Zimbabwe's deep political crisis has been assigned a high profile at the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations that opened Monday on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island, this in a week that could debate on multilateral sanctions against the government of President Robert Mugabe in the United Nations Security Council in New York.
Diplomatic sources said African leaders present in Hokkaido on the margins of the G8 summit were divided on how to handle the crisis.
VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reported on the debate in Hokkaido, noting that Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, current African Union chairman, told the Western leaders that as at a recent AU summmit, the Africans "differ on the way forward."
Reports said South African president Thabo Mbeki was taken to task by G8 leaders for not increasing pressure on President Mugabe over a range of issues including in particular the conduct of Zimbabwe's recent presidential run-off election and political violence.
Mbeki since 2007 has held a brief from the Southern African Development Community to mediate in Zimbabwe, but there is mounting pressure for the mediation approach to be broadened to include representatives of the African Union.
Mr. Mbeki has been isolated by countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, which are refusing to recognize the outcome of the election, or Mr. Mugabe’s legitimacy. Senegal and Ghana have condemned the elections and called for a national unity government.
In what appeared to be a last-ditch bid to produce results, Mr. Mbeki flew to Harare on the weekend hoping to bring President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai together. But Tsvangirai refused to meet with Mr. Mugabe, saying this would appear to legitimize his presidency, meanwhile keeping pressure on Mr. Mbeki to accept broadened mediation.
Britain has urged Mr. Mbeki to work with a United Nations-appointed envoy while Tanzania supports opening the process include African Union envoys.
G8 leaders warned
their African counterparts that they would call for more sanctions against Zimbabwe unless rapid progress is made to respond to the June 27 presidential ballot which most Western countries and a number of African countries have labeled illegitimate.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with British support is expected to push the U.N. Security Council to approve expanded multilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the West must not interfere in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
South African-based political analyst Herman Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that African divisions ensure there will be no rapid resolution.