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Commonwealth Team Examines Land Deal in Zimbabwe - 2001-10-25


A Commonwealth team began meeting Thursday in Harare to follow up on a deal reached last month aimed at ending the violence on Zimbabwe's farms. The team was due to pay a courtesy call on President Robert Mugabe.

The Commonwealth team is spending two days in Zimbabwe to judge progress on an agreement reached earlier this year in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. It aims to end the violence on Zimbabwean farms.

The team is led by Nigeria. Representatives from Britain, Canada, Australia, Jamaica, Kenya and South Africa are also participating. The British delegate, Valerie Amos, is the highest ranking British official to visit Zimbabwe since relations between the two countries broke down three years ago.

The team was scheduled to meet with President Mugabe, other senior government officials and leaders of the war veterans'association, who have spearheaded the invasion of more than a thousand white-owned commercial farms over the last two years. Delegates are also supposed to meet white farmers, opposition leaders and independent civic groups.

The main aim of the visit is reported to be developing a timetable for implementation of the Abuja agreement.

Under the deal, the Zimbabwean government is supposed to restore the rule of law to the country's land reform program, and stop any further occupations of white-owned farms.

In exchange, Britain has agreed to fund the redistribution of land in its former colony.

The Abuja agreement was hailed as a breakthrough when it was reached last month. But analysts are skeptical about whether it will really achieve its goal.

The Zimbabwean government has already accused Britain of dragging its feet on compensation for white farmers, whose land is being redistributed to landless blacks.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union says ruling-party militants continue to seize new farms despite the accord.

An Amnesty International report released Wednesday also alleged that state-sponsored violence is still on the rise. The human rights group urged the international community to send observers to Zimbabwe ahead of next year's presidential election.

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