Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zimbabwe News Update: EU-African Summit in Danger

France in dilemma over summit

Zimbabwe Herald News Editor

PARIS has found itself in a quandary over its hosting of the France-Africa Summit because it does not want to offend fellow EU members by inviting President Mugabe.

The Herald has it on good authority that Britain, Holland and Germany are pressuring France not to invite President Mugabe.

Elysee Palace — the seat of the French government — has already succumbed to pressure not to invite Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

The summit had to be moved from Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak said he would not host it if his Sudanese counterpart was not present.

The West has been trying to isolate President al-Bashir over an International Criminal Court indictment that many feel is contrived and baseless at international law.

Yesterday, Charge d’Affaires at the French Embassy in Harare Mr Dietmar Peprausch said he could not yet comment on President Mugabe’s participation at the summit.

"It is unfortunately too soon to answer to these questions. The invitations for the summit have not yet been sent out."

However, Reuters has reported that invitations have started being sent out with Sudan already receiving such a letter for the May 31 to June 1 meeting in Nice.

President Nicolas Sarkozy recently invited President al-Bashir to send a representative in his stead.

Mr Petrausch responded: "To be more exact, it is not an invitation that President Sarkozy sent to President al-Bashir, but a mere letter to ask him to designate a representative.

"Once we have the name of this representative, we will formally invite him.

"As you know, President al-Bashir is a particular case as he is indicted before the ICC, which is not the case with President Mugabe.

"There are still many other countries for which we did not send the invitations."

Yesterday, diplomatic sources said: "France is still considering what position to take on Zimbabwe.

"They want to go by the African Union position as much as possible and this means inviting President Mugabe.

"That is why they have decided not to invite Niger and Madagascar because the AU does not recognise the governments in those countries.

"But the AU recognises President Mugabe as Head of State and Government and France has found its ego, which wants a large turnout, running contrary to its obligations as an EU member.

"They have been targeting certain countries to find a way of assuaging them in the event that Zimbabwe is not invited.

"They have offered President (Hifikepunye) Pohamba and President (Jacob) Zuma State visits in exchange for their silence on the matter."

The sources said the Namibian and South African leaders had declined to be bribed by something as "cheap" as a State visit.

Another diplomatic source said: "On the last France-Africa Summit, the French position was determined by the majority EU position.

"This time around the rules, so to speak, have changed and they are proceeding by way of consensus.

"So this means if Britain and company can present a compelling case then Zimbabwe will not be invited and vice versa if they can’t.

"But if the case against Zimbabwe was weak for the EU-Africa Summit in Portugal, it is even weaker now.

"France essentially wants to make an omelette without breaking any eggs by having a great turnout while disrespecting AU positions."

In 2007, Zimbabwe rejected a conditional invite to the France-Africa Summit in Cannes.

The French at that time sent former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano with an invitation for President Mugabe.

They wanted him to persuade President Mugabe to decline the invite and instead delegate a representative.

Zimbabwe attended France-Africa summits in 2003 and 2005 as a courtesy.

In 2003, France invited President Mugabe despite Britain’s insistence not to.

In 2007, Portugal invited President Mugabe to the EU-Africa Summit, prompting British Premier Gordon Brown to boycott that meeting, a stance that was dismissed as a damp squib.

New threat to Zim-EU talks

Herald Reporters

FRANCE has refused Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa a visa to attend a Zimbabwe-European Union re-engagement meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

France is in charge of granting Belgian visas to Zimbabweans.

It also emerged yesterday that the EU has deferred the meeting scheduled for this week to April 21 though no reasons were given.

France, Britain, Holland and Germany have been accused of trying to frustrate the dialogue.

Last week, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the talks would resume this week.

Divisional head for policy, research and training in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Sam Mhango said the Zimbabwe delegation would now travel to Europe on April 21.

"The EU has sent an invitation to the Zimbabwean delegation to visit Europe on April 21.

"In her invitation letter, EU representative for foreign and security policy Catherine Ashton said the European bloc would receive the Zimbabwean delegation," said Mr Mhango.

He said the delegation would likely visit seven other European capitals.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi heads an inter-ministerial committee representing Zimbabwe at the talks.

Other members of the committee are Ministers Chinamasa, Tendai Biti (Finance), Elton Mangoma (Economic Planning), Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (International Co-operation) and Welshman Ncube (Industry).

However, it emerged that Minister Chinamasa had problems in getting his visa with the French Embassy in Harare. The French said he was on a list of people barred from travelling to the EU.

This is the second time that the minister has had problems in attending the talks because of visa issues.

Charge d’Affaires at the embassy Mr Dietmar Peprausch said they had advised Minister Chinamasa to get his visa from South Africa.

"France represents Belgium for the granting of visas for Zimbabweans but as Mr Chinamasa is on the EU travel ban list, it is only Belgium itself which can decide whether it accepts the visa or not for the minister.

"So we told him we could not deliver the visa — and not that we did not want to — and told him to apply directly to the Belgian Embassy in South Africa, which is competent.

"France is supporting the inclusive ministerial visit to Brussels to promote the EU-Zimbabwe political dialogue and will do all it can to facilitate this visit for the whole delegation," he said.

However, diplomatic sources said France — along with three other countries — did not like the idea of ministers from Zanu-PF being part of the delegation visiting their countries.

