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British PM's Efforts To Block Mugabe Summit Visit Falter

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apparently failed in his attempt to block Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe from attending a summit in Europe. Mr. Brown has said he would boycott the summit if Mugabe attends. He is also meeting resistance to his proposal for a special EU envoy for Zimbabwe. The European/African summit is scheduled for December in Portugal.

Ziphamandla Zondi is director of the Africa program at the Institute for Global Dialogue. From Midrand, South Africa, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Gordon Brown’s campaign against Robert Mugabe.

“I think was a moral cause on the side of Brown. I think it was a principled stance, which was to say the exercise, the meeting, the summit would not serve a good purpose if somebody presiding over the mess in Zimbabwe were attending. But I also think that it was not well handled and it was likely to fall flat in the manner that it has,” he says.

Did Mr. Brown miscalculate the amount of support he had? Zondi says, “I think for it to work, Prime Minister Brown was supposed to garner the support both in Europe and in Africa to make sure there’s a concerted effort. Otherwise, he would be a lone ranger and the rest would think that there was a way to engage, there’s a way to talk, persuade and all of that. And he will come out as the only one screaming and shouting out loud. I think he also went for a kill. He let his cat out of the bag too quickly by saying if Mugabe is going to attend then he is not going to attend. And he actually forced himself into a corner in the sense that when it became clear that Mugabe was not going to pull out then he had to explain what he was going to do.”

Zondi says it’s difficult for Mr. Brown to justify his not attending, because in a sense he’s punishing all African nations that attend and not just Zimbabwe.

However, the analyst says this is not a victory for Mugabe, either. “The government of Zimbabwe does not come out clean out of this. And it doesn’t come out a victor out of this. The issues have been raised. It’s been put under spotlight. In many ways it’s uncomfortable for them.”

Regarding EU resistance to naming a special envoy for Zimbabwe, Zondi believes both European and African nations want to give mediation efforts a chance. SADC, the Southern Africa Development Community, appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to try to easy political tensions in Zimbabwe. Mbeki rarely speaks about his closed-door efforts, but many observers say there have been few positive results.