Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday on what appeared to be a futile mission of trying to bridge the diplomatic gap between Zimbabwe and Britain ahead of December's European Union-African Union summit.
Senior Harare officials told VOA Mr. Wade’s offer to mediate the differences between Harare and London had been rejected by President Mugabe.
Mr. Mugabe himself implied as much in his comments at a state dinner for Wade when he referred to unnamed "detractors and enemies" who allegedly sought to undermine crisis resolution talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
President Mugabe said those "negative forces spend sleepless nights trying to devise ways of sabotaging these political processes through, for example, introducing unhelpful parallel initiatives," this last an apparent reference to Wade's mission.
"Zimbabwe will not brook such interference," Mr. Mugabe declared.
Elsewhere, the Southern African Development Community’s top administrative official said the Zimbabwe crisis should not figure on the summit agenda. SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao said the summit should focus on EU-AU relations.
But European diplomatic sources told VOA that his statement is likely to create further friction between Europeans and Africans. The European states that argued in favor of inviting Mr. Mugabe did so on the premise that the crisis and related human rights issues could be taken up on the sidelines of the development and trade summit.
Mr. Wade had earlier sought to convince Mr. Mugabe to expand the number of African leaders involved in the effort to resolve the long-running Zimbabwe crisis rather than leaving it in the hands of South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Mr. Wade proposed Wednesday that five African leaders including Mr. Mbeki join forces to seek a resolution of the bilateral feud between Harare and London. British Prime minister Gordon Brown opposed Mr. Mugabe’s participation in the summit and confirmed Tuesday that neither he nor any top British official will be at the summit.
But Mr. Mugabe dismissed Wade's latest proposal.
Government sources in Harare said that in fact they were hoping until the last minute that Mr. Wade would call off his trip, leading to much confusion in the capital Wednesday as officials frantically organized a state dinner.
South African-based political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Wade's initiative was doomed to failure.
SADC executive secretary Salomao’s statement injected further controversy into the preparations for the Lisbon summit, given that many diplomats, activists and other observers believe Zimbabwe should be discussed on the summit sidelines.
But political analyst Brian Kagoro said from Nairobi, Kenya, that however grave the Zimbabwe crisis may be, the summit is the wrong place to confront Mr. Mugabe.