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Vacuum of leadership could lead to chaos

Former President of Sierra Leone Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told United States embassy officials that the international community should accept that Zimbabwe law and not international law should determine what had to be done about Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the 2008 presidential elections run-off.

But whatever happened, the international community should avoid a vacuum of leadership that could lead to chaos and be impossible to manage.

Kabbah said he had spoken with Tsvangirai before the 29 March elections and Tsvangirai recognised that President Robert Mugabe was the father of the country and affirmed that he was not out for revenge.

He said that when he told Mugabe what Tsvangirai had said Mugabe was very pleased.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE546, HARARE: OBSERVERS’ PERSPECTIVES CONTRAST SHARPLY

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE546

2008-06-25 15:22

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

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RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1839

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

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RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

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RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1350

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000546

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/25/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ZI

SUBJECT: HARARE: OBSERVERS’ PERSPECTIVES CONTRAST SHARPLY

 

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4(d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Against the backdrop of a unanimous UN

Security Council statement noting concern over

politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe and the

announcement by opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai that

he will not participate in the June 27 presidential run-off,

poloffs met separately with heads of the African Union (AU)

and Pan-African Parliament (PAP) observer missions to seek

their impression of recent developments and thoughts on next

steps. The heads of mission relayed distinctly different

perspectives. AU Head of Mission and former President of

Sierra Leone Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was defensive of Mugabe’s

legacy, looking to downplay violence and support a government

of national unity. Kabbah also noted that Zimbabwean law,

not international law, should determine the legal

consequences of Tsvangirai’s decision to boycott. Conversely,

PAP Head of Mission and Swazi MP Marwick Khumalo stated that

the election environment was decidedly not free or fair, and

that the PAP would continue to monitor the situation through

Friday in an effort to prevent the election’s

“legitimization” by ZANU-PF. END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————— ——-

AU Head: Don’t blow the violence “out of proportion”

——————————————— ——-

 

2. (C) On June 27, poloff joined the incoming Dutch DCM and

Dutch poloff for a meeting with the Head of the African Union

Observer Mission, former Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan

Kabbah. Kabbah confirmed that the 35-person delegation had

arrived on June 21 and had yet to have any substantive

meetings or deploy any observers to the field. Kabbah

related his plans to meet with the SADC head of mission and

Zimbabwe’s Attorney General soon, preferably on June 25.

Kabbah stated he also planned to meet key stakeholders

(though he noted that he had yet to arrange any additional

meetings, which he blamed on “campaign schedules”), and

remain “objective and focus on peace.” Kabbah noted that he

believed it was imperative to avoid placing blame for the

violence or “blow out of proportion what may not exist.”

Alluding to recent statements by Mugabe, Kabbah lamented the

“polarized environment’s scary messages,” that could mean

disaster for the country.

 

3. (C) However, Kabbah stated that it was his priority to

examine the “legal implications” of Tsvangirai’s withdrawal

from the run-off. He was adamant that the international

community must accept “Zimbabwean law, not international law”

on the issue and avoid a “vacuum of leadership that could

lead to chaos and be impossble to manage.” Kabbah confirmed

that, for him,the final legal authority on the matter would

be Zimbabwe’s Attorney General.

 

4. (C) Kabbah cast his role in the coming days as a

mediator, noting that he arrived in Zimbabwe believing that,

no matter who won the June 27 contest, “some kind of

government of national unity would be needed in which the

winner brought the other in, or his people, to work for the

good of the country.” Kabbah highlighted his pre-March 29

meeting with Tsvangirai, in which the opposition leader

“recognized that Mugabe was the father of the country and

affirmed he (Tsvangirai) was not out for revenge,” as well as

a subsequent conversation with Mugabe in which he relayed

Tsvangirai’s message. He said Mugabe was “pleased.” Kabbah

appealed to the Dutch DCM to arrange a meeting between Kabbah

and Tsvangirai (then sheltered at the Netherlands Chancery);

the DCM replied that he would forward the message.

 

——————————

Rumors of U.S. and UK Troops

——————————

 

HARARE 00000546 002 OF 003

 

 

 

5. (C) Kabbah asked what the Dutch and U.S. Missions had

observed and was informed about incidents of violence and

concerns raised by the SADC delegation. The Dutch DCM

mentioned reports of torture and death, which were met with

expressions of doubt by AU staff in the room. Kabbah again

noted that there were many “rumors” in Zimbabwe, and told us

he had heard disturbing reports that the UK and U.S. were

deploying armed forces to Botswana with the intent of

destabilizing the Zimbabwean government. When asked to

expound, Kabbah relented that he had “not put a lot of faith”

in the report.

