Monday, December 1, 2008

UN Chief Asks Robert Mugabe to Share Power in Secret Meeting

By Bill Varner
Nov. 30 (Bloomberg)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon held secret talks with President Robert Mugabe today, asking the Zimbabwean leader to conclude a power-sharing deal with opposition parties.
The two men met “one-to-one” for 30 minutes today on the sidelines of a UN development meeting in Doha, Qatar.
“I met with him about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and we discussed power sharing,” Ban said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Doha. “I agreed with him not to talk publicly about what was said. It was one-on-one.”
Zimbabwe has been without a legal government since the opposition Movement for Democratic Change won control of the nation’s parliament in elections on March 29. They haven’t agreed on a power-sharing deal and the political vacuum has created an economic and humanitarian crisis.
Mugabe last week barred former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, from visiting Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian situation.
Ban met Mugabe after consulting Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, chairman of the African Union, who encouraged the encounter, according to Augustine Mahiga, Tanzania’s ambassador to the UN.
Mahiga said that after the African Union and 15-nation Southern African Development Community failed to persuade Mugabe to agree on a deal with the MDC, Ban’s intervention might be the “last opportunity” for a peaceful settlement.
‘Brutally Honest’
“He is the only voice that Mugabe hasn’t heard and he has the moral authority of being secretary general,” Mahiga said.
“Someone has to sit down with him and be brutally honest,” said Tiseke Kasambala of New York-based Human Rights Watch in an interview from Johannesburg. “His country is in a state of collapse.”
Mugabe told the conference that Zimbabwe “has been and continues to be a victim of unilateral and illegal coercive economic measures aimed at undermining the government through regime change.”
The U.S., which doesn’t consider Mugabe a legitimate head of state, said it was a mistake for the UN to allow him to speak.
“It’s extremely ironic and unacceptable for Mugabe to be going to the UN Conference on Financing Development in Doha while you had the implosion of his economy and the crisis of his population taking place,” Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer said in a statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner in Doha, Qatar at

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