"Minister Chinamasa only got his visa after the European Commission delegation in Zimbabwe intervened," the sources said.

The EC acts as the EU’s secretariat.

The sources said head of the EC delegation here Ambassador Xavier Marchal then facilitated the visa for Minister Chinamasa after France stuck to its guns.

The EC had not responded to questions sent to it at the time of writing.

In June last year, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had to intervene at the last minute — at President Mugabe’s instruction — to get the British and French embassies to issues visas to members of the delegation.

After that, Minister Chinamasa was delayed at Frankfurt International Airport for six hours in what was seen as a bid to ensure he got to Brussels too late for the dialogue.

The British Embassy yesterday had not by the time of writing responded to questions on the allegations of trying to block ministers from Zanu-PF from attending the latest round of meetings.

First Secretary at the embassy Mr Keith Scott asked for The Herald’s deadline for the article but did not subsequently communicate.

The current dialogue process started soon after the formation of the inclusive Government with a number of meetings being held between the inter-ministerial committee and EU ambassadors in Zimbabwe.

Little headway has been made mainly due to the EU’s reluctance to respond positively to overtures by the Zimbabwean side to speed up the process.

In February, Zimbabwe wrote a letter to the European bloc requesting resumption of the dialogue after it had stagnated for months.

However, the EU did not respond to the request and instead extended illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe for another year.

The dialogue is to explore the lifting of the widely discredited embargo.

The sanctions were imposed in February 2002 in a bid to influence the outcome of that year’s presidential elections subsequently won by President Mugabe.

The sanctions are on individuals and companies and also include an arms ban.

Meanwhile, yesterday negotiators to the inter-party talks on implementation of the Global Political Agreement said their discussions would continue.

They are expected to finalise and present a report to the party principals.

It is understood that the previously set deadline for finalisation of the talks today is "not cast in stone".

Zim to host AU Youth Ministers’ conference

Herald Reporter

Zimbabwe will host the third Conference of African Union ministers in charge of youth in the resort town of Victoria Falls early next month.

The Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment and the Zimbabwe Youth Council are organising the conference.

In a statement, the ministry said: "The Conference of AU Ministers in charge of Youth will run from 12th-16th April, 2010 at the Elephant Hills resort, Victoria Falls."

President Mugabe is expected to officially open the conference.

In an interview, ZYC chair Mr Donald Charumbira said the conference was part of the AU’s agenda to promote youth development in the next decade.

"The period between 2009 and 2018 has been declared the decade for African Youth Development to chart our own agenda as African youth.

"The target is that by 2018, the African youths should be at par in terms of development with youth from other parts of the world," he said.

Mr Charumbira said the conference outcomes would feed into the agenda of the AU Heads of State summit next year.

The conference will deliberate on implementation of the African Youth Charter and its popularisation throughout the continent and the plan of action for the next decade.

Youths from various countries will exhibit their wares at the conference while officials from United Nations agencies and the World Bank will also attend.

African scribes pledge to market Vic Falls

Herald Reporter

AFRICAN journalists attending the just-ended Federation of African Journalists congress in Zimbabwe have pledged to help market Victoria Falls as a tourist destination.

Speaking during a tour of the resort town, the journalists said Zimbabwe has developed a tourism sector worth visiting and promoting.

They said they would visit and do articles on the majestic Victoria Falls after being enchanted by one of the world’s seven wonders.

Ekwe Henriettee of Cameroon said she had enjoyed her stay in Zimbabwe and was impressed with what she saw in Victoria Falls.

"Although I have been working in the hotel since my arrival and did not have an opportunity to visit the rural areas I want to say my stay has been pleasant.

"I am happy that I have been to the majestic Victoria Falls and I am impressed with what I have seen here.

"This is worth writing about and I will go and tell others of my experience. I can say as a tourist destination, Zimbabwe is a great country and has been able to preserve and keep safe its natural environment," she said.

Henriettee said her encounter with ministers in the inclusive Government was cordial and was also worth mentioning. Morgan Chonya of Zambia said the Victoria Falls was a unique scene that requires as much publicity as possible.

"We share the Victoria Falls and I won’t hesitate to say I will write about this scenic beauty. Zimbabwe is full of beautiful people and that has enhanced the splendor of the country," he said.

Ghanaian Bright Blewu said Zimbabwe was endowed with a rich natural legacy that could be exploited by the entire continent.

"Zimbabwe has done well in not only conserving the beauty that is the Victoria Falls but also in developing facilities to complete the area.

"Compared to what we have in Ghana, Zimbabwe is miles ahead and that can be understandable given the importance of the area as a tourist attraction," he said.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary-general and FAJ vice president Foster Dongozi said they decided, as a host country, to take the journalists to Victoria Falls so that they help market the resort town.

"We felt the visit was an opportunity for the journalists to be ambassadors of the resort town . . . for them to experience the beauty of Victoria Falls because if you have not been to Victoria Falls (then) you have not been to Zimbabwe.

"This will give them an opportunity to talk about the area and recommend it to people in their countries," he said.

Speaking at a dinner hosted on Saturday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi invited the journalists to sample as much of Zimbabwe tourist attractions so that they help market the country.

"We understand the importance of the media, that is why Government is working on opening its media space. Although we are not doing everything correct, we feel Zimbabwe is doing the majority of the things right."

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