Nigerian President leaves Zimbabwe empty handed

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo made a last minute bid to broker talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change just before the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting but he made very little progress.

Although he met both President Robert Mugabe leader of ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai leader of the MDC, the United States embassy in Harare said “Obasanjo, Tsvangirai, and Mugabe all came away from these meetings with less than they had hoped for”.

“Mugabe appears not to have received an invitation, notwithstanding his comment to the press that he was looking forward to attending. Tsvangirai appears no closer to meaningful inter-party talks and remains suspicious of Obasanjo and Mbeki. And Obasanjo has no evidence of progress with which he can argue for Zimbabwe's readmission. At best, he and Mbeki have a difficult homework assignment in getting the parties together quickly, which would require a credible commitment to talks by Mugabe.”

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE2256, MUGABE'S CHOGM ATTENDANCE IN AIR FOLLOWING

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE2256

2003-11-18 13:45

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002256

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. DELISI, M. RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2008

TAGS: PGOV PREL ZI

SUBJECT: MUGABE'S CHOGM ATTENDANCE IN AIR FOLLOWING

OBASANJO VISIT

 

 

Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5(b)(d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Nigerian President Obasanjo met with

opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai twice and President

Mugabe once during his visit to Zimbabwe on November 17.

According to MDC sources, Tsvangirai told Obasanjo during the

first meeting that the MDC would be willing to participate in

a transition government but that a face-to-face meeting

between the leaders themselves would be required to break the

impasse. Obasanjo told Tsvangirai during a second meeting

that Mugabe had agreed to meet the MDC leader face-to-face

but not before he could consult with his constituencies.

Obasanjo was non-committal to Tsvangirai privately and in his

public comments on the implications of his visit for

Zimbabwe's possible participation in next month's

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja.

END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) MDC Director for Presidential Affairs Gandi Mudzingwa

on November 18 recounted to poloff details of opposition

leader Tsvangirai's two meetings with visiting Nigerian

President Obasanjo on November 17. Mudzingwa said Obasanjo's

first call revolved around three inquiries: (1) what was the

status of inter-party talks, (2) would the MDC be willing to

participate in a transition government, and (3) what was the

best way forward?

 

3. (C) Tsvangirai underscored to Obasanjo that there had

been occasional informal exchanges between the parties but no

substantial progress and no formal talks. He said that the

MDC would be willing to consider a transition government

under two scenarios: a transition government in which the MDC

did not participate but which would lead to internationally

monitored elections, or a transition in which the MDC played

a role without regard to subsequent internationally monitored

elections. The transition government would last for no fewer

than six months and no more than twelve months. As for a way

forward, Tsvangirai asserted that no meaningful progress

would be possible without a face-to-face meeting between

Mugabe and himself and a framework endorsed by the leaders

for subsequent negotiation. Countless other good faith

initiatives had all foundered for one reason -- the lack of

mandate from Mugabe himself.

 

4. (C) According to Mudzingwa, after meeting Mugabe Obasanjo

reported to Tsvangirai that Mugabe had agreed to meet

Tsvangirai, but only after consulting with his ZANU-PF

 

SIPDIS

constituents. (MDC Secretary for Economic Affairs Tendai

Biti told the DCM separately that Mugabe told Obasanjo only

that he would think about a face-to-face meeting.) Mugabe

had not indicated when the meeting could be scheduled.

Tsvangirai asked Obasanjo whether Mugabe was to be invited to

 

SIPDIS

the CHOGM, to which the Nigerian replied only "what do you

think?" Obasanjo added that he would have to consult further

with his Commonwealth counterparts. (Biti reported that he

said he would consult South African President Mbeki, and

together they would press Mugabe for movement forward.)

Mudzingwa asserted that Obasanjo left Zimbabwe with a more

positive impression of the MDC and frustrated with ZANU-PF.

He said that the MDC had no faith in Mugabe's professed

interest in a face-to-face but had no choice but to keep

"giving him rope with which to hang himself" in the

international community's eyes.

 

5. (C) Embassy was unable to reach the Nigerian High

Commission for comment and Australian High Commissioner

Jonathan Brown told the DCM that the Acting Nigerian High

Commissioner had been evasive during their conversation after

the visit. Brown reported that Obasanjo had met separately

with Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs

Patrick Chinamasa and Minister for National Security Nicholas

Goche, both of whom had been involved in secret

constitutional talks with the MDC. Commenting on the visit's

potential implications for CHOGM, Brown said that Obasanjo

would report the lack of progress to Mbeki and the issue

would likely be referred to the CMAG, which would not disturb

the status quo. He commented that the troika had run its

course and, with Malta likely to replace South Africa in the

next term, probably would not receive a renewed mandate on

Zimbabwe. Canadian DCM Terrence Mooney told DCM that the

Commonwealth might constitute an eminent persons group

composed of the troika and others -- principally a

composition that would de-emphasize racial lines -- to

address the Zimbabwean conundrum.

 

6. (C) COMMENT: Obasanjo, Tsvangirai, and Mugabe all came

away from these meetings with less than they had hoped for.

Mugabe appears not to have received an invitation,

notwithstanding his comment to the press that he was looking

forward to attending. Tsvangirai appears no closer to

meaningful inter-party talks and remains suspicious of

Obasanjo and Mbeki. And Obasanjo has no evidence of progress

with which he can argue for Zimbabwe's readmission. At best,

he and Mbeki have a difficult homework assignment in getting

the parties together quickly, which would require a credible

commitment to talks by Mugabe. Indeed, Mugabe's credibility

gap will be an obstacle even if he publicly projects

commitment to talks, as his track record and current

posturing continue to evince apparent disingenuousness.

 

7. (C) COMMENT (CONT'D): Although the lead story on the

ZBTC's November 17 nightly newscast was about gold mining,

the government continues to give the CHOGM story prominent

media play, underscoring its belief that an invitation

remains possible. Mugabe's priority in attending testifies

to his ego and a general inability to accept rejection. His

government consistently portrays the issue to domestic

audiences entirely in racial terms, with "racist" UK,

Australia and New Zealand thwarting the will of all other

members. If he cannot prevail, Mugabe likely hopes that his

racial wedge will prove as disruptive to the Commonwealth as

it has for his own country.

SULLIVAN

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