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General News
Kufuor Warns Mugabe 3/16/2007
President John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday in the same breath described war-torn Darfur and Zimbabwe as the "troubled spots of Africa.” In a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street, the President literally pre-empted journalists when in his opening remarks he indirectly warned the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe to allow the rule of law to prevail and move away from the use of violence and intimidation against the opposition.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the opposition in Zimbabwe, was in intensive care with a suspected skull fracture on Wednesday after what he says was a brutal police attack three days before.


President Kufuor, who is the chairman of the African Union, said the AU was extremely concerned by Darfur and Zimbabwe. Inevitably he saw his state visit to the United Kingdom dominated by worldwide outrage of police crackdown on the Zimbabwe opposition this week, which led to the death of a member of the opposition and images of a battered Tsvangirai on his hospital bed granting an interview and before that appearing in court with stitches in his head, sporting an ''''identification'''' style haircut.

“In the spirit of the African Union,” and in line with NEPAD, President Kufuor told the international media yesterday, “We want the rule of law to be the main agency of governance. Violence, beating up, and using brutal force shouldn"t be the way forward. Allowing the constitution to work properly should be the way forward.”


In response, Mr Blair said how sorry he felt for the people of Zimbabwe. Aligning himself with the President’s view that the rule of law should be the avenue for governance, he said the situation in the southern African state was a “tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe.”


Using Ghana as a fitting example of what is possible, the British Premier said, looking at his guest, “The President I’m standing next to is showing how it is possible to make progress and have democratic elections. It can be done and it is being done in Africa.”


“As President Kufuor just said, people should be allowed to live under the rule of law and be able to express their views.”He pledged his country’s continued support to the AU to enhance peace, stability and the rule of law on the continent.


Earlier, President Kufuor came face to face with angry Zimbabweans who heckled him repeatedly, urging the AU chairman to ensure that Zimbabwe, and hence Africa, is liberated. Four times, in a calculated opposition by a small group of concerned Zimbabweans who attended the President’s address at the political think-tank institute, Chatham House, in the morning, an address which focused more on the progressive situation in Ghana.


One of the four protestors, who interrupted the speech, had on a symbolic handcuff, to stress his point that Zimbabwean was under an oppressive regime.


“As chairman of the African Union, we call on you to condemn Zimbabwe,” he shouted before he was grabbed and walked out. “Africa must be liberated! Zimbabwe must be liberated!” shouted another to a mix of applause and some resentment that the official programme was being interrupted.


“Mugabe is killing people and our African leaders are not doing anything,” another said. But, President Kufuor initially ignored these quick, successive interruptions and continued with his script which focussed on Ghana’s first 50 years and the way forward.


Each protestor was individually escorted by security agents from the hall. But the demonstration continued outside, forcing the AU chairman to be escorted out to his official luncheon at the Lancaster Gate, with Baroness Amos. Ironically it was this Lancaster House where the independence agreement (known as the Lancaster House Agreement) for Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was signed on 21 December, 1979. The agreement ended the white rule in Rhodesia under Ian Smith.


And, the signatories included Robert Mugabe, who became the head of government in Zimbabwe immediately afterwards in 1980, first as Prime Minister and later as first executive President.

His major criticism is for ending white rule in Zimbabwe only to replace it with his own form of oppressive rule. President Kufuor, in response to a question by a Zimbabwean at Chatham House, said African leaders are embarrassed by the situation in Zimbabwe. He also showed the hitherto toothlessness of the continental body, AU, in the face of the unfolding tragedy in Zimbabwe. “The African Union is very uncomfortable. The situation in your country is very embarrassing,” Mr Kufuor told the Zimbabwean.


“I know personally that presidents like (Nigeria’s Olusegun) Obasanjo, (South Africa’s Thabo) Mbeki and others have tried desperately to exercise some influence for the better. But they came against stiff resistance,” said Mr Kufuor. The protestors effectively represented global frustrations with the AU over Zimbabwe, where economic hardship is more than insults to the political injuries there.


“Please don’t think Africa is not concerned. Africa is very much concerned,” President Kufuor said. “I think you should all assume that all these institutions, the African Union, we mean well.”

But, he had to admit, ”Perhaps we haven’t exhausted the means to give us the handle on the situation so it can be restored to normalcy.” He ended optimistically that the AU was looking at “various ways” to bring a solution to Zimbabwe. It was reported yesterday that, Mr Tsvangirai, speaking to a radio reporter from his hospital bed, said he was attacked after arriving at a police station to check on colleagues who had been arrested earlier on Sunday. “It was almost as if they were waiting for me,” he said in remarks broadcast on South Africa’s national radio. “Before I could even settle down I was subjected to a lot of beatings, in fact it was random beatings, but I think the intention was to inflict as much harm as they could.”


“The hope for Africa is that there is a new leadership on the continent, a leadership that has dedicated itself to redirecting the continent’s destiny’s for peace and prosperity,” President Kufuor told African heads of missions in an earlier breakfast meeting, ending with some irony, “That leadership is prepared to submit themselves to the African Peer Review Mechanism, we have made it possible for many other sister countries to agree to be peer reviewed.”The Statesman

 
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