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Mugabe Will Reject US Interference in Zimbabwe's Affairs - 2003-07-07


Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, says that if President Bush attempts to interfere in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs, he will be unwelcome in Africa. But other Africans see signs of hope in the U.S. president's first visit to Africa.

Mr. Mugabe told his supporters at a rural settlement last Friday that if Mr. Bush tries to influence African leaders against him, his message to the American president will be, "Yankee, go home."

Mr. Bush's trip coincides with an African Union summit in Mozambique's capital, Maputo. Political analysts say that in the five African capitals that Mr. Bush is scheduled to visit, and in Maputo, the shadow of Zimbabwe looms large.

Mr. Mugabe, once an African hero who was warmly welcomed on the world's stage, is now seen as an African problem, and Mr. Bush said last week that there should be new elections in Zimbabwe.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has called for African countries, particularly South Africa, to exert pressure on Mr. Mugabe to step down as soon as possible.

The South African government, through its High Commission in Harare, is facilitating exploratory talks, mainly with the ruling Zanu PF, to try to find a way out of Zimbabwe's present political and economic crisis.

But well-placed diplomatic sources say little progress is being made in these contacts, mainly because Zanu PF has no successor who could be sure of winning a free and fair election to replace Mr. Mugabe.

Several church groups and business people say they are also engaging with Zanu PF trying to find a way forward to new elections and to provide Mr. Mugabe with a dignified route to retirement.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change is sending two delegations southward this week, one to Pretoria to meet with the U.S. delegation, and one to the African Union summit. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and secretary general Welshman Ncube are unable to be part of the two diplomatic initiatives because both are on trial for treason and cannot leave the country.

Zimbabwean political analysts and pressure groups from inside South Africa are working behind the scenes to try to mediate a solution. They say they are hopeful that President Bush's African visit may encourage South African President Thabo Mbeki to increase pressure on Mr. Mugabe to leave office.

Mr. Mugabe is already under extreme pressure as Zimbabwe's economic disintegration gathers speed. In particular, well-placed sources said he was unable to secure credit for fuel supplies from Libya during his recent visit to Tripoli.

While many African intellectuals and political activists have expressed reservations about Mr. Bush in the days leading up his visit, people at the grass roots in Zimbabwe, where suffering is deepest, say they are glad he is coming to Africa.

On the streets, at bus stops, in letters to the privately owned press, they say they have no faith in African leaders. They say that only Mr. Bush is strong enough to force Africa to persuade Mr. Mugabe to go.