15 June 2009

Zimbabwe: Obama Praises Tsvangirai's Fight for Freedom


On Friday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai became the second African leader to meet Barack Obama since he moved into the White House.

Analysts say many world leaders would cherish the opportunity to be in the Oval office with Obama and the world media. It is considered 'political gold,' as Obama is the most popular politician in the world and therefore represents quite an honour for the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister left Washington with the promise of only US$73 million for humanitarian assistance. Tsvangirai may have been hoping for more as the sum does not help in the major rebuilding project Zimbabwe requires.

The trip was unprecedented and significant in terms of how the US will deal with the unity govt. The US government has a travel ban and other restrictions against most of the ZANU PF members of government, while at the same time they publicly support the MDC members of the governmentt. Even the ZANU PF member of the Tsvangirai delegation was not invited to the proceedings. The message was clear - the US is not going to deal with the unity govt, only the MDC.

ZANU PF Minister Walter Mzembi was the first official from the Mugabe regime to travel with the MDC leadership to America since the US slapped wide-ranging restrictions on the Mugabe regime in 2001. Although the Tourism Minister was able to participate in other meetings including those with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, he was barred from meeting President Obama.

Mzembi confirmed to SW Radio Africa that he was barred from meeting the US President. The Herald newspaper also quoted the Tourism Minister accusing Obama of being 'overtly biased,' and lacking 'diplomatic courtesy.'

Political analyst Professor Stanford Mukasa said the White House is a consecrated place in terms of democratic traditions and barring Mzembi was a message to ZANU PF that they have not done enough to change. "And Mzembi himself should be the last person to complain because one would ask him where was he when the MDC leadership and members were being savagely assaulted...He deserves what he got because of his crimes of omission and commission in as far as human rights abuses are concerned in Zimbabwe."

The analyst said this threatens to create a problem for the coalition government as it appears the West will only support 'a government within a government.' Travel sanctions remain in place for ZANU PF chefs, and Hillary Clinton said last week that although the US wants to give aid to Zimbabwe it will not give a 'blanket cheque to ZANU PF.'

Professor Mukasa said the coalition administration is a 'marriage made in hell and the dilemma to the western world is how then do you reward good and punish evil when they are all in the same government.'

The USA and other western governments have insisted that they are not prepared to overlook the human right violations, the breakdown of the rule of law, and the disregard for democracy. ZANU PF wants to move on and forget the past, but this will not work for governments in the West. Besides, there has been no acknowledgement of wrong doing from ZANU PF, and no apology for past crimes.

The friction between the political parties in Zimbabwe created by this trip was also evident on Monday when the Herald claimed Tsvangirai is on a fund-raising mission for his party. This resulted in the MDC issuing a statement refuting the paper's claims. The party said: "The MDC President has since reiterated that his mission is to re-engage the international community so that Zimbabwe once again rejoins the family of nations."

"For the record, the MDC as a party has never ruptured relations with the international community and we cannot be held responsible for the negative perceptions the world has about those who thought sovereignty means severing ties with everyone."

Meanwhile, the MDC revealed that President Obama acknowledged Prime Minister Tsvangirai's fight for freedom in a profound way last Friday by giving him a personalised autographed copy of 'Stride Toward Freedom' by Dr. Martin Luther King.

In return, Mr Tsvangirai presented President Obama with a Zimbabwe traditional sculpture and artefacts done by Victoria Falls sculptors, and a wrapper with a head and shoulders picture of his late wife Susan for Mrs Obama.

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