe you could get everybody
being angry because they see themselves as a Republic being attacked.
Military action should be really the last resort. Also, are we going in to
remove Mugabe as a person, in which case what do you do with the rest of the
people who support him? But I've said on a number of occasions, if we deny
Mugabe petrol so that his army cannot move around and brutalize people, I'm
sure his hold on Zimbabwe would collapse within three weeks. All this
suffering would become a thing of the past.
VG: On the other hand, if you do deny Robert Mugabe petrol as you've
just said, is it really Mugabe who suffers, or is it the innocent masses?
PS: What the innocent masses need now is food. It's better than just
hanging on aimlessly and endlessly, otherwise we'll be talking about the
same things with the arrival of winter in June. If you starved him of petrol
I'm sure he would come to the table.
Stanley Kwenda interviews JOY MABENGE*, political activist
PRETORIA, Jan 28 (IPS) - Following an extraordinary Summit of SADC heads of state in Pretoria on Jan. 26-27, it was announced that a unity government is to be formed in Zimbabwe, apparently resolving months of disagreement following a power-sharing agreement in September 2008.
That agreement, signed by Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller breakaway faction of the MDC, ran into immediate difficulties due to differences over how government posts should be distributed.
Despite the SADC announcement, the MDC says that it will only make a final decision about joining a unity government after a high-level party meeting in Harare on Jan. 30.
Joy Mabenge is an Associate Fellow at the Johannesburg-based Institute for an Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM), a think tank centred around the development of policy and democratic issues as well as the writing of development papers on the political transitition in Zimbabwe.
Mabenge spoke to IPS in his personal capacity.
IPS: SADC has announced that the two parties have agreed to form a new government, but MDC is insisting they are yet to make a decision... what should be the way forward?
Joy Mabenge: There seems to be no consensus, but if MDC gets into the unity government, they need to ensure that the monitoring mechanism is put to full use and strongly push for the resolution of their other concessions.
Or they should just declare that the talks are over and come up with a Plan B.
IPS: What should this Plan B look like, in your view?
JM: MDC will have to mobilise people to go against president Mugabe's government, because obviously - with or without the MDC - he will move to form a government now.
IPS: What should be the response of civil society organisations, which have for a long time been involved in lobbying for the establishment of a fairly representative government? How should they move forward?
JM: The original standpoint of the civic groups was the establishment of a transitional authority headed by a neutral person. They should revert to that position and push for pro-people concessions under this transitional authority. such as the establishment of a new people-driven constitution which will lead to an internationally-supervised election - ensuring that the bloodshed witnessed in June last year do not happen again.
But if MDC gets into the new government, then it is the duty of the civic groups to make sure that the MDC doesn't relax and end up being absorbed by Zanu-PF.
IPS: At the moment it appears the MDC may get into the government with a heavy heart. What sort of international support is needed to make sure that this experiment works for the better of ordinary Zimbabweans?
JM: Its a tricky one. It will heavily depend on how international donors perceive the SADC proposal, since they have previously stated that they will not give support to an establishment where Mugabe retains all the significant power.
I foresee inaction for the first six months of the implementation of the government, a sort of a wait-and-see depending on how Mugabe chooses to treat the MDC as partners in government.
IPS: SADC appears to view a unity government as the solution to Zimbabwe's problems. Are there any alternative courses of action for the democratic movements in Zimbabwe?
JM: In the event that MDC decide not to go into the government, then civil society organisations should continue what they have been doing, organising street protests, through Women of Zimbabwe Arise and National Constitutional Assembly's (NCA) for example
They should coordinate and sustain civil disobidience, urging people to withdraw their loyalty to a Mugabe led government. There is a fertile ground for that, with all the long strikes in the education and health sectors.
The key this time is to simply work out a plan to sustain these actions until the government is pressurised out of power.
*Joy Mabenge's views in this article are entirely his own, and do not necessarily reflect the those of the Institute for an Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe
January 28, 2009
By Sibangani Sibanda
I FEEL outraged. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders
have just sold us, and the rest of the world, another dummy.
