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French official said Tsvangirai was naïve perhaps even delusional

Movement for Democratic Change leader and Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai told French officials that he would only participate in a government of national unity if President Robert Mugabe agreed to real power-sharing and the political agreement was accompanied by legal and constitutional changes that would give the force of law to such an arrangement.

He also said Mugabe’s ability to appoint government officials had to be regularised and put into a legal structure.

Asked whether Tsvangirai was optimistic that his conditions would be met, France’s Foreign Affairs desk officer for Zimbabwe Isabelle de Boisgelen said that Tsvangirai said he was “serene” because the MDC’s strength in the legislature ensured a certain level of power.

Boisgelen told United States embassy officials that she found this somewhat naive and perhaps even delusional because the MDC’s strength was razor thin, depended on continued cooperation with coalition partners, and could easily be overturned if Mugabe did something radical, such as dissolving the legislature.

She found Tsvangirai’s attitude difficult to understand, but he seemed to place value on what he considered the MDC’s strength in the legislature.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08PARIS2149, FRANCE/ZIMBABWE: MORGAN TSVANGIRAI’S VISIT TO

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08PARIS2149

2008-11-24 14:53

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Paris

VZCZCXRO8119

RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHFR #2149/01 3291453

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 241453Z NOV 08

FM AMEMBASSY PARIS

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4913

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHFRS/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0624

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 002149

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2018

TAGS: PREL PHUM KDEM ZI FR

SUBJECT: FRANCE/ZIMBABWE: MORGAN TSVANGIRAI’S VISIT TO

FRANCE

 

Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kathleen Allegrone, 1.4 (b/

d).

 

1. (C) MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe visited

France November 17-19, beginning in Strasbourg at

the EU meeting on development. He met with FM Kouchner in

Strasbourg and traveled in Kouchner’s plane to Paris. In

Paris on November 18, he met with Claude Gueant

(Secretary-General at the Presidency), committees at the

National Assembly and Senate, and MFA officials over lunch,

and then held a press conference with Kouchner. Tsvangirai

stressed: (1) the very dire humanitarian crisis in

Zimbabwe; (2) his appreciation for French humanitarian

assistance; and (3) his willingness to participate in a

national unity government, but only if real power sharing

were available and legally enforceable structures were in

place to ensure such power sharing. He did not believe that

what Mugabe had proposed was sufficient to permit his

participation. Tsvangirai was ambivalent about the need for

further sanctions but asked that countries like France stick

to sending strong messages about big principles, refrain from

trying to micromanage the situation in Zimbabwe, and apply

political pressure on Mugabe “discreetly” so as not to

provoke a backlash. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) Isabelle de Boisgelen, MFA desk officer for

Zimbabwe, on November 21 provided a readout on Zimbabwean

leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit earlier in the week to

Strasbourg and Paris. Boisgelen said that confirmation of

Tsvangirai’s visit to Strasbourg, to attend a November 17 EU

event on development, came quite late and news of his coming

to Paris even later, leaving little time to organize an

elaborate set of meetings. Tsvangirai met with FM Kouchner

in Strasbourg, as well as a number of other world leaders,

including many Africans. This provided an opportunity for

him to speak directly to interested leaders and to network.

He spent time with Kouchner in Strasbourg. Because of an Air

France strike, Kouchner offered Tsvangirai a ride to Paris on

the FM’s plane, which allowed the two to spend more time

together.

 

3. (C) Tsvangirai was accompanied at all times by an

assistant who came to France with him from Africa, and

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to France (whom Boisgelen described as

a professional with a good perspective despite the difficult

demands of his job). Tsvangirai met on November 18 with

Claude Gueant, the Secretary-General at the French

Presidency, and then, separately, with foreign affairs

committees at the National Assembly and Senate. MFA

A/S-equivalent Jean de Gliniasty, along with DAS-equivalent

Barateau, and desk officer Boisgelen, lunched with Tsvangirai

at the MFA. Tsvangirai and Kouchner held a joint press

conference the afternoon of November 18, with Tsvangirai

leaving France the next day.

