29 June 2008

Zimbabwe: Report On Zimbabwe to Be Tabled At AU Summit

Sharm el-Shaikh — The Zimbabwe crisis has come under the spotlight at the African Union (AU) Summit in Egypt where a report is expected to be tabled at a meeting of the Heads of State for further discussion.

This is according to AU Chairperson Jean Ping, who was speaking after the first session of the 13th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of Foreign Ministers at the summit in Sharm-El-Shaikh.

"We discussed the issue of Zimbabwe and a two-page document is in my report of activities of the commission.

"We will table the report and brief the Heads of State when they meet on the issue of peace and security during the summit," Mr Ping said on Friday.

He said it was impossible for the summit to ignore an issue of this nature.

Asked if the AU was capable of handling the Zimbabwe issue, Mr Ping said the AU has always practiced the values adopted by all Heads of State as enshrined in the AU Constitution.

"Africa has been solving its problems for number years, and we are certain that even this time we will find an amicable solution.

"I am convinced that the Zimbabwe issue will be solved in a credible way with the report from the Peace and Security Council, we trust the Southern African Development Community [SADC] for the job done so far," he said.

He further said that all member states were aware of the need to uphold the rule of law, good governance and human rights.

With regards to AU Constitution, Mr Ping said all the respective member states knew it was prohibited to gain power through force or means that were not constitutional, where leaders took power in dubious means.

He said this would be discussed at the Peace and Security Council meeting. "We won't come out of the summit without extensively discussing the issue," he said.

Mr Ping further highlighted that African countries were custodians of the values enshrined in the Constitution and that enforcing such values was one of the AU's mandate.

Zimbabweans took to the polls on Friday in an internationally criticised Presidential run-off election.

About 5.9 million Zimbabweans were registered to cast their ballots at the 9 000 polling stations, in a process overseen by over 400 SADC, South African and international observers.

Current President, Robert Mugabe was the only candidate running in the election as opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai formally withdrew on Tuesday, citing violence against his supporters.

Mr Tsvangirai sought refuge at the Dutch Embassy in Harare earlier this week fearing he would be arrested.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said Mr Tsvangirai did not give enough notice of his intention to withdraw therefore it was of no legal effect.

The run-off election comes some 13 weeks after an initial ballot which saw President Mugabe coming in second place with 43.2 percent against 47.9 percent for the MDC leader Mr Tsvangirai.

However, this was not an outright majority win and therefore a run-off election was called for.

The country has been marred by deadly political violence since then.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that the campaign of threats and intimidation in Zimbabwe goes against the very spirit of democracy.

"Instead of openness, free competition and transparency, we have witnessed fear, hostility and blatant attacks against Zimbabwean citizens."

He added that what happens in Zimbabwe has an impact well beyond the country's borders.

"The situation in Zimbabwe represents the single greatest challenge to regional stability in Southern Africa today. The region's political and economic security is at stake as is the very institution of elections in Africa."

Last week, Mr Ban sent senior UN political official Haile Menkerios to Zimbabwe in an attempt reduce political tensions.

Mr Menkerios remains in the region, after having met with officials in both Zimbabwe and neighbouring South Africa.

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