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Archive for June 17th, 2009

Zimbabwe: Obama boosts Tsvangirai, but cold-shoulders unity government

Posted by African Press International on June 17, 2009

WashingtonDC (USA) – President Barack Obama has welcomed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to the Oval Office in Washington, DC, with a U.S. $73 million aid package for Zimbabwe. But he refused to give it directly to the unity government “because we continue to be concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights, and rule of law,” he said.

For his part, Tsvangirai told reporters at the end of his Friday meeting with Obama that he recognized that “even by the standard of our own benchmarks, there are gaps that still exist…”

He said he told Obama that his participation in the the unity government with President Robert Mugabe was “a journey”.

“This is a transitional arrangement,” Tsvangirai said. “We want to institute those reforms that will ensure that in 18 months’ time the people of Zimbabwe are given an opportunity to elect their own government…. We continue to engage in ensuring that [external humanitarian]… support consolidates the process towards democratic change.”

A transcript of their remarks, as released by the White House and amended on the basis of a live recording of PM Tsvangirai’s remarks, follows:

Watch President Obama and PM Tsvangirai address journalists in the Oval Office.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Tsvangirai to the Oval Office. He and his delegation have been meeting with my team throughout the day. I obviously have extraordinary admiration for the courage and the tenacity that the Prime Minister has shown in navigating through some very difficult political times in Zimbabwe.

There was a time when Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa and continues to have enormous potential. It has gone through a very dark and difficult period politically. The President — President Mugabe — I think I’ve made my views clear, has not acted oftentimes in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people and has been resistant to the kinds of democratic changes that need to take place.

We now have a power-sharing agreement that shows promise, and we want to do everything we can to encourage the kinds of improvement not only on human rights and rule of law, freedom of the press and democracy that is so necessary, but also on the economic front.

The people of Zimbabwe need very concrete things — schools that are reopened, a health care delivery system that can deal with issues like cholera or HIV/AIDS, an agricultural system that is able to feed its people. And on all these fronts, I think the Prime Minister is committed to significant concrete improvement in the day-to-day lives of the people of Zimbabwe.

I congratulate him — they’ve been able to bring inflation under control after hyperinflation that was really tearing at the fabric of the economy. We’re starting to see slowly some improvements in capacity — industrial capacity there. So, overall, in a very difficult circumstance, we’ve seen progress from the Prime Minister.

We are grateful to him. We want to encourage him to continue to make progress. The United States is a friend to the people of Zimbabwe. I’ve committed $73 million in assistance to Zimbabwe. It will not be going through the government directly because we continue to be concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights, and rule of law, but it will be going directly to the people in Zimbabwe and I think can be of assistance to the Prime Minister in his efforts.

He’s going to continue to provide us with direction in ways that he thinks we can be helpful. And I’m grateful to him for his leadership, for his courage, and I’m looking forward to being a partner with him in the years to come.

PRIME MINISTER TSVANGIRAI: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for receiving us. I’m sure that — I want to take the opportunity of congratulating you, although belatedly, for being elected the President. And I think it’s a profound experience for some of us who are committed to change, and hopefully that — the Prime Minister, who is committed to change, and the President, who is committed to change, find common convergence position.

I’ve been explaining to the President that Zimbabwe is coming out of a political conflict and economic collapse or decay, and that the new political dispensation we have crafted is an attempt to arrest this decay, but also mindful of the fact that it is a journey. This is a transitional arrangement. We want to institute those reforms that will ensure that in 18 months’ time the people of Zimbabwe are given an opportunity to elect their own government.

Yes, there has been a lot of progress made by the transitional government, but there are also problems. It is the problems of implementation, and I do recognize that even by the standard of our own benchmarks, there are gaps that still exist and that we will strive. And I want to show my — to express my commitment that we will strive to implement those benchmarks, not because they are for the international community but because for ourselves it gives people of Zimbabwe freedom and opportunity to grow.

