Human rights groups are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union (AU) summit to try and push African leaders to tackle the Zimbabwe crisis ahead of elections expected sometime this year.
Zimbabwe is not on the official agenda of the summit, but heads of state may discuss it when they meet on the sidelines on Sunday and Monday.
The main focus of the summit is how to solve some of the complex problems hindering the continent's economic development. Leaders will also discuss Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance. South African president Jacob Zuma is the Southern African Development Community appointed mediator to Zimbabwe.
Lindiwe Zulu, Zuma’s international relations advisor, told VOA that Zimbabwe may come up in conversations between Mr. Zuma and his counterparts.
Groups that have dispatched officials to lobby African leaders include the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Human Rights Watch is also represented.
The groups say they want the AU to pressure President Robert Mugabe to institute democratic reforms and end what they label as a crackdown on human rights defenders.
Mr. Mugabe met recently in Harare with outgoing AU chairman and president of Benin, Yayi Boni, and assured Mr. Yaya that Zimbabwe is ready to hold peaceful elections.
However, Human Rights Watch Africa advocacy director Tiseke Kasambala told VOA that such assurances do not reflect the reality on the ground.