The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: West Can Go Hang, Says Charamba

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt — THE West can "go hang a thousand times" for criticising Zimbabwe's presidential election run-off and their parrot Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has been lambasting Zimbabwe and calling for military intervention, should shut up because he has blood dripping from his hands, a senior Government official said yesterday.

The Secretary for Information and Publicity and President Mugabe's Press Secretary, Cde George Charamba, told international journalists here yesterday that the West should have no claim whatsoever in Zimbabwe's politics and they can "go hang a thousand times".

Cde Charamba said Odinga - who got into power after causing post-election violence that killed nearly 2 000 Kenyans - was the least qualified to criticise Zimbabwe.

"Odinga's hands drip with blood, raw African blood, and the blood will not go away by criticising Zimbabwe," said Cde Charamba.

Odinga has been one of those so-called African leaders being often quoted by the Western media and used by the West to lampoon Zimbabwe over its recent elections.

Cde Charamba was addressing the international media on the sidelines of the African Union summit, which is being attended by President Mugabe and several other African leaders.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru is the Acting President in Cde Mugabe's absence.

Odinga has called for the suspension of Zimbabwe from the AU and setting-aside of last week's presidential election run-off won by President Mugabe, followed by the sending of a peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe.

But Cde Charamba said the Zimbabwean issue would be solved by Zimbabweans themselves with the assistance of people of goodwill and not former colonisers bent on perpetuating their control of Africa.

He made it clear to a group of journalists who mobbed him that nobody would dictate to Zimbabwe how to run its affairs.

"The way out is a way defined by the Zimbabwean people. Kenya is Kenya, Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe," he said after a suggestion that Zimbabwe should adopt a power-sharing deal similar to the one implemented in Kenya.

He also made it clear President Mugabe was attending the AU summit as President of Zimbabwe.

"He is part of the summit. He has come as President of Zimbabwe. He will go home as President of Zimbabwe and if you visit Zimbabwe you will find him as President of Zimbabwe."

There have been futile attempts here by the West and its embedded media to portray President Mugabe as illegitimate.

On Monday, President Mugabe told some such journalists that they were "bloody idiots" and should stop asking him stupid questions as he left the Sharm el-Sheik Conference Centre, where the summit is being held.

He reminded the journalists that Zimbabwe was not a British colony after they asked him on what basis he was calling himself President of Zimbabwe.

President Omar Bongo of Gabon told journalists that Cde Mugabe "is president" of Zimbabwe.

"He was elected, he took an oath, and he is here with us, so he is president and we cannot ask him more," said Mr Bongo.

"He conducted elections and I think he won."

Mr Bongo criticised the West's interference in African affairs.

"I can certainly tell you that we are not obliged to obey orders from overseas," Mr Bongo said.

Asked about calls for the AU to condemn President Mugabe's election, Mr Bongo said: "Africans are able to decide for themselves. We have even received Mugabe as a hero.

"We understand the attacks (by the international community), but this is not the way they should react. What they have done is, in our opinion, a little clumsy, and we think they could have consulted us (the AU) first."

Asked when President Mugabe would retire, Cde Charamba said that was a surprising question because he was "few days into office and you expect him to retire?"

He shot down suggestions that the AU should mediate in the Zimbabwean issue, saying President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who is brokering dialogue between Government and the opposition, was doing so on behalf of Sadc, one of the regional groupings that make up the AU.

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