I want to say, lastly, I want to thank you for that demonstrable leadership in assisting the people of Zimbabwe and I want to take this opportunity to thank the humanitarian support that the West — we have experienced over the years and the continued expression of support. And of course we continue to engage in ensuring that that support consolidates the process towards democratic change, rather than strengthens a reverse and defense of the status quo.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Have a great weekend.

source.allAfrica.com

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Zimbabwe: Civic groups express disquiet over pace of reforms

Posted by African Press International on June 17, 2009

Harare (Zimbabwe) Delays in resolving outstanding issues from the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and mounting evidence that some of President Robert Mugabe’s close lieutenants are determined to slow down the pace of democratic reforms continue to undermine the credibility of the hybrid government, civic groups have warned.

The recent controversy over President Mugabe’s unilateral appointments of Attorney- General, Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono has exposed serious fault lines in the fledgling coalition.

MDC-T and Zanu PF officials have also clashed over media reforms that were guaranteed in the GPA.

The MDC-T recently referred the dispute over Gono and Tomana to Sadc for arbitration, while differences over media reform are now playing out in the courts after four freelance journalists challenged the continued existence of the Media and Information Commission (MIC).

High Court judge Justice Bharat Patel ruled recently that the MIC was a legal nullity but the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu and his permanent secretary George Charamba are contesting the ruling.

In a new publication reflecting on the inclusive government’s first 100 days compiled by the Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC), 14 civic organisations say all the hope they had in the coalition was “dying a slow death.”

The publication is titled 100 days into the inclusive government: A compendium of reflections from civil society organisations.

“As we reflect on the recent past we have to admit that nothing much has changed,” the Ecumenical Support Services said in its assessment.

“Many negative things are still happening around the country which we do not expect to happen under a government which the MDC is part and parcel of.”

The faith-based organisation said human rights violations still persisted to an extent that the international donor community has refused to extend financial assistance to the inclusive government.

Arbitrary arrests of journalists and human rights defenders have marred the unity government’s first three months in office, fuelling fears residual elements from Mugabe’s previous administration were working hard to torpedo the coalition.

CZC describes the first three months as a period of extended negotiation mainly because of an apparent tug of war around roles and responsibilities between Zanu PF and the MDC.

“In addition, prolonged inaction on issues that were outstanding on the day the government went into business, an unrepentant bureaucracy that is still largely manned by Zanu PF apologists at its apex, residual antagonistic elements who still want to see the death of the marriage of convenience and normal dynamics of group cohesion and formation represent the major stumbling blocks,” the group said.

Organisations representing students, churches, people with disabilities and human rights defenders felt that the battle to control government in the first three months had shifted the focus away from the country’s worsening humanitarian situation.

Aid agencies say three quarters of Zimbabweans need food assistance while the situation in education and health sectors still remains critical.

“Although the inclusive government is rightly focusing attention on economic stabilization and recovery and political allocation of power it should not lose sight of the people’s needs and aspirations,” the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in its submission.

However, the groups were unanimous that the transitional government remains the only way out of the country’s long running economic and political problems.

source.The Standard (Zimbabwe)

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Zimbabwe: Obama says unity government shows promise

Posted by African Press International on June 17, 2009

Harare (Zimbabwe) United States President Barack Obama praised Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday for trying to lead the country out of the long running economic and political crisis “under difficult circumstance” but criticised President Robert Mugabe for stalling reforms.

Obama met Tsvangirai and promised US$73 million in education, health and governance assistance that will be channelled through Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

He said the US was not yet prepared to lift sanctions mainly targeting President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle as punishment for human rights violations and corruption because it was concerned about consolidating democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

The US president who has pledged to work with maligned regimes that were prepared to “unclench their fists” said the unity government Tsvangirai formed with Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara “shows some promise”.

“We want to do everything we can to encourage the kinds of improvement not only on human rights and rule of law, freedom of the press and democracy that is so necessary, but also on the economic front,” Obama said.

“The people of Zimbabwe need very concrete things such as having their schools re-opened, getting improved health care and creating an agriculture system that can feed its people.

“On all these fronts I think the prime minister is committed to significant concrete improvement in the day-to-day lives of the people of Zimbabwe.”

But he scolded Mugabe for resisting change.

Obama said Mugabe “has not acted oftentimes in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people and has been resistant to the kinds of domestic changes that need to take place”.

