Accessibility links

Breaking News

Mugabe Calls Top UN Humanitarian Envoy a Liar

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has strongly criticized U.N. emergency aid coordinator Jan Egeland. The president spoke Friday two days after Mr. Egeland completed a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe on behalf of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Speaking to the annual congress of the ruling ZANU-PF party, President Mugabe described Mr. Egeland as "a damned hypocrite and a liar." The 3,000 delegates at the congress greeted the remarks with prolonged applause.

Mr. Mugabe accused the U.N. envoy of saying nasty things about Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean leader said from now on he would adopt a new attitude toward Mr. Annan's envoys.

Before leaving the country on Wednesday, Mr. Egeland told the government he wanted a constructive relationship between the U.N. and Zimbabwe and offered U.N. assistance to improve the standard of living for the people of Zimbabwe.

But he also expressed dismay that Mr. Mugabe had refused U.N. tents for hundreds of thousands of people who were made homeless when the government demolished their houses, as part of a campaign called Clean Out the Filth.

In July, two months after the campaign began, the U.N. issued a report condemning it. A central feature of the campaign was the demolition of hundreds of thousands of houses, along with the destruction of many small businesses run by informal traders and entrepreneurs. Mr. Mugabe claimed the demolitions were part of a plan of urban renewal.

ZANU-PF's annual congress is a major political event in Zimbabwe, and this year it is being held in Esigodini, a small town close to Bulawayo, the second largest city in the country.

Many political fortunes are made or lost at these congresses. Last year, several long-standing ZANU-PF heavyweights were demoted, because they had been planning to propose successors to Mr. Mugabe, who will be 82 in February.

ZANU-PF spokesmen have told the state-controlled press that the succession issue will not come up for debate at this congress.

Vice President Joyce Mujuru, a long-time loyalist of Mr. Mugabe, is expected to succeed him when he chooses to retire.

Though there is usually little disagreement at these annual congresses, several ruling party officials did express concern at the low levels of agricultural production on land seized from white commercial farmers. To make up for the shortage of food in the country, the United Nations has just started another program whose goal is to feed up to four million Zimbabweans. The program will last until next June.