by Jimmy Seepe
Maputo - African heads of state, who are due to meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week look set to welcome Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and ignore any debate regarding the political situation in Zimbabwe.
This is the view of the outgoing chairperson of the African Union (AU), President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, who said in an interview with City Press that Zimbabwe was not at war and was therefore not an issue that should concern the AU.
Chissano criticised the European governments that have taken a tough stance on Zimbabwe by imposing sanctions against President Robert Mugabe. He said their action did not help the situation but contributed to the misery of ordinary Zimbabweans.
He said the AU did not believe there was any justification for intervention at a higher level than that of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Chissano, who is expected to step down soon as Mozambique's president after being in power for 18 years, scoffed at suggestions that the Zimbabwe issue needs to be discussed at the AU summit, echoing President Thabo Mbeki's statements that Zimbabweans themselves should find a solution rather than have one imposed on them from outside.
Speaking to City Press in Maputo on Friday, Chissano said: "The timing of their measures against Zimbabwe was not properly chosen."
He accused western governments of taking "some precipitated measures which did not help efforts that were being made by the region".
Some countries, which might have had some leverage over Zimbabwe, had totally lost that leverage as a result of their actions. The dialogue between them and Zimbabweans that could have been possible had now been lost.
"The measures which have been taken have also proven to be ineffective. Our approach in the region was the best," he said.
Chissano said the Zimbabweans were now doing what suited them and external pressure had done nothing but aggravate the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.
Defending the AU's position of not interfering in what he described as a political situation in Zimbabwe, Chissano said: "We still have confidence in the Zimbabwean people and that they know how to best solve their own problems. They have been living in more difficult times in the past and they were able to triumph. During those difficult times, as when the country was in a war situation, African leaders did not interfere and the region also did not interfere much except for engaging in persuasion."
He said several interventions that SADC leaders have made in the past have led to the reduction of problems and land invasions that were taking place in Zimbabwe.
"All these have been stopped as a result of the action taken by the SADC region.
"We held two high-level meetings with the authorities in Zimbabwe and these things have stopped."
Chissano said people tended to forget about the root causes of the situation in Zimbabwe, which was land deprivation of the African people.
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