Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella, President of the Pan-African Parliament based in Midrand, South Africa
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File
Features & Political Editor Caesar Zvayi
PRESIDENT Mugabe left Harare last night for Cairo, Egypt, en route to New York to attend the 62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which opens next Tuesday.
Vice President Joice Mujuru will be Acting President while Cde Mugabe attends the UN session.
The President, who was accompanied by the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and senior Government officials, is expected to join about 80 other world leaders and several foreign ministers at the UN headquarters to discuss various issues of international concern.
Cde Mugabe was seen off at the Harare International Airport by Vice President Mujuru, Minister of Information and Publicity Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Minister of Policy Implementation Cde Webster Shamu and service chiefs.
The agenda, finalised yesterday, is centred on five key topics: climate change, financing for development, implementation of the counter-terrorism strategy, management reform, and follow-up measures to achieve the Millennium Development Goals that should be realised by all countries by 2015.
The annual general debate, which gives member states the platform to speak on various issues, begins next Tuesday and is to run till October 3.
This year, the debate runs under the theme, "Responding to Climate Change", a motif proposed by incoming 62nd Session president Dr Srgjan Kerim in light of the deleterious effects of rising global temperatures on the environment and livelihoods.
Climate change is of major concern to all hemispheres as its effects are being felt by all, albeit in different manifestations.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it is manifested in protracted droughts, like those that have afflicted Sadc since the turn of the millennium, while sub-Saharan Africa’s energy crisis has been attributed to receding water levels and intense tropical cyclones fed by rising maritime temperatures.
In the Western Hemisphere, it is expressed in the hurricanes ravaging the American coastline.
In the East, it is evident in the floods that have struck some parts of Asia, attributed to rising sea levels fed by melting glaciers, while in the North, it is manifest in heat waves.
Dr Kerim said climate change should not only be seen in the context of the environment as it also affects economic growth by impacting on technologies, energy, sustainable development, health, governance, security — in fact, practically all aspects of human endeavour.
The practice of selecting a specific issue of global concern for each session began in 2003 when the General Assembly decided this would enhance the authority and role of the world body.
The world’s peace and security situation — which has been compounded by the unilateralism and militarism of the United States and its allies — is also up for discussion, particularly the situation in the Middle East as the UN is keen to play a key role in rebuilding Iraq.
Also on the agenda is the elimination of unilateral extra-territorial coercive measures as a means of
political and economic compulsion — a pressing item in light of the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and its allies in retaliation for the land reform programme.
The embargo imposed by the US against Cuba over the past 45 years is also up for discussion, though it has received almost unanimous international criticism over the years with annual votes in the General Assembly passing with exceptionally large margins. The only opposition came from the US and its key allies Israel and the Marshall Islands.
UN Security Council reform is also up for discussion as almost all member states agree that the Security Council, as currently constituted, does not reflect the world of today but that of 1945 that was dominated by the victorious allies of the Second World War.
Established in 1945, the General Assembly is not only the most democratic organ of the UN, but is also the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ comprising of all 192 member states.
It provides a forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the UN Charter.
Brown threat: Outrage intensifies
‘Arm-twisting not way to solve Zim’s challenges’
CONDEMNATION of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown over his threat to boycott the Euro-Africa Summit if President Mugabe attends intensified yesterday.
Amid growing international consensus that the conference must go ahead even without Britain, the Pan-African Parliament said Mr Brown should desist from behaving like an overlord.
In remarks that received worldwide coverage yesterday, Dr Gertrude Mongella, the Tanzanian president of the Pan-African Parliament, said "arm-twisting" was not the way to solve Zimbabwe’s challenges.
Her comments reflect the determination of the African Union to go ahead as planned and invite President Mugabe to the Euro-Africa summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in December.
Dr Mongella, attending a conference with Socialist Members of the European Parliament in Brussels, has made it clear that African solidarity might undermine Mr Brown’s "him-or-me" challenge to the summit.
"We do know there are some problems (in Zimbabwe), but if somebody wants to arm-twist Zimbabwe, that’s not the best way to solve the problems," she said.
"I think this is again another way of manipulating Africa. Zimbabwe is a nation which got independence. I think in the developed countries there are so many countries doing things which not all of us subscribe to — we have seen the Iraq war, not everyone accepts what is being done in Iraq."
Dr Mongella urged all African and European leaders to go to the summit — including Mr Brown — to join the talks to "meet, develop a very committed dialogue to solve problems, rather than threatening each other by going or not going".
