The international research group the International Crisis Group (ICG) is denying charges from the spokesman for Zimbabwe?s ruling ZANU-PF party that the group is supporting Britain and the United States in calling for President Robert Mugabe?s removal from power. In Washington, the ICG?s program executive for Africa, John Norris, defended the group against accusations made Wednesday by ZANU-PF Party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira. A report issued last week by the Brussels-based ICG cites divisions within ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as impediments to Zimbabwe?s return to democracy. Norris told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that the government is trying to detract attention from existing hardships.

?The International Crisis Group has never advocated a violent coup or violence of any sort, and we think this is the kind of behavior from a government that is desperate to change the subject. With inflation over 1000%, it?s understandable why President Mugabe and his ministers would seek to blame the Crisis Group or Great Britain or the United States or pretty much anyone other than themselves for the desperate situation in which Zimbabwe finds itself.?

The ICG report recognizes Zimbabwe?s neighbor South Africa as the regional power most suited to exert leverage on Harare for reform, but it says Pretoria and the leaders of institutions like the African Union and various regional groups have done little to address the crisis.

?I think it?s important that Africans themselves stand up and say what?s going on in Zimbabwe is unacceptable, that President Mugabe does have a legacy as somebody who fought and won in liberation struggles, but I think the people of Zimbabwe have suffered overwhelmingly under this government, and I think the best thing that Africa can do for itself is stand up and say ?We think these kinds of human rights abuses are wrong.? I think this kind of sense that this behavior is wrong in our own back yard for the Southern African Development Coordination Committee (SADCC) for the African Union, for South Africa, I think, would go a long way in bolstering opposition forces in showing the world that things are indeed headed in a different path.?

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