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Elders Carter, Annan, Machel Headed To Zimbabwe To Assess Crisis

The group of eminent figures known as the Elders said Friday that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and women and children's rights advocate Graca Machel, widow of Mozambique's first president and today the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, will visit Zimbabwe Nov. 22 and 23.

The group said they would assess the humanitarian crisis in hopes they may "add momentum to the global response to longer-term issues of reform and development" in the context of the stalled power-sharing negotiations between the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change of prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai.

The three Elders would "make a first-hand assessment of how to more effectively respond to current humanitarian needs, and how to avoid further deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe and its spill-over effects on neighboring countries," it said.

The statement from the Elders quoted Annan as saying that, "Relieving the suffering of millions of people must be the priority of Zimbabwe’s leaders."

He said "global attention is also slipping as Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis worsens.”He said the delegation would not involve itself in the political process.

But, the Elders "urge Zimbabwe’s political leaders to move swiftly to fully implement" the power-sharing agreement signed by the two parties on Sept. 15, as delays in forming a national unity government "are prolonging the suffering of the people.”

Reporter Brenda Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe what the three Elders might achieve.

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