In their designer suits, plastic smiles and fake embraces, they have held
another meaningless "Summit" whose only concrete result was to show just how
low their ambitions are; just how shallow their "convictions" are and just
how hypocritical their so called Principles are.
They have watched with disinterest the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe,
swept under their collective carpets the reality of the events of March 29
and June 27 2008 and stubbornly ignored the very real problems of a unity
government as envisaged by Zanu-PF.
After what was described as an "unprecedented marathon 14-hour meeting",
they came out at dawn to announce something that sounded in every respect
like the announcement that they made a few weeks ago, which announcement was
rejected by the MDC. They described it as a "breakthrough", probably only
because they needed to convince themselves that it was. It was no such
thing. It was just another cop out from an organization that is trying hard
to convince the world that they are relevant.
Alas, their actions only reaffirm their impotence and uselessness. SADC, I
am afraid, has no place in the globalised world we live in. Euthanasia seems
to me to be the only viable option for this "old boy's network" of
They should consider the South African ruling party's (the ANC) youth
chairman, Julius Malema for their chairman. At least he seems to say exactly
what he means and speaks his narrow minded Mugabeisque brand of politics
with a fire and conviction so lacking in our so called leaders. Malema would
simply endorse Mugabe's June 27th "landslide" and allow Zimbabweans to limp
on in the full knowledge that they have to make the necessary changes in
their country themselves - something that this writer has always advocated.
Of course, that would be like saying that the world should have stood by and
allowed the Jews to sort out their own problems with Adolph Hitler. And the
world might have, if Hitler had not decided to try and conquer it! If that
situation had been left to our SADC leaders, they would have compelled the
Jews into a Unity government with Adolph Hitler with the said AH still at
the helm. The Middle East question, so baffling world leaders today, may
have been "solved" then, perhaps?
At least the results of the Summit helped to explain something that had been
baffling me since Saturday evening. On that evening, I found myself watching
the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's main evening news, because I was
visiting and I was not about to impose my viewing preferences on my hosts.
The lead story featured, not unsurprisingly, President Robert Mugabe,
standing next to a truck load of fertilizer dressed in a quite magnificent
designer suit with matching tie and accessories. It would not have looked
any more inappropriate if he had stood there naked!
I listened, hoping that, two days before what was being described as a
make-or-break summit, he may have given the nation some pointers of what he
was going to the summit with; that he may have given us some hope that our
real life "nightmare" might be about to end. What I saw was a rambling old
man who seemed to have no idea why he was standing next to the truck. So he
improvised, explaining to the gathered state media journalists that this was
a truck load of fertilizer that had been bought by the ubiquitous RBZ
governor Gideon Gono; that it was urea, not, Ammonium Nitrate (AN) and that
it had to be applied in smaller quantities than AN!
I was fascinated, not least because Zvimba District, whose only claim to
fame as an agricultural producer is that this is where the President was
born and raised, had been chosen to receive this most inappropriate state
grant, coming as it did, at the tail end of the rainy season when it is
least useful. In a land where, because food is so short, a whole cow can be
bought for a few kilograms of maize meal, most of the fertilizer will be
sold by farmers desperate for food now, not in a few months, to farmers
growing non food products like tobacco and flowers. Food security that we
once took so much for granted, is a long ay off.
Some twenty-four hours later, on Sunday evening, I was visiting, once again,
and had to watch the vernacular languages ZBC news. They opened with the
very same clip of the president, supremely attired, next to the fertilizer
truck. Again, there was no mention of the up coming summit. I could not
understand why the president's sudden interest in fertilizers was deemed to
be a more newsworthy item than a summit in which so much hope was vested.
The President, it seems, already knew that the summit was going to be a
non-event. He was going down to South Africa for some shopping, reunion with
his "buddies" and posturing for the international press, then come back to
Zimbabwe to carry on as usual.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
EDITOR - It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to communicate with
the Government and all education stakeholders through your esteemed
I am very disappointed by the failure of several schools to open for the
first term of this year.
