United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios said President Robert Mugabe was in denial about the increasing violence in the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections run-off claiming that some of the victims were feigning injuries to get assistance.
Mugabe had admitted that there had been some ZANU-PF violence immediately after the elections on the part of exuberant winners, but ZANU-PF had quickly put a stop to this.
He said MDC violence had continued, including assaults and the burning of houses and the government was taking the necessary steps to end the violence.
Mugabe complained to Menkerios that the international community would condemn his government, no matter what he did in trying to make the election fair.
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SUBJECT: UN ENVOY BRIEFS DIPLOMATS ON ZIMBABWE VISIT
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Glenn Warren for reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) Haile Menkerios, United Nations Assistant
Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed western
diplomats, including the Ambassador, June 17 on his mission
to Zimbabwe, and specifically on a meeting earlier in the day
with President Robert Mugabe. Menkerios said he came away
from the meeting with Mugabe with the impression that ZANU-PF
would do anything necessary to win. Mugabe denied that
ZANU-PF was responsible for the ongoing violence. He
defended the suspension of NGO humanitarian assistance by
alleging that NGOs had a political agenda. He claimed that
his efforts at dialogue with the MDC had been rebuffed.
Menkerios also discussed the importance of observers to deter
violence, both before and after the election, and said the UN
was supporting efforts by SADC, the AU, and ECOWAS to field
observation teams. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (C) Menkerios said his mission was to deliver UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s message of concern regarding
the current atmosphere of violence and intimidation, and to
determine what could be done to encourage the government to
create an atmosphere for a free and fair election. To
effectively carry out his mission, he needed to see all
stakeholders. The GOZ had initially sought to restrict his
access to the opposition, western diplomats, and civil
society, but Mugabe, in their meeting earlier in the day, had
promised he could see whomever he wished. Menkerios told
diplomats he planned to meet with the opposition and civil
society. Menkerios commented that Mugabe had complained that
previous UN and other visitors had “betrayed” Zimbabwe by
their reports. Menkerios said he promised Mugabe he would be
Mugabe in Denial
¶3. (C) Menkerios said he initiated the meeting with Mugabe
by telling him that ZANU-PF-organized violence would make a
fair election impossible. Mugabe responded that there had
been some ZANU-PF violence immediately after the election on
the part of exuberant winners, but ZANU-PF had quickly put a
stop to this. MDC violence had continued, including assaults
and the burning of houses. Mugabe added that the government
would take necessary steps to end it.
¶4. (C) Menkerios countered to Mugabe that he had heard
various reports of ongoing ZANU-PF violence and displacement
of people. SADC had told him of violence and African heads
of state had condemned it. The GOZ could not deny it.
Menkerios told Mugabe that if he wanted acceptance of the
election results the violence had to stop.
¶5. (C) According to Menkerios, Mugabe claimed that some
alleged victims of violence were feigning injuries to get
assistance. He denied ongoing ZANU-PF-organized violence.
Suspension of NGOs an Inconvenience
¶6. (C) Menkerios said he raised the issue of the suspension
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of NGOs with Mugabe and asked how food would reach people.
Mugabe justified the suspension on alleged political
activities of some NGOs. Menkerios argued to Mugabe that
action should not be taken against all NGOs, but only
confirmed violators. Mugabe responded that the suspension
was short term and would be lifted after the election.
Because it was short term, people would not be significantly
Menkerios Urges Dialogue…
¶7. (C) Menkerios said he argued to Mugabe that the country
was divided; for stability there had to be dialogue. A
winner take all posture would be disastrous. Mugabe said he
had tried to engage the MDC in dialogue, but the MDC had not
been responsive. Mugabe said he would make another effort at
dialogue after the election. Menkerios interpreted Mugabe to
mean that ZANU-PF would win the election and then negotiate
from a position of strength. Mugabe did not respond when
Menkerios suggested the UN could facilitate a dialogue.
…and a Free and Fair Election
¶8. (C) Mugabe complained to Menkerios that the international
community would condemn his government, no matter what he did
in trying to make the election fair. Menkerios said he urged
Mugabe to make it impossible to blame him by actually having
a free and fair election. Government-sponsored arrests,
detentions, and violence would make it impossible for the
world to recognize a Mugabe victory. Menkerios further
argued to Mugabe that if the election were not free and fair,
there would be no international acceptance and the limited
(targeted) sanctions now in place might well be widened.
Menkerios said Mugabe, in response, implied it was not in
ZANU-PF’s interest to have a clean election, and ZANU-PF
would worry about the consequences afterward.
UN Support for Observers
¶9. (C) Menkerios said there were now about 180 SADC
observers in Zimbabwe. The UN was planning additional
financial support to bring this number to at least 300. SADC
was hoping for 400. The AU had 18 observers; with financial
support it was hoping to increase this number to 60. ECOWAS
had funding for 30 observers. Menkerios said the UN would
try to fund an additional 30. Menkerios noted that the GOZ
had said it would not limit the number of observers from
invited organizations like SADC.
¶10. (C) Several diplomats raised with Menkerios the fact
that the Zimbabwean Electoral Support Network (ZESN) had not
yet been accredited. Menkerios promised to in turn raise the
issue with GOZ officials.
The Remainder of the Visit…and After
¶11. (C) Menkerios said he came away from the meeting with
Mugabe with the impression that Mugabe and ZANU-PF would do
anything necessary to remain in power.
¶11. (C) Subsequent to the diplomatic briefing, Menkerios met
with MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and representatives of
leading civil society organizations including Zimbabwe
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Lawyers for Human Rights and Counseling Services Unit. He
was also to meet with high-ranking GOZ officials.
¶12. (C) Menkerios said he would depart Harare on June 20 and
travel to Gaborone to meet with the SADC Secretariat and
discuss election observation. In response to a question
about whether his report would be made public, he said
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would decide.
¶13. (C) Menkerios is well-informed and is meeting the right
people. We believe he will leave Zimbabwe with a clear
understanding of the current situation, and his impression
that Mugabe will do anything to remain in power is clearly on
the mark. What is most important is that his findings be
made public. While the Mugabe regime has claimed U.S. and
other western reports of violence are biased, it would have
more difficulty denying a UN report. In this regard, several
South African generals during the last month have been
investigating violence and the pre-electoral atmosphere
throughout Zimbabwe. By all accounts, they have been shocked
at what they have seen, and have reported to South African
president Thabo Mbeki. Their report, however, has not been
published. END COMMENT.