Tue, Dec 23, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Britain backs US in calling for Mugabe to step down

AGENCIES , LONDON AND JOHANNESBURG

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will have to step down if any power-sharing government deal is to succeed, Britain’s Africa minister said yesterday, echoing comments from Washington.

Mugabe and Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed on Sept. 15 to form a power-sharing government, but the deal has become deadlocked as the parties fight over control of key ministries.

“Power-sharing isn’t dead but Mugabe has become an absolute impossible obstacle to achieving it,” Mark Malloch Brown told BBC radio. “He is so distrusted by all sides.”

Referring to a call on Sunday by US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer for Mugabe to step down to clear a path for the deal to go ahead, Malloch Brown said: “The Americans are absolutely right — he is going to have to step aside.”

Frazer called on southern African governments to force Mugabe from power for failing to live up to the power-sharing agreement with Tsvangirai, adding that mediation efforts by former South African president Thabo Mbeki had failed.

“We think the facilitation is over. It led to a power-sharing agreement that is flawed,” she said in Pretoria. “We think [Mugabe] has reneged on the principle of power sharing.”

Frazer, has been touring the region to press its leaders to take a stronger stand against Mugabe, said Washington had been skeptical from the beginning about the power-sharing agreement but had bowed to South African pressure to give it a chance. “Let’s acknowledge now that the power-sharing agreement hasn’t worked,” she said.

It was now time for the region’s leaders to step in and tell Mugabe to go, she said.

“It is as easy as them coming together and saying to Mugabe: ‘It’s over.’ He won’t then have the cover of saying it is the West when his brothers say ‘you are no longer our comrade,’” she said.

Frazer said other governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) accepted that Mugabe was no longer a legitimate leader but were reluctant to take a firmer stand against him because it would lead to the total collapse of Zimbabwe, with serious consequences for its neighbors.

“We think the country is already in collapse. [SADC leaders] were hesitant to go against Mugabe because they did not want to see the whole thing fall apart, but it has fallen apart,” Frazer said.

“SADC is losing more of its credibility the longer this situation continues,” she said.

The deadlock between Mugabe and Tsvangirai has held up any chance of ending the spiraling crisis in the southern African country, where a spreading cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,100 people and food and fuel are in short supply.

Mugabe’s government has accused former colonial power Britain and the US of trying to exploit the cholera epidemic to end Mugabe’s 28-year rule —- a suggestion dismissed by both London and Washington.

Frazer said Mugabe’s attempts to blame the West for the epidemic was evidence that he was “a man who’s lost it, who’s losing his mind, who’s out of touch with reality.”

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