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Southern African Leaders Conclude Summit, Urge Lifting of Zimbabwe Sanctions

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community on Tuesday concluded a two-day summit in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other resolutions urging the West to lift economic and travel sanctions targeting President Robert Mugabe and other members of the former government of his long-ruling ZANU-PF party.

The summit voiced support for the resolution of political crises in Zimbabwe and Madagascar, but referred the issues troubling Zimbabwe's national unity government since its inception in February to a so-called troika or SADC working group to seek their resolution.

The summit took note of progress by Mr. Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the latter two heading the two formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in implementing the September 2008 Global Political Agreement setting out the terms of their power-sharing arrangement.

It also urged the international community to lift all sanctions against Zimbabwe.

"Considering the positive evolution of the situation, considering the progress that has been made, we believe it is now high time that the sanctions are lifted," incoming SADC Chairman and Congolese President Joseph Kabila said, Reuters reported. Mr. Kabila said that if not lifted, the sanctions would further impede implementation of the agreement.

VOA Southern African Correspondent Scott Bobb reported earlier from Johannesburg on the summit's decision to set aside Zimbabwe to concentrate on Madagascar, where another power-sharing agreement seemed on the verge of falling into place.

Many Zimbabweans had hoped that the SADC summit, during which South African President Jacob Zuma handed over his chairmanship of the regional organization to President Joseph Kabila of the DRC, would bring some clarity to the cloudy Harare political picture.

Though the unity government has made some progress reviving the economy, the national health system and the schools, it has been troubled from the outset by disagreements over the appointment of provincial governors and ambassadors as well as key positions such as the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the attorney general.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also accused President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of prosecuting its parliamentarians on trumped up charges seeking to unseat them to erode the MDC House majority.

Civil society organizations and other observers say too little progress has been made on human rights and restoring the rule of law over the past seven months.

Mr. Tsvangirai appealed to Mr. Zuma to take up these issues within SADC, however at the last minute the SADC leadership decided to refer those questions to the troika comprising Mozambique, Angola and South Africa, leaving open the possibility of a special summit.

ZANU-PF sources said the SADC Council of Ministers took Zimbabwe off the summit agenda in response to arguments from President Mugabe that the issues remaining were not serious enough to warrant their being taken up at the summit. But MDC sources said they lobbied for the issues to be severed so that an extraordinary summit can be convened, characterizing the forthcoming troika session as a waystation to such a special SADC summit.

Political analyst Musekiwa Makwanya told reporter Blessing Zulu that SADC noted progress in Harare and wanted to focus its attention on the power-sharing agreement which was emerging in Madagascar this week months after its president was forced out.

Non-governmental organizations present at the Kinshasa summit issued a report containing the names of senior defense and security officials alleged to have orchestrated the post-election political violence which claimed hundreds of lives in Zimbabwe in 2008.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition recently unveiled the report, titled “Can Apples Be Reaped From A Thorn Tree – Zimbabwe’s Road To Transition,” and circulated it at the summit.

The document praises Zimbabwe's so-called inclusive government for its efforts to revamp the national health care system and public schools, but it adds that those who perpetrated last year’s political violence have not yet been brought to book.

The non-governmental groups operating under the Crisis Coalition umbrella urged the unity government to dismantle paramilitary structures behind the 2008 political violence.

Crisis Coalition Program Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the national unity government needs to tackle all outstanding issues with urgency to ensure Zimbabwe does not return to the chaos of 2008.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...