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Tanzania says West should hear Mugabe out

Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Bernard Membe urged the European Union to invite President Robert Mugabe to the EU-Africa summit that was scheduled for Lisbon that year so that they could discuss Zimbabwe with him in the room.

“We need to engage President Mugabe, to keep talking to him; that is the only way to know the situation in Zimbabwe and move toward a resolution,” he told diplomats from several EU countries

He said that inviting Mugabe to the EU-Africa summit would be a “win-win”.

First, it could assure that nearly all African nations would attend the summit, since many would refuse to attend if Zimbabwe was shunned; and, more importantly, it would allow a discussion on human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe to take place with Mugabe in the room and listening.

“No progress can be made if we discuss Zimbabwe’s human rights situation and they are not even there,” Membe said.

Britain and other EU countries were threatening to boycott the summit if Mugabe was invited.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 07DARESSALAAM375, PRESIDENT KIKWETE’S MARCH 15 MEETING WITH

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

07DARESSALAAM375

2007-03-16 17:55

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Dar Es Salaam

VZCZCXRO8018

OO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHDR #0375/01 0751755

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 161755Z MAR 07

FM AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5733

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 3159

RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 1370

RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA PRIORITY 2507

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA PRIORITY 2962

RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI PRIORITY 0928

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0296

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI PRIORITY 0567

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0199

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DAR ES SALAAM 000375

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT AF/S FOR SHILL, AF/E FOR B YODER, AF/RSA FOR MBITTRICK;

ALSO FOR IO

ADDIS ABABA FOR AU MISSION

LONDON, PARIS, BRUSSELS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ECON ZI TZ

SUBJECT: PRESIDENT KIKWETE’S MARCH 15 MEETING WITH

ZIMBABWE’S PRESIDENT MUGABE TO INITIATE SADC’S

RECONCILIATION EFFORT

 

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Pamela White for reasons 1.4(b,d)

 

SUMMARY

——-

1. (SBU) On March 16, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Bernard Membe, briefed Charge Pamela White, the Canadian High

Commissioner and a select group of European ambassadors on

the outcome of President Kikwete’s March 15 trip to Harare

for intense, closed-door discussions with President Robert

Mugabe on a “new way forward” for Zimbabwe. Membe said

President Kikwete and South Africa’s President Mbeki had

agreed to a coordinated Southern African Development

Community (SADC) strategy, with Tanzania taking the lead on

discussions with Mugabe and South Africa ready to reach out

to Zimbabwe’s opposition party leaders. Membe stressed that

aim of the SADC effort is to end the suffering of Zimbabwe’s

citizens by focusing only on internal, good governance issues

with Mugabe. “SADC has a timetable and we will move forward

steadily,” Membe stressed, asking that other countries give

this new SADC effort time–“a breathing space”–of one to

three months, before launching efforts in other fora to

address the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.

 

2. (C) While not disclosing details of the options that

Kikwete and Mugabe addressed, Membe said the discussions were

frank, and President Kikwete emerged from the meeting very

optimistic that Mugabe is ready to cooperate with this

initiative. Membe said that the next meeting of the SADC

Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, which Tanzania

currently chairs, will be in Dar es Salaam March 25 to 27;

details of the SADC strategy for Zimbabwe will be discussed

and decided during that session. Membe also made an appeal

to European diplomats to invite President Mugabe to the next

EU-Africa Summit, scheduled for Fall 2007 in Portugal, so

that human rights and democracy concerns about Zimbabwe can

be discussed openly with “Mugabe in the room.” Both the U.K.

and the EU representatives proposed to “wait and see” for the

next few months to ascertain if SADC initiative is making

headway or not before making that decision. End summary.

 

Briefing to Select Group of Diplomats

———————————–

3. (C) Minister Membe said he chose to meet in person with

the envoys of the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany,

Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the EU, before MFA

released its official announcement on President Kikwete’s

March 15 meeting with President Mugabe. “I want to give you

more details than will be in the press release,” he noted.

Membe said that President Kikwete had promised Mugabe at the

January 2007 African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa that

they would meet again once Kikwete returned from his European

tour. However, the violent events of March 11 and 12,

prompted Kikwete to visit Harare now rather than later. He

fully briefed Mugabe on what he had heard from capitals of

European countries regarding Zimbabwe. Membe reiterated that

that Kikwete had no intention to address land reform with

Mugabe, a complicated issue on which some African nations are

sympathetic to Zimbabwe’s position. “President Kikwete’s

goal was to address good governance and human rights

concerns, as internal Zimbabwean issues, and not discuss

ongoing disputes with the United Kingdom or any other

nation.” Membe counted as a success that through the March

15 meeting, Mugabe understood that SADC wants to only focus

on and work to resolve Zimbabwe’s governance problems.

