The United States has criticized Robert Mugabe for attending a ceremony Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations food agency. But the president of Zimbabwe defended his presence and denounced the United States and Britain for wanting to interfere in the domestic policies of countries of the developing world.
Robert Mugabe thanked the director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization, the FAO, for inviting him to the 60th anniversary celebration of the agency's establishment. Zimbabwe's president said he had every right to attend the meeting as his country is a member of the United Nations, the FAO and other international agencies.
His comments were a reaction to statements made by the U.S. ambassador to United Nations food agencies, Tony Hall. The ambassador said it was disheartening and a mockery of the poor to see that the president of Zimbabwe was attending the FAO ceremony considering that his policies were helping to starve his own people.
The European Union imposed a travel ban on Mr. Mugabe after accusations of vote rigging in parliamentary polls in 2000 and in his re-election two years later. But the head of state is allowed to travel to EU countries to attend U.N.-sponsored events.
Mr. Mugabe used his opportunity to speak at the FAO ceremony to attempt to set the record straight with countries he described as "enemies."
"We have a situation here where some countries like the United States and Britain have taken it upon themselves to decide for us in the developing world, even to interfere in our domestic affairs and want to bring about what they call regime change," said Mr. Mugabe.
Mr. Mugabe said, in a democracy, any political change is the right of the people of that country and not of a foreign country. He added that the people of Zimbabwe have the right to decide who shall govern them.
The president of Zimbabwe said the United States and Britain, had illegally invaded Iraq and were looking to change governments in other countries.
"The voice of Mr. Bush or the voice of Mr. Blair can't decide who shall rule in Zimbabwe, who shall rule in Africa, who shall rule in Asia, who shall rule in Venezuela, who shall rule in Iran, who shall rule in Iraq," he added.
The Zimbabwean president also likened Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair to Hilter and Mussolini, saying they formed an unholy alliance to attack an innocent country.
Mr. Mugabe defended the land reforms of his government, which he said redressed "past gross imbalances in land ownership which were institutionalized by British colonialism."
Addressing the problems of hunger, he said subsidized agricultural production in developed countries had a crippling effect on the development of agriculture in developing countries.
Mr. Mugabe also said climate change in sub-Saharan Africa was having a great impact on agricultural production and food security. He also said the HIV-AIDS pandemic was another of the major challenges to sustainable agricultural production.