British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s declaration that London will not send anyone to a European-African summit in December if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends has drawn expressions of concern from African diplomats.
South Africa’s ambassador to Brussels, Anil Sooklal, on Tuesday called the British position “unfortunate,” warning Pretoria would not attend “a watered-down summit” lacking Britain's participation. Sooklal said the summit offered an opportunity for Africa and Europe to meet on equal terms, adding that if a country disagrees with the policy of another nation, that is best addressed in the presence of its leader.
Elsewhere, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa on Tuesday urged Mr. Brown to reconsider, stressing Britain’s position as a former colonizer. Mr. Mwanawasa said he told Mr. Brown that Zimbabwe needed to be engaged, not isolated and rejected.
But British parliamentarian Kate Hoey told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Britain had no plans to reconsider and said African leaders should make up their minds where they stand on Mr. Mugabe.
Hoey said African leaders cannot continue to ask Western countries for assistance while vocally supporting what she called Mr. Mugabe's "dictatorship," which she said has brought untold suffering on the people of Zimbabwe.
But Executive Director Peter Kagwanja of the Democracy and Governance program at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria, South Africa, said Britain was wrong to lay down such an ultimatum to the organizers of the summit.