Monday, September 26, 2005

Annan forced to abort visit

Zimbabwe Herald Reporter

UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan was forced to abort his visit to assess Zimbabwe’s clean-up operation and its aftermath following the politicisation of the trip by Britain and the United States.

This emerged at a meeting between Mr Annan and President Mugabe at the UN headquarters in New York on the sidelines of the just-ended UN World Summit and the 60th Session of the General Assembly. Officials who attended the meeting said Mr Annan told the President that he deferred his visit because he wanted to make sure the parameters were right. Cde Mugabe voiced concern over the politicisation of the impending visit by Britain and the US.

"What I didn’t like was the fact of other parties coming in, the British, the Americans trying to set the agenda for your visit. "When I extended the invitation to you, it was meant to correct yourself in respect of the unbalanced and misleading report (on the clean-up operation) from (UN special envoy) Mrs (Anna) Tibaijuka," the officials quoted President Mugabe as having told Mr Annan. The officials said the UN chief agreed that his visit had been highly politicised. "It was important for us to set the limits for the visit," the officials quoted Mr Annan as saying.

The UN Secretary-General said that was why he had asked an official in his office to work out a programme for the visit. The official would work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, taking into account that Zimbabwe would be having Senate elections soon while the ruling Zanu- PF would be holding its annual National People’s Conference in December.

During the meeting, the UN made known its willingness to assist Harare in alleviating the effects of drought. But the President complained about the tendency among non- governmental organisations (NGOs) of taking advantage of channelling UN aid to promote their own agendas of political interference. "What we do not want is for the UN to give grain to NGOs so they make politics out of it," said Cde Mugabe.

He, however, said there were some upright, bona fide, non- partisan NGOs, but those with political missions had the problem of politicising food aid. President Mugabe suggested the UN could make use of the machinery Zimbabwe has used whenever it has experiences drought. This has always included chiefs who are in a position to know people in their areas of jurisdiction requiring assistance. The officials said the UN humanitarian co-ordinator, who also attended the meeting, intervened at that point and said worldwide the world body used NGOs for cost effective reasons.

"But we do not accept politicisation of food. Politicisation of food is what we do not need," the co-ordinator reportedly said. Mr Annan then offered to dispatch the co-ordinator to Zimbabwe to audit the food distribution machinery of the UN and the NGOs it works with. The co-ordinator, who is expected in the country in November, will also assess the traditional structures Government has been using to distribute food relief in times of drought.

The officials said by the co-ordinator’s own admission, the UN indicated that they did not see any difficulties with the Zimbabwean Government meeting the food requirements of the ordinary people. They saw problems coming in from December onwards because that is the time when food reserves in most households begin to diminish.

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