Kenyan Prime Minister calls for suspension of Mugabe from African Union

Monday, June 30, 2008

Raila Odinga, the Kenyan Prime Minister, has said that Robert Mugabe should be suspended from the African Union until he allows free elections to take place in his country.

He has said that the AU "should suspend him [Mugabe] and send peace forces to Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair elections."

Odinga continued, "[The] African Union will be setting a dangerous precedent if Mugabe is allowed to participate in its meetings," he said. "Right now Mugabe is a crisis, they have no president with legitimacy to run the country."

Robert Mugabe was recently under a large amount of pressure to postpone the election after the main opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out due to fears of violence. For example, Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, yesterday called for the election to be postponed. He said that he "strongly supports the statement of the Chairman of SADC (Southern African Development Community) that conditions do not exist for a run-off election to be held at this time and that they should be postponed."

Mugabe yesterday claimed the current results show that he will have a 'sweeping victory' in the unopposed presidential run-off elections. He announced his victory on one of the state run television networks. "The returns show that we are winning convincingly, that we have won in all the 26 constituencies in Harare, an MDC stronghold where we won in only one constituency in March."

As an African Union summit began in Egypt today, Mugabe took his seat among other African heads of state hours after declaring victory in the election. His appearance at the summit generated different reactions, from being hailed as a "hero" by the President of Gabon, to U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro's remarks calling the situation in Zimbabwe "an extremely grave crisis".

Mugabe, now in his sixth term as President, arrived in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. Despite criticism from the African Union's election observers, who said the election fell short of their standards, Mugabe was reportedly warmly received at the summit. One delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mugabe was seen hugging other African leaders after the opening session.

Delegates at the convention discussed the elections, but largely avoided direct criticism of Mugabe or the government. Jakaya Kekwete, the Tanzanian President chairing the summit, said, "We would like to congratulate the Zimbabwean people for their successes but we would also like to express our commiserations for their suffering." A draft resolution being considered for adoption on Tuesday calls for negotiations and an end to violence, but also does not directly criticize Mugabe or the election.

George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, said he hopes that the summit would take stronger measures during Tuesday sessions. "I would hope that the nature of what happened in Zimbabwe warrants a strong response and a lot of the leaders are taking our problems into consideration," he said.