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An Expert Says African Leaders's new Criticism of Zimbabwe is Due to Western Pressure

African leaders are expressing strong doubts that next week's run-off election in Zimbabwe would be free and fair. Tanzanian foreign minister, Bernard Membe, speaking on behalf of Southern African Development Community nations (SADC) said the June 27th run-off election would not be free and fair because of escalating pre-election violence. Rwandan President Paul Kagame also said Zimbabwe's run-off poll would not be free and fair.

On the other hand, South African President Thabo Mbeki has reportedly said that there should be a unity government in Zimbabwe instead of a run-off election. Why now have some African nations decided to speak loudly about the crisis in Zimbabwe?

Kabiru Mato heads the political science department at the University of Abuja in Nigeria. He told VOA African leaders' strong criticism of the upcoming run-off election in Zimbabwe could be the result of western pressure.

"My position on the changing position of African leaders is that it must have some external correlation, external correlation in a sense that they must have been perhaps convinced by their formal colonial powers to take the position that they are taking. I don't support dictatorship, but I think that it is quite undiplomatic and strategically not very convenient for the President of Rwanda, SADC (South African Development Community Countries) and others to begin to make the public remarks that the polls are not going to be free and fair," Mato said.

He said the African leaders' comments could taint the results, especially if President Mugabe wins the run-off.

Mato said he agreed with South African President Thabo Mbeki who was quoted as saying that there should be a unity government in Zimbabwe instead of a run-off election.

"I support that, and I think President Thabo Mbeki must have uttered this suggestion on the basis of his personal understanding of the crisis that exist in Zimbabwe. I think it's okay! If that will be so let it be so that we can have peace in Zimbabwe," he said.

Some Africans, especially some Nigerians have accused the West of duplicity when comes to promoting democracy in Africa. They argued the world did not openly support the Nigerian opposition when they called for a rejection of the 2007 election because they said it was rigged.

Mato sees a difference in the West's behavior toward Zimbabwe and Nigeria. He said Britain and the United States have long declared President Robert Mugabe persona non grata because of his seizure of white-owned farms.

"In the case of Nigeria's election, there was no direct political interest of Western Europe involved. In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has offended Britain. And therefore by offending Great Britain, he has also offended Western Europe and the United States of America,"Mato said.