She said dialogue must be pursued to resolve any disputes.
"I think if we want to move in the right direction, with the African way of doing things, you discuss things under a tree till you agree. So if somebody does not come under a tree to discuss, that is not the African way of doing things."
Mr Brown was also condemned by Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Boniface Chidyausiku, who said the prime minister had no right to dictate who should be at the summit or not.
Mr Chidyausiku said President Mugabe had a sovereign right, like all other African heads of state, to attend the Lisbon summit, adding that bigger issues affecting Africa should be prioritised.
Mr Chidyausiku’s remarks follow almost similar sentiments by Portuguese EU legislator Mr Paolo Casaca and the Southern African Development Community chairman, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, on Thursday.
President Mwanawasa even countered Mr Brown with his own threat, saying if President Mugabe is barred from attending the summit, Zambia and probably other African leaders would not go to Lisbon.
Mr Louis Michel, the EU Commissioner for Aid and Development, signalled Mr Brown’s growing isolation, saying that one person cannot scuttle a key summit between two continents.
"We think that a single individual case cannot take as hostage the relations between two continents," said Mr Michel.
He added that the European Commission would want the summit to go ahead regardless of Mr Brown’s threat.
Writing in a British newspaper, The Independent, on Thursday, Mr Brown provoked sharp international criticism when he said he would boycott the Portugal summit — the first since 2000 — if President Mugabe attends.
Mr Brown, like his predecessor Mr Tony Blair, claimed that the Government had presided over the prevailing economic challenges, ignoring the impact of illegal EU and American sanctions.
He said the EU’s five-year visa ban on President Mugabe must be enforced to ensure that he does not travel to Portugal.
But Mr Michel said the ban does not apply to international meetings.
"I expect it is possible to have a compromise, but if there is no compromise, what can you do? The only option I cannot accept is suppressing the summit," he said.
Mr Brown, who assumed office in June, is said to base his foreign policy on a series of anti-Zimbabwe reports aired by several British media outlets, including the BBC and ITV News.
Brown standing on shaky ground
BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown is running scared of a possible confrontation with President Mugabe at the forthcoming European Union-African Union Summit, slated for Portugal later this year.
In order to hide his fear, he has issued a public ultimatum that if President Mugabe attends the summit, he will boycott.
Instead of behaving like a schoolboy who runs away with the ball when he is losing the game, the British Prime Minister should show the world how courageous he is by confronting Zimbabwe face to face on any issues he feels need to be addressed.
On his part, President Mugabe has been open to dialogue and prepared to discuss issues with the British.
As we all know, the guilty are afraid. Mr Brown is standing on shaky ground having refused to honour his country’s colonial obligations to fund land reforms in Zimbabwe.
Instead of facing the prospect of losing the game at the hands of not only a former colony but a little African country, Mr Brown has decided to hightail it. Probably the images of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s humiliation in South Africa at the hands of President Mugabe haunt Mr Brown.
He need not fear but be bold and be his own man.
Mr Brown has nothing to fear from President Mugabe but has everything to gain by engaging in civilised dialogue that will eventually lead to an agreement over the bilateral dispute between the two countries.
Now that the pretext of using the opposition MDC as a scapegoat is out of the way as both the opposition and ruling Zanu-PF are moving in the same direction, it becomes extremely difficult for the British to justify their continued assault on Zimbabwe.
The British will now have to deal with President Mugabe directly.
The forthcoming summit is the perfect platform to initiate such dialogue and Mr Brown can look for support from his fellow Europeans while President Mugabe will be backed by his fellow Africans.
It is indeed childish, if not silly, for Mr Brown to claim that he will boycott the EU-AU Summit on the basis of Zimbabwe’s attendance when we all know that both leaders will be in New York next week for the UN General Assembly.
Maybe the British will feel comforted enough by big brother America.
The AU has pronounced itself clearly on the summit, with the Foreign Minister of Ghana, the current AU chair, Mr Akwasi Osei Adjei, last week emphasising that all AU member states will be invited to the summit.
Even the summit hosts Portugal, which chairs the rotating EU presidency, has been very clear on who will attend the meeting, saying it has no intention of discriminating against President Mugabe.
One would have thought that since taking over as British Prime Minister, Mr Brown was studying the Zimbabwe situation so as to avoid the same pitfalls that hounded his predecessor’s term of office.
The AU and Sadc have urged London and Harare to find a lasting solution to their bilateral dispute and this certainly cannot be found through boycotts.