As a parent, it has always been my wish that my daughters would receive the
kind of education that I also received.
If the situation is not controlled, it means Zimbabwe is going to have a
whole generation of uneducated and troublesome youths. It also means that I,
as a parent, would not have anyone to look up to.
My children would not be good enough for the job market.
Let's all put our heads together to revive the education system. Without
these children who are not going to school, it means we would not be able to
have teachers, doctors and nurses.
I hope the Government and all other stakeholders will come together to
address the challenges facing the education sector.
BILL WATCH SPECIAL
[28th January 2009]
The Summit process was as follows: first, the Troika of the Organ on Defence, Politics and Security [chaired by President Motlanthe – although Swaziland in fact holds the chair] met the three party principals; the Troika then reported to the full meeting of the Summit; the Summit deliberated for a couple of hours; the other principals were called back in for further discussions to agree on a communiqué; these discussions continued for hours with Mr Tsvangirai arguing that the MDC-T concerns were not being met; then the Summit continued in a closed session before issuing the final communiqué.
Mr Mugabe comments on the talks were "We hope that this will open a up a new chapter in our political relations in the country and in structures of government," "We agreed that an inclusive government should be formed.” Mr Tsvangirai’s comments have been more equivocal. He said he agrees to joining a coalition agreement with Mr Mugabe only subject to the resolution of outstanding issues that he described as "work in progress". He said negotiators from the three parties would sit down from tomorrow to resolve outstanding issues. Whilst agreeing that the timelines announced by Motlanthe would help in bringing finality to the unity government issue, he emphasised that these timelines were "not cast in stone" and would be breached if the need arose and outstanding issues remained unresolved.
The MDC-T have said
their National Council will consider its formal response on Friday. Mr
Tsvangirai says if his party rejects the
The first deadline of the Communiqué – the formation of JOMIC [see below] looks as if it may not be met as the nominations would have to be in tomorrow [29th] for a first meeting on Friday.
[Full text of communiqué available on request]
7. In view of
the above, the Extraordinary
(i) the parties shall endeavour to cause Parliament to pass the Constitutional Amendment No. 19 by 5 February 2009.
(ii) the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers shall be sworn in by 11 February 2009
(iii) the Ministers and Deputy Ministers shall be sworn in on 13 February 2009, which will conclude the process of the formation on the inclusive Government.
(iv) The Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC), provided for in the Global Political Agreement shall be activated immediately. The first meeting of JOMIC shall be convened by the facilitator on 30 January 2009 and shall, among other things, elect the chairpersons;
allocation of ministerial portfolios endorsed by the SADC Extraordinary
(vi) The appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General will be dealt with by the inclusive Government after its formation.
(vii) The negotiators of the parties shall meet immediately to consider the National Security Bill submitted by the MDC-T as well as the formula for the distribution of governors.
The Communiqué also expressed their appreciation for Mr Mbeki’s efforts as Facilitator and encouraged him to continue in this role
Comment : SADC have once again supported the ZANU-PF position that the real issues of power sharing should be hammered out once an inclusive government is formed. The MDC are obviously still doubtful of the feasibility of this. They were also disappointed that the issue of the violence against their party had not been dealt with.
MDC-T Response to Summit Communiqué [full text]
Yesterday the MDC-T issued the following response to the communiqué:
“We came to this summit with five outstanding issues which are
1. The Enactment of Constitutional Amendment Number 19
2. The definition of National Security Council legislation.
3. Equitable allocation of portfolio ministries.
4. The appointment of Provincial Governors and other senior positions.
5. The Breaches of the MOU and the GPA.
It was our expectation that the SADC processes would be above board and be beyond reproach. Regrettably once again we note that Mr. Robert Mugabe was allowed to sit in during the closed session of the plenary meetings. Thus once again Mr. Mugabe has been unfairly allowed to be a judge in his own cause.