Analysts say although Tsvangirai did not extract substantial financial assistance for the country which needs US$8 billon in the next three years for reconstruction, his meeting with Obama was a major coup on its own.

Mugabe has been shunned by world leaders since he started encouraging his supporters to invade white owned farms and closing down the democratic space.

The state media, which claims Tsvangirai, is holding a brief from Mugabe to call for the lifting of sanctions during the trip that will take him to the US, France, Sweden, Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark has dismissed his mission as futile.

The Prime Minister has said his mission was to campaign for an end to Zimbabwe’s international isolation and to encourage world leaders to give the inclusive government “the benefit of doubt”.

Tsvangirai told Obama that bringing Zimbabwe out of its economic and political decay was still a “journey”.

“We want to institute those reforms that will ensure that in 18 months time, people of Zimbabwe are given an opportunity to elect their own government,” he said.

Acknowledging that the GNU had not met its targets, Tsvangirai said: “We will strive to implement those benchmarks, not because they are for the international community but because for ourselves, it gives people of Zimbabwe freedom and opportunity to grow.”

On Thursday, Tsvangirai met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said her country was looking at the “appropriate” ways of assisting the inclusive government.

During his visit to the US, the Prime Minister has also met more than 120 US private investors affiliated to the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), which seeks to encourage business partnerships and opportunities between the United States and Africa.

The investors said before putting their money in Zimbabwe, most American companies will need evidence of real economic and political reforms.

source.The Standard (Zimbabwe)

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West Africa: Ecowas mission to mediate in Guinea Bissau

Posted by African Press International on June 17, 2009

Abuja (Nigeria) Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, has been mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Chiefs of Defence, to lead a contact mission to mediate in the crisis in Guinea Bissau.

Rising from its 25th meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Dike,who is the current chairman of the body, was appointed to lead other members of the mission, which include Chiefs of Defence Staff of Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia and Senegal.

Two high-profile political officials allegedly linked to Guinea-Bissau’s recently assassinated president were killed June 5, according to a statement from the West African country’s interim army chief. The killings raised fears that a military coup may be under way.

The military confirmed the killings of former Defence Minister, Helder Proenca with two of his bodyguards and presidential candidate Baciro Dabo, saying the men were killed because they were plotting a coup against the current government.

In a statement by the interim Army Chief, Zamora Induta, the military said several members of the ruling party had been arrested on allegations of taking part in the plot, which included a plan to assassinate the current prime minister and the interim president.

The mission is expected to help find practical solutions to the many political and security challenges that are threatening to plunge the country into lawlessness and deeper political instability.

In a statement by the Director of Defence Information, Col. Chris Jemitola, the Defence Chiefs meeting also discussed the security situation in Niger, Mali, Togo and Nigeria by the various countries’ representatives.

He said the state of readiness of the ECOWAS Standby Force for the region was presented and reviewed as part of the African Standby Force for the Continent. “In this regard, a Logistics Military exercise named Exercise JIGIU 2009 was conducted. The exercise was designed to test the logistics capability of the ECOWAS Standby Force in responding to any security crisis in the region when called upon to do so”.

A statement by the ECOWAS Secretariat said the Chiefs of Defence Staff also provisionally approved the proposed structure of the ECOWAS Standby Force Main Brigade.

They are expected to give their full endorsement at their next meeting which will take place in Freetown, Sierra Leone in the next quarter.

The new structure would help prepare the ESF for the planned continental exercise of the African Union to test he operational readiness of the African Standby Force early 2010.
African Union Tells Army to Stay Out of Politics

The Chiefs of Defence Staff also agreed to lend support to the Military Network of West and Central Africa, which is being facilitated by UNAIDS, to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Armed Forces.

The decision to support the anti-AIDS campaign within the military was in acknowledgement of the vulnerability of military personnel, especially those involved in conflict situations, to HIV infection.

Along with ECOWAS Member States at the meeting were the Force Commanders of the United Nations Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the United Nations Office in West Africa (UNOWA), the Commander of the French Forces in Cape Verde (FFCV), the Defence Attach of Angola and a representative of UNAIDS.

source.This Day (Nigeria)

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