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Mugabe Not To Attend Commonwealth Meeting on Zimbabwe

A Commonwealth committee of leaders from Australia, Nigeria and South Africa will meet in Abuja, Nigeria, Monday, to review the situation in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will not attend the meeting.

President Mugabe has decided he will not join the other leaders in the Nigerian capital, apparently because he objected to the meeting's agenda.

Mr. Mugabe wanted to talk about his reasons for evicting white farmers from their farms in his land redistribution program. But Commonwealth leaders had a number of issues they planned to discuss at the meeting.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March, following Mr. Mugabe's disputed re-election, alleged human rights abuses, as well as his aggressive campaign to evict commercial farmers and seize their land, a move, he said, would undo the injustices of the country's colonial past.

A government official, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, labeled the meeting a "monumental waste of time, unless it acknowledged that land was at the core of the problems in Zimbabwe."

Despite Mr. Mugabe's absence, the panel, which includes Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and South African President Thabo Mbeki, will meet to review Mr. Mugabe's performance since his re-election.

Possible measures by the committee that the will be suggested to the Commonwealth include the extension of Zimbabwe's one-year suspension from the Commonwealth, or even expulsion. Diplomatic sources say the two African presidents of the Commonwealth want to avoid that next step.

White farmers owned about a sixty percent of the nation's productive land before seizures began in 2000. In addition to the land redistribution, economic hardship, disruption to commercial agriculture and drought have contributed to more than half of Zimbabwe's population facing severe food shortages.