As far as the
merits are concerned, our expectations were again that SADC would come up with a
just resolution to the outstanding issues in the interest of
Quite clearly the conclusions reached as reflected in the communiqué fall far short of our expectations. Most importantly they do not accord with our National Council resolutions of the 14th of November 2008 and 12th of December 2008.
It is important that finality be brought to this issue and therefore our National Council will meet on Friday 30th of January 2008 to define the party position.”
It has been so long since the Inter-Party Agreement was signed that readers may have forgotten about JOMIC. Here is the relevant extract from Article 22 of the Agreement:
“22.1 To ensure full and proper implementation of the letter and spirit of this Agreement, the Parties hereby constitute a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee ("JOMIC") to be composed of four senior members from ZANU-PF and four senior members from each of the two MDC Formations. Gender consideration must be taken into account in relation to the composition of JOMIC.
22.2 The committee shall be co-chaired by persons from the Parties.
22.3 The committee shall have the following functions:-
(a) to ensure the implementation in letter and spirit of this Agreement;
(b) to assess the implementation of this Agreement from time to time and consider steps which might need to be taken to ensure the speedy and full implementation of this Agreement in its entirety;
(c) to receive reports and complaints in respect of any issue related to the implementation, enforcement and execution of this Agreement;
(d) to serve as catalyst in creating and promoting an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding between the parties; and
(e) to promote continuing dialogue between the Parties.
22.4 JOMIC shall be the principal body dealing with the issues of compliance and monitoring of this Agreement and to that end, the Parties hereby undertake to channel all complaints, grievances, concerns and issues relating to compliance with this Agreement through JOMIC and to refrain from any conduct which might undermine the spirit of co-operation necessary for the fulfilment of this Agreement.”
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied.
By Peter Heinlein
28 January 2009
Africa's leaders are heading to Addis Ababa for the semi-annual African
Union summit. Foreign-minister-level meetings are in progress through
Saturday, and more than half of Africa's 50-plus heads of state and
government are expected to attend, along with a host of dignitaries led by
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The preliminary sessions are devoted to
one of Africa's most glaring deficiencies, its weak infrastructure.
The three-day heads-of-state meeting beginning Sunday is expected to be
taken up with Africa's most urgent crises. Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Darfur
are at the top of the agenda. Hanging over it all is the pending
International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar
The normally two-day summit agenda has been expanded to three, to include a
day-long discussion of a proposal to create a pan-African governmental
authority, similar in scope to the European Union. The so-called United
States of Africa is a pet project of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, who is
due to take over the African Union's rotating chairmanship.
The theme of the gathering, developing infrastructure, has been relegated to
a pre-summit meeting of experts and 85 minutes of summit time.
At the opening experts' session, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and
Energy Elham Ibrahim said better roads and shared energy systems are
essential in realizing the dream of an interconnected and unified Africa.
"I am sure they are basic elements to build our integration by roads and
transport means, and also by energy, which gives the base, the main element,
the engine for development as a whole. To build a road we also need energy,
so they are together working for developing our continent and building our
infrastructure, which will support our United States of Africa," said
African Business Roundtable President Bamanga Tukur deplored the political
and economic obstacles that prevent Africans from enjoying the fruits of
prosperity. He called infrastructure "the backbone of Africa's development."
"A good example, take Cotonou and Lagos, it is 80 kilometers or so, you find
about 16 obstacle roadblocks, yet they sign an agreement. Remove it.
Removing that alone will make, if we remove only these obstacles, I can
assure you our communities will have cheaper goods through trade, stronger
economies, richer culture," said Tukur.
The United States is playing an unusually low-key role at this summit. In
the past, senior State Department officials have used these continental
gatherings as a forum for articulating U.S. policy goals for Africa.
But the Obama administration has not yet named its Africa team, and the post
of U.S. ambassador to the African Union is vacant. The American delegation
will be led by a career diplomat, acting Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs Philip Carter.