 

4. (C) Minister Membe said that Kikwete first “heard out”

Mugabe on the economic and political challenges Zimbabwe is

facing: inflation at nearly 1700 percent, an impossible

foreign exchange rate, and daily life becoming “unbearable”

for most Zimbabweans. Mugabe also gave his side of the March

11-12 incidents that had outraged the international

community. Kikwete then broached with Mugabe that the status

quo cannot continue and the time is “right” to move toward

reconciliation between the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) and

the opposition and to address Zimbabwe’s governance woes.

According to Membe, President Mugabe showed a “commitment” to

 

DAR ES SAL 00000375 002 OF 003

 

 

work toward such a resolution.

 

Plea to “Give us some breathing room”

—————————————

5. (C) Membe expressed the GOT’s “fear” that unless the

international community has “faith in” this SADC initiative

and gives it time to bear fruit, other options for change in

Zimbabwe might be proposed that could “discredit or impede”

progress in this new reconciliation effort. “We are

appealing that you give this effort some breathing room,” he

reiterated. Membe added that “regime change is difficult; it

takes tolerance and patience” giving the only hint that the

Kikwete-Mugabe closed door discussions may have included

exploring the possibilities that Mugabe might consider

power-sharing or even stepping aside. However, when queried,

Membe said he could not disclose any details of what was

actually discussed, except the that focus was on internal

reconciliation.

 

Tanzania will work with Mugabe; South Africa with the

opposition

————-

6. (C) Minister Membe said while President Kikwete wanted to

meet with the opposition leaders, the occasion did not

present itself during this trip. “At present, tempers are

still very high.” Kikwete’s main objective March 15 was to

“break the ice” with President Mugabe and get him to agree to

cooperate with the SADC reconciliation initiative. Membe

emphasized that Presidents Kikwete and Mbeki have agreed to

closely cooperate: Kikwete will initially be the

interlocutor with President Mugabe and Mbeki with the

opposition. Thus, South Africa plans to meet with the

Zimbabwe opposition parties very soon. On March 25 to 27,

the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security will meet in

Dar es Salaam and develop a straight forward, step-by-step

strategy to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. Membe noted that he

anticipates President Kikwete will make many trips to Harare

and, when the time is right, also meet with opposition

leaders.

 

Important “carrot”: Invite Mugabe to EU-Africa Summit

——————————————— ———

7. (C) Minister Membe emphasized more than once that the EU

leaders should consider inviting Mugabe to the EU-Africa

Summit in October 2007. He said that neither AU nor SADC

leaders believe in isolating Zimbabwe. “We need to engage

President Mugabe, to keep talking to him; that is the only

way to know the situation in Zimbabwe and move toward a

resolution.” Membe said that inviting Mugabe to the

EU-Africa summit would be a “win-win”: first, it could

assure that nearly all African nations would attend the

summit, since many would refuse to attend if Zimbabwe was

shunned; and, more importantly, it would allow a discussion

on human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe to take place with

Mugabe in the room and listening. “No progress can be made

if we discuss Zimbabwe’s human rights situation and they are

not even there,” Membe said. He reported that Kikwete had

told Mugabe if he were invited to attend the EU-Africa

summit, he needs to know that Zimbabwe’s human rights record

would be discussed; Mugabe appeared comfortable with that

possibility.

 

8. (C) Both the Charge of the United Kingdom and the EU

Ambassador suggested to Minister Membe that the decision on

whether Zimbabwe be invited to the Fall 2007 EU-Africa summit

in Lisbon, could be better addressed after seeing whether

Mugabe is cooperating with the new SADC initiative or not.

Membe insisted that the invitation should not be contingent

on progress in this internal reconciliation effort, but be

extended as a “carrot” to encourage and coax a serious

response from President Mugabe to address governance and

human rights concerns.

 

Comment

——-

9. (SBU) While Minister Membe would not reveal any specifics

 

DAR ES SAL 00000375 003 OF 003

 

 

on what Kikwete and Mugabe discussed, he stressed that talks

were “frank, spirited and down to earth” in seeking a way

forward from the status quo. Membe said President Kikwete is

very optimistic: “If you could have seen his face this

morning, he looked like the happiest man alive.” Membe’s

plea to the Western diplomats was loud and clear: give us

enough time to let SADC develop a strategy and make progress.

He stressed that if efforts to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe

are made from both inside and outside Africa at the same

time, there is the risk of a “collision.”

 

10. (C) Both the United Kingdom’s Charge and the Canadian

High Commissioner confirmed to Charge White in a brief

follow-on meeting that Minister Membe had referred to “regime

change” in describing options that might be on the table in

this SADC reconciliation effort. However, the envoys agreed

that the March 15 Kikwete-Mugabe meeting was just an small

step in a very long process. While Kikwete has a successful

track record in reconciliation efforts in both Burundi and

the Congo (DRC), even Minister Membe admitted that President

Mugabe often overreacts when facing the press, with his

words, actions and mind “far apart.” Membe promised to keep

the Western diplomats fully briefed, beginning with an

outbrief following the March 25 to 27 SADC Organ on Defence

and Security meeting in Dar es Salaam.

WHITE

 

 

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