Monday, October 20, 2008
So what's new? Regional summit on Zimbabwe postponed
Knowing what we do about Zimbabwe's government, it should be no surprise that a regional summit planned this week in Swaziland has been postponed. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's prime minster-designate under last month's power-sharing agreement, refused to attend the summit after the government refused to issue him a new passport, according to the Reuters international news service. Tsvangirai outpolled Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in the March presidential election but pulled out of the June runoff due to apparently state-sponsored violence against his supporters, exacerbating the current crisis. Mugabe denies involvement in the violence, but has recently taken control of crucial government ministries in violation of the agreement. The emergency summit was called to try to resolve the dispute under the auspices of the 15-nation Southern Africa Development Community, which has been trying to mediate the crisis. "(MDC) President Tsvangirai was supposed to attend, but due to some technical problems he could not attend," Swaziland King Mswati III told a news conference in Mbabane on Monday, Reuters said. "That is why the meeting is being postponed." The summit has been rescheduled for Oct. 27 in Harare. Zimbabwe offered Tsvangirai a temporary travel document but Tsvangirai refused it, apparently fearing he would not be readmitted to the country. The leader of a breakaway faction of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara, whose party also was included in the power-sharing deal, demanded the cancellation of the summit after Tsvangirai refused to attend. "In the context of the agreement what sort of goodwill is that?," Mutambara asked. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has mediated the crisis since 2007 for the SADC, and leaders of South Africa, Swaziland, Angola and Tanzania also were expected to attend the summit. African leaders have promoted the power-sharing deal as the best way to get Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy back on track and get its ruinous currency inflation under control. The crisis has forced millions to flee Zimbabwe for neighboring countries.