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WEB POSTED 10-08-2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African finance ministers won't condemn Mugabe

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)—A burning issue among Europeans is the question of land reform and the removal of White farmers and landowners in Zimbabwe. While most delegates were very careful in raising their concerns in the G-7 meetings that occurred during the IMF/World Bank Summit here Sept. 25-29, members of the European press corps were less accommodating.

In the separate news conferences with African finance ministers, European news agencies pushed for condemnation of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe.

"Since the concern about justice and fairness, what is the view about the barbaric behavior of the Zimbabwean government, which has succeeded in destroying the agricultural sector and has thrown nearly two million people to below the poverty line?" asked a reporter.

Other reporters added that the answer they always get refers to the "special historical reason for this, the implication being, of course, that the activity of the Zimbabwe government is, in some way, acceptable."

"Could I please have a definitive statement from the podium that the model in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable for Africa? And may I also please have a condemnation of that activity and some indication of what you’re going to do to try to restrain this behavior?" a reporter demanded.

But Mr. Martin Ziguele, prime minister in charge of finance for the Central African Republic and chairman of the African Finance Ministers of the IMF, said it is necessary to reflect on history when addressing the land issue.

"I don’t think it is my place here to say that I condemn the Zimbabwean government, because that goes well beyond my capacity as a prime minister. We have to remember the history that we have had. There was the Lancaster House Conference and the agreements there in 1980, which said very clearly that the Zimbabwean government should receive support from Western countries, including the UK and the U.S., so as to allow a consensus-based transfer of farmland from White farmers, who were going into retirement, toward Black farmers on a voluntary basis with indemnification. And that was supposed to happen over a 10-year period between 1980 and 1990. During that period, the minister of agriculture was supposed to remain a White person, and President Mugabe respected those conditions," he said.

But the land transfers did not take place, he noted.

If the talks in G-7 and other seminars related to the annual meetings revolved around justice and fair dealing, the finance ministers argued, then Europeans must recognize the landless Africans who in colonial times were dispossessed of their land.

The ministers said they would like to have contact with organizations for Zimbabwean farmers to see what could be done.

The issue of Zimbabwe is not as easy as is reflected in the questions, noted G-24 Chairman Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Nigeria’s finance minister. The G-24 is an intergovernmental group that deals with finance and development issues.

"The historical antecedents of this problem have been acute in some form or another for a long time. I remember the issues regarding allocation of land in those days when allocation of land to the White colonists was regarded as the main problem of Zimbabwe until one of the commissions that the British government set up recognized that, in fact, that was a reverse of the situation. It has got a long history, and you cannot dismiss it easily like that," he told the reporters.

Mr. Ciroma also added that the presidents of Nigeria and South Africa, as well as the prime minister of Australia, are working on the Zimbabwe issue "in a way as to create the least harmful development in this problem. So far, there are people who have seen this problem as being just a matter of interest of the White landowners or people who have seen it as a matter of interest only to the Zimbabwean landless Africans, and to take it in either of these views is to simplify the issue," he said.

—Eric Ture Muhammad

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