Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Iran and Zimbabwe: birds of feathers?

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ZIMBABWE-IRAN/Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe backs Iran’s controversial nuclear programme and has accused the West of seeking to punish the two countries for asserting their independence.

“Be also assured, comrade president, of Zimbabwe’s continuous support of Iran’s just cause on the nuclear issue,” Mugabe told Ahmadinejad at a banquet he hosted for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Harare on Thursday for a two-day visit..

Iran faces a possible new round of United Nations sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Zimbabwe itself escaped U.N sanctions in 2008 after Mugabe’s re-election in a second round poll marred by political violence, which forced his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out despite outpolling Mugabe in the first round voting.

The Iranian president’s visit has widened rifts within the coalition government, with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party describing Mugabe’s decision to invite Ahmadinejad as a “collosal political scandal”.

New hope for Zimbabwe?

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Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change has agreed to join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, breaking a crippling deadlock four months after the political rivals reached a power-sharing deal.

The decision could improve Zimbabwe’s prospects of recovering from economic collapse and easing a humanitarian crisis in which more than 60,000 people have been infected by cholera and more than half the population needs food aid.

Is Zimbabwe back to square one after AU summit?

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zimbabwe_summit_mugabe1.jpgCan President Robert Mugabe be trusted to implement the resolution of the African Union summit calling for dialogue and a government of national unity to end Zimbabwe’s long-running crisis? According to Mugabe’s camp, he can. “The AU resolution is in conformity to what President Mugabe said at his inauguration, when he said we are prepared to talk in order to resolve our problems,” his Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told Reuters a day after the AU passed the resolution on July 1.

While opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Demoratic Change (MDC) say they have kept the door open for negotiations, he says conditions are not yet right for talks. The MDC also makes clear its objective is a transitional arrangement leading to fresh elections rather than a unity government.  The crisis could conceivably be stuck on that difference.

Has Mugabe out-foxed the African Union?

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It would be out of character for the African Union (AU) to order any tough sanctions against Zimbabwe’s strongman President Robert Mugabe at its summit in Egypt on Monday. But has his swearing-in on Sunday for a new five-year term after a widely condemned election further narrowed the AU’s latitude for action? Mugabe defied international calls to cancel a presidential election run-off and negotiate with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who defeated Mugabe in the first-round ballot on March 29 but fell short of an outright majority. Mugabe was the only candidate in the second round after Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic change pulled out because of widely reported government-backed violence and intimidation.

Mugabe was heading for the AU summit after Zimbabwe’s electoral commission declared him the winner as expected. He was immediately inaugurated in Harare, extending his 28-year rule. This could force the AU to deal with him as the legitimate head of state of Zimbabwe, in the face of calls from the likes of South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu for the pan-African body not to recognise his election.  A defiant Mugabe vowed to confront his critics at the summit. The wily Mugabe invited Tsvangirai to the inauguration ceremony and pledged at the event to talk to the opposition to solve the country’s political crisis. Tsvangirai rejected the invitation.

Has Zimbabwe’s Mugabe been bolstered or weakened by Tsvangirai’s decision to abandon poll?

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Morgan TsvangiraiOpposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to abandon a controversial run-off ballot against Zimbabwe’s strongman President Robert Mugabe would surprise few. Western governments and aid agencies have for weeks voiced the same accusations of violence and intimidation against the Mugabe camp which Tsvangirai cited in concluding that a run-off election stood no chance of being free or fair.

Hours before Tsvangirai’s decision, his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reported that its rally in the capital Harare had been broken up by pro-Mugabe youth militia, something Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party denied.

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