|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
He fiercely rebuked Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's criticism of Britain's colonial past, claiming it was "nonsense", stressing that most African leaders would disassociate themselves from the comments.
It is a shame that people think that Mugabe speaks for Africa - he doesn't
He said the situation was "a terrible, terrible tragedy".
The prime minister was speaking at a presidential style press conference in his Sedgefield constituency just hours after returning from the world summit at Johannesburg, where Mr Mugabe had launched his attack on Britain.
Mr Blair told reporters on Tuesday: "It is a shame that people think that Mugabe speaks for Africa - he doesn't.
"The vast majority of African leaders would totally disassociate themselves from what he said yesterday - this rubbish about neo-colonialism.
"That is merely a cloak, a cover for what is a corrupt, ruinous regime that is damaging, most of all, poor black people in Zimbabwe."
But he said: "The trouble is the number of levers we have in our hands are limited.
"There is a potential humanitarian disaster there."
'Ruined the country'
Mr Blair told how he had watched grain being off-loaded from a ship in Mozambique that was destined for Zimbabwe.
"Zimbabwe is potentially one of the richest grain nations in the world but because of the way he (Mugabe) has ruined the country it is having to import grain for its people," the prime minister said.
It was "nonsense" to say that the UK had "held up" land reform.
"The money is there for land reform. He could get that money and use it for land reform - because land reform is necessary - at any point in time he wanted," said Mr Blair.
"The only demand that has been made is that it is done through the UN programme in order to make sure that the money goes to the poor people that actually need it and not into the pockets of him and his henchmen and the other people running the show."
During his speech at the summit, Mr Mugabe defended his controversial land reform policies and warned Mr Blair: "Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe."
What follows is excerpts of his speech, as broadcast live on South African Television.
Ten years ago we gathered in Rio de Janeiro, in the same numbers, and we were moved by the same developmental anxieties that many of us have today.
Sustainable development is not possible without agrarian reforms that acknowledge in our case that land comes first, before all else and that all else grows from and off the land
We worried about our troubled earth and its dangerously diminishing flora and fauna. We worried about the variegated poor of our societies in their swelling numbers and ever deepening distressful social conditions.
We complained about their unequal economic power that existed, that still exists between the north and the south and had historically reposed itself in our international institutions, including the United Nations.
Indeed we denounced the debt burden by which the rich north continue to take away from the impoverished south, even that little which they still had.
Your Excellencies, we must examine why 10 years after Rio, the poor remain very much with us, poorer and far more exposed and vulnerable than ever before.
Outdated institutions dominate the world for the realization of the strategic national goals of the rich north
Our children suffer from malnutrition, hunger and diseases, compounded now by the deadly HIV-Aids pandemic.
The betrayal of the collective agenda we set ourselves at Rio is a compelling manifestation of bad global governance, lack of real political will by the north and a total absence of a just rule of law in international affairs.
We join our brothers and sisters in the Third World in rejecting completely manipulative and intimidatory attempts by some countries and regional blocs that are bent on subordinating our sovereignty to their hegemonic ambitions and imperialist interests, falsely presented as matters of rule of law, democracy and good governance.
The real objective is interference in our domestic affairs. The rule of law, democracy and governance are indeed values that we cherish because we fought for them against the very same people who today seek to preach them to us.
The poor should be able to use their sovereignty to fight poverty and preserve their heritage in their corner of the earth without interference.
That is why we in Zimbabwe understand only too well, that sustainable development is not possible without agrarian reforms that acknowledge in our case that land comes first, before all else and that all else grows from and off the land.
This is the one asset that not only defines the Zimbabwean personality and demarcates sovereignty, but also an asset that has a direct bearing on the fortunes of the poor and prospects for their immediate empowerment and sustainable development.
So those operations which are underway of how to uplift those who are threatened in Zimbabwe by the regime of Mugabe as it is said, really are undeserved.
We are threatening no one and therefore the operations by Mr Blair are artificial, completely uncalled for and an interference in our domestic affairs.
Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe
But we say this as Zimbabweans. We have fought for our land. We have fought for our sovereignty, small as we are. We have won our independence and we are prepared to shed our blood in sustenance and maintenance and protection of that independence.
Having said that may I say we wish no harm to anyone. We are Zimbabweans. We are Africans. We are not English. We are not Europeans. We love Africa.
We love Zimbabwe. We love our independence. We are working together in our region to improve the lot of our people. Let no one interfere with our processes. Let no one who is negative want to spoil what we are doing for ourselves in order to unite Africa.
We belong to this continent. We don't mind having and bearing sanctions banning us from Europe. We are not Europeans. We have not asked for any inch of Europe or any square inch of that territory.
So, Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe.
Mr Chairman, having said that, may I say we are happy that in our region, through SADC, through Comesa and through Ecowas, we are doing our best to sustain our environment in every way possible.
We keep our forests, we keep our animals, we keep even our reptiles plus insects. We look after our elephants and ivory. We look after our lions as they roar everywhere.
We want to be friends and not enemies of other regions
We sustain our environment, are committed to doing that, not just now but in the future because we want a heritage.
But we will need support. We want to interact with other regions. We want to be friends and not enemies of other regions.
We want to work together and that is why the theme of this conference is very important to us. Not only has it brought us together, but we hope at the end of it, it will have cemented our relations, our oneness to work for this globe which is ours together.