Thursday, March 29, 2007


A summit of southern African countries is getting under way in Tanzania, with the crisis in Zimbabwe at the top of its agenda.
Diplomats say leaders will tell Robert Mugabe that he should not stand for re-election in Zimbabwe next year.
The meeting comes a day after police in Zimbabwe detained opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for a few hours.
Police denied Mr Tsvangirai was among those arrested when they raided the offices of his opposition party.
Police cordoned off the Harare headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of a planned news conference by Mr Tsvangirai.
He had been expected to talk about the political violence in the country. Earlier this month he was allegedly beaten in police custody following his arrest at a banned rally.
International criticism
The summit brings together the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Talks are also expected to address recent violence in the capital of DR Congo, Kinshasa.

Mugabe's hold over Africa
Media urges pressure
Zimbabwe's president will be told in very plain terms, diplomats say, that the region cannot afford to see the situation continue, let alone deteriorate into a civil war that could engulf its neighbours.
The BBC's Peter Greste in Dar es Salaam says Mr Mugabe has dismissed such complaints from the West in the past and might find it much harder to ignore those from his neighbours.
However, much of the debate will be behind closed doors.
Most African leaders have been reluctant to publicly criticise Mr Mugabe, who is still seen be many as a hero of the fight against colonial rule.
However, there has been some change in tone following the assault on Mr Tsvangirai and other opposition activists.
Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa compared Zimbabwe to the Titanic.

The meeting between Southern Africa's leaders is long overdue. Silent diplomacy has no future for Zimbabwe
Patrick Adar, Kampala
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Richard Dowden, director of the UK's Royal African Society, told the BBC's Today programme that the SADC leaders might gently suggest that Mr Mugabe does not stand again in elections due next year.
But he says the people who really matter are those in his Zanu-PF party.
The policy-making body of his Zanu-PF party is due to meet on Friday to decide whether to postpone the elections and, if not, who its candidate will be.
Two party heavyweights might block Mr Mugabe's bid to stand again, Mr Dowden says.
Election decision?
As Mr Mugabe arrived in Tanzania on Wednesday night, the US state department expressed concern about Mr Tsvangirai and urged the SADC summit to hold Mr Mugabe to account "for his misrule, not only over the last few weeks but over the last few years".

The police say these guns and explosives belonged to the opposition. Mr Mugabe has blamed the opposition for the recent violence, accusing it of staging attacks.
The police on Wednesday exhibited explosives and guns, they say belonged to opposition activists.
He has dismissed complaints from the West about human rights abuses and political oppression as the whining of old colonists.
In addition to the political conflict, Zimbabweans are grappling with the world's highest inflation - 1,700% a year - while unemployment and poverty are widespread.
Mr Mugabe has governed Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980.



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