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Mixed Reaction Follows Senegalese President's Zimbabwe Declarations

  • Brent Latham

Leaders and political analysts across Africa are closely following events in Zimbabwe. Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade is the latest to weigh in, declaring that the environment there is not adequate for free and fair elections. But not all Senegalese are convinced of their president's own commitment to democracy. For VOA, Brent Latham has more from Dakar.

In a statement issued Tuesday in Le Soleil newspaper, President Wade insisted on the postponement of elections scheduled for Friday in Zimbabwe.

President Wade says he has been in contact with both Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who says he pulled out of the second round runoff, because of violence against his party's leaders and supporters.

Mr. Wade said that nothing could guarantee the safety of Tsvangirai at this point, and that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should intercede.

Mr. Wade says there should be what he called a "gentleman's agreement" for a power-sharing government to restore stability and revamp Zimbabwe's inflation-tormented economy.

He also called on the United Nations and African Union to ensure the security of Tsvangirai's, who has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare.

The response to Mr. Wade's renewed focus on international affairs met with a mixed reception in Dakar. The Senegalese president has recently tried mediation in many international problems, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sudan-Chad violence and problems in Zimbabwe.

A Senegalese author who has written several books about politics in Senegal, Modi Meang, says many Senegalese are angry he focuses so much of his attention on the outside world, while problems are huge in his own country.

Meang says everything the president does is to manipulate people, to distract them, and to put focus on himself. He needs to begin here at home. Zimbabwe is very far from here. The author says political dialogue at home is blocked and the social and economic situation here is catastrophic.

Meang says that his books, which criticize the president, are banned in Senegal. He said that until Mr. Wade learns to act more like a democrat himself, it will be difficult for him to meaningfully intercede abroad.

The president speaks as a democrat Meang says, but he acts like a monarch.

Other observers here were less critical of Wade, and preferred to focus their attention on the turmoil in Zimbabwe.

Boubacar Gueye, a Dakar-based political analyst, says the responsibility lies with Mr Mugabe. In the actual context it will be impossible to organize free and transparent elections in Zimbabwe.

Gueye suggested that to end the crisis, the African Union and its leaders will need to develop a more comprehensive strategy. The AU's top diplomat Gabon's Jean Ping has said the opposition withdrawal and political violence in Zimbabwe are matters of grave concern to the commission of the pan-Africa body.

Mr. Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since 1980, ending decades of white-minority rule in what was then called Rhodesia.


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