 

Tsvangirai’s Key Messages

————————-

4. (C) Boisgelen said that Tsvangirai emphasized several

points repeatedly in his talks. First, he stressed the

increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, with

serious breakdowns in the public health and hygiene sectors.

He expressed appreciation for the assistance France and other

non-Africans had provided. (Boisgelen said that European

humanitarian contributions, both from the EU as an

institution and from members states, totaled 70 million euro

in 2005, 86 million euro in 2006, and 91 million euro in

2007, with, as she noted, “significant increases every year.”)

 

5. (C) Politically, Tsvangirai said that he would

participate in a national unity government if two conditions

were met: Mugabe had to agree to a “real” powersharing

arrangement and any political agreement had to be accompanied

by legal and constitutional changes that would give the force

of law to any such arrangement. These two conditions had not

yet been met, so Tsvangirai was not willing to participate in

the government. Boisgelen reported that Tsvangirai also

expressed concern that Mugabe’s ability to appoint government

officials had to be regularized and put into a legal

structure.

 

6. (C) Asked whether Tsvangirai was optimistic that his

conditions would be met, Boisgelen said that he said he was

“serene” because the MDC’s strength in the legislature

ensured a certain level of power. Boisgelen confided that

she found this somewhat naive and perhaps even delusional —

she observed that the MDC’s strength was razor thin, depended

on continued cooperation with coalition partners, and could

easily be overturned if Mugabe did something radical, such as

dissolving the legislature. She found Tsvangirai’s attitude

difficult to understand, but he seemed to place value on what

he considered the MDC’s strength in the legislature.

 

PARIS 00002149 002 OF 002

 

 

 

7. (C) Tsvangirai, while heaping praise on France and the

EU for their support, advised that outsiders stick to broad

principles in discussing Zimbabwe and refrain from trying to

micromanage the situation there. He suggested, moreover,

that outsiders apply pressure in Harare “discreetly,” which

Boisgelen said the French understood to mean that they should

avoid irritating Mugabe by speaking too harshly, which could

only provoke a backlash. Tsvangirai also reminded the French

that if he managed to bring about democratic change in

Zimbabwe, that would not mean that its problems were solved

and that the Europeans could go home feeling satisfied. He

said that outside assistance would be even more necessary as

Zimbabwe struggled to regain its footing and move forward.

 

8. (C) Boisgelen said that Tsvangirai, notably, was quite

ambivalent about the utility of increased sanctions. He

said, according to Boisgelen, that “the current situation in

Zimbabwe had nothing to do with sanctions,” i.e., that

Mugabe’s repression would likely have taken place in any

circumstances.

 

French Support

————–

9. (C) Boisgelen said that the French were supportive of

Tsvangirai’s efforts, the main thrust of the French message

being that the will of the Zimbabwean people, as expressed in

the first round of voting, had to be respected. They lauded

Tsvangirai’s courage and the many years of struggle and

sacrifice he had spent in trying to bring about democratic

change to Zimbabwe. They shared his concern about the

humanitarian situation and indicated France would remain

engaged, stressing the importance of being able to have

access to those in need of humanitarian assistance. The

French also encouraged Tsvangirai to increase his base of

support among Africans, especially Zimbabwe’s neighbors,

since it was clear that Africans as a whole wanted to be

involved in helping Zimbabwe resolve its crisis.

 

10. (C) Boisgelen offered several personal observations.

She said the meetings had gone well and were positives for

both sides. It was good for Tsvangirai to meet directly with

his French supporters and to get to know them. There was

high demand on the French side to meet with him, and this was

accomplished by the sessions at the National Assembly and

Senate, where a broad swathe of elected officials were able

to confer with him. On the down side, Boisgelen said that

the MFA officials with whom he lunched were surprised that he

did not make more of the occasion (“we were in the palm of

his hand, and he should have sensed this”) by making a more

forceful and engaging presentation. On the other hand,

Boisgelen said that he may have been worn out by his travels

and the earlier meetings and saw lunch as a more low-key

affair. She noted that he made a strong comeback at the

press conference with Kouchner, where “he came alive once he

was facing an audience and had a microphone before him.”

 

 

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