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Africa | Zimbabwe

AU to focus on Zimbabwe crisis

afrol News, 30 June - What will happen behind the closed doors, as African leaders meet in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, it's a long toiling story for many eagerly waiting Zimbabweans, but for president Robert Mugabe, it may already be a victory.

As African Union Summit commenced today, all voices seemed to favour a negotiated political settlement in Zimbabwe, rather than initial calls for a total disregard of the weekend election fiasco and imposition of sanctions.

UN today challenged African leaders to negotiate a political settlement despite 'regrettable' holding of Friday run-off against deep concerns by players and observers alike in Zimbabwe's political circumstances. "This is a moment of truth for regional leaders," Asha-Rose Migiro, UN deputy secretary general, told African heads of state at the opening of the Summit, further urging AU members to find a peaceful solution saying that was the only route to stability.

However, AU leaders have already docked to their summt chairs with already differing positions, with the opening session seeing a rather hush-hush and cautious selection of words towards Zimbabwean crisis.

AU commission chairman, Jean Ping chose to put the whole responsibility on shoulders of Africa, saying all should be done to help Zimbabwe overcome its 'current challnges'.

Other leaders, such as Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, who is chairing the summit, referred to Friday's elections as 'historic', a well-selected word that could have been interpreted either way by participating view-holders in the summit.

"There has been a positive side to this, but there have also been challenges," Mr Kikwete was quoted, further congratulating Zimbabweans for their success, while also expressing commiseration for their sufferings.

The AU chair rounded by making a plea to international community to help, especially SADC, to finding a solution to Zimbabwe's problem.

SADC is also split over Zimbabwe, with its mediator, South African president, Thabo Mbeki, seen by opposition in Zimbabwe as too dear and soft on Mr Mugabe, while leaders such as Zambian president Mr Levy Mwanawasa, was outright vocal against Mr Mugabe.

Other SADC players at the summit have sent a strong message that it was none of their business to choose titles for leaders, saying theirs in Egypt was to share what AU was going to do for the suffering people and masses in Africa.

South Africa has further joined China and Russia, both with veto power in UN Security Council, to oppose action on Zimbabwe, saying the situation was an internal matter, rather calling for ruling ZANU-PF of Mr Mugabe and opposition MDC led by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai to enter into negotiations that could lead to formation of a transitional government.

As the AU summit commenced today, Zimbabwean opposition are holding high hopes for the continent leaders to shun Mr Mugabe, calling for the deployment of an African peacekeeping force, supported by UN, in to their troubled land. MDC further demands recognition of the first round of elections in March, which were won by MDC leader.

Tsvangirai urged delegates at the summit not to recognise Mugabe's re-election. "We want them to say the election is illegitimate," he appealed.

Looking at the list of demands by MDC to the summit, political observers have said the appointment of an AU mediator alone would be an important gain for the MDC, but felt it remained unclear whether AU would even go that far.

President Mugabe was sworn-in Sunday after being declared winner in a one-contestant-election following the pull-out by Tsvangirai on reasons of unconducive environment for a free and fair poll.

The Friday runn-off was condemned largely by observers, even though they praised Zimbabweans for their calmness during the whole process.

Monitors from both SADC and the Pan-African parliament said the vote was undermined by violence and did not reflect the will of the people.

AU rules say that leaders are only accepted if they have been democratically elected. The union's observer mission to Zimbabwe said election "fell short of AU standards".

President Robert Mugabe arrived today at an African Union summit. The 84 years old leader, flew to Egypt overnight, soon after being sworn in for a new term, extending his unbroken rule since independence from Britain in 1980.

He was seen entering the summit conference hall with the leaders of Egypt, Tanzania and Uganda.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are said to be ready for African-sponsored talks although a tough question remains over who would lead a transitional government. MDC believes they should be declared legitimate winners as per March results, but Mr Mugabe has shown his side of the story, being sworn-in just two days after casting of votes and his declaration as winner in a none-contest. And, today joining his peers, behind the closed doors!

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