 

————-

“No problems”

————-

 

6. (C) Although he had not yet had a formal meeting with the

SADC team, Kabbah stated that in his recent informal

conversations with the Angolan head of the observer mission,

he had “not been given the impression of problems” related to

access and understood that SADC was prepared to continue its

observation of the election. (NOTE: This is in

contradiction to emboff meetings with SADC observers, who

have expressed grave concern about the election environment.

END NOTE.) If Tsvangirai was willing to contest the

election, Kabbah confirmed that the AU was prepared to

continue to monitor it, but stated that he could not yet say

how long the mission would remain in Zimbabwe under the

current circumstances. Kabbah did caveat this comment,

hinting at some consideration that the violence might be a

reality, noting that he was not willing to place his life or

the lives of his team in danger.

 

——————————————— —

Unperturbed by lack of local election observers

——————————————— —

 

7. (C) When asked by the Dutch DCM whether he was concerned

about the barriers to accreditation experienced by domestic

observers such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network

(ZESN), Kabbah reported that he was unfamiliar with ZESN but

that in his experience, local civil society organizations and

domestic observers were not capable of objectivity. Kabbah

stated he met with some organizations during the AU mission

for the March 29 election and did not have plans to meet with

civil society during this trip.

 

——————————————— ———-

PAP head fears observers’ presence legitimizes election

——————————————— ———-

 

8. (C) In stark contrast, the head of the Pan-African

Parliament’s (PAP) 64-member team, Swazi MP Marwick T.

Khumalo, said that “there is nothing fair… there is nothing

free about this election.” Khumalo reported that he had

pulled his observers back to Harare on Monday June 24 after

Tsvangirai announced he was pulling out. PAP feared that if

it observed the presidential election on June 27, the Mugabe

regime would twist it into a “legitimization” of the

election. However, he was hesitant to send anyone home since

the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) had not officially

called off the election. Khumalo said he planned to keep his

teams in Harare and do some observation of the situation in

the coming days, and that PAP would issue a report on

Saturday or Sunday when its observers left. The report was

currently being drafted based on reports from observers who

had been in rural areas since arriving. Khumalo genuinely

feared that he and his team would be in danger once their

report documenting the violence and uneven playing field was

released.

 

 

HARARE 00000546 003 OF 003

 

 

9. (C) Regarding Tsvangirai’s pull-out, Khumalo opined that

Tsvangirai made the right decision at the right time. He

listed several prominent African leaders who had already

condemned the environment and said that if he had stayed in,

it would only have helped legitimize an illegitimate Mugabe

victory. Asked about the head f the AU mission, Khumalo’s

face clouded over wih disgust and annoyance. He sighed that

Kabbah as a politician, too close to Mugabe to be objectie.

When the Dutch DCM suggested that Kabbah was aiting on a

response from the Zimbabwean Attorne General regarding the

election’s legality, Khumlo laughed and shook his head and

commented thatthe Attorney General was going to toe the

ZANU-P party line.

 

10. (C) Dutch poloff asked Khumalo if he planned to keep PAP

observers in the fieldfor the three by-elections that will

decide three parliamentary seats that are still being

contested by MDC candidates. Although he said they were

considering it, it was clear he had not given the matter much

thought. (NOTE: Since local observers have not been

accredited, if these international observers do not go to the

polling places, it will be easy for ZANU-PF to steal these

three parliamentary seats. END NOTE.)

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) The AU’s disingenuous perspective is apparently due

to Kabbah’s longstanding friendship with Mugabe. It’s also

significant that the mission is relatively small, has had no

recent observation experience in Zimbabwe, and to our

knowledge traveled relatively little outside of Harare. The

PAP was present for the March 29 election and issued a

relatively objective report. It traveled more extensively

around Zimbabwe in preparation for the runoff election than

did the AU, and from our perspective has a good understanding

of the situation on the ground. Its influence, however, is

limited–most people are unaware of its existence. SADC has

had almost 400 observers in Zimbabwe, many of them deployed

in the provinces, and its report will have much more

significance than those of the AU and PAP. We will report on

SADC’s observation septel. END COMMENT.

 

McGee

 

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