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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Southern Africa leadership 'failing'
Mbeki and Mugabe
Mbeki has been reluctant to criticise Mugabe
South Africa and Zimbabwe have come under fire from an influential international think-tank for failing to provide effective leadership in the region in the past year.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's "domestic and regional excesses have erased any credibility he might have had as a regional leader".

Zimbabwe's economic troubles and internal security crisis over the past year have severely compromised Mugabe's regional position

IISS report
But it said that South African President Thabo Mbeki, had so far failed to fill the leadership vacuum.

It also criticised Mr Mbeki's "tepid response" to President Mugabe's forcible land seizure programme.

The report condemned his "idiosyncratic and scientifically dubious" stance on Aids, one of South Africa's most serious problems by saying that poverty rather than the HIV virus was a primary cause.

Approximately 1 in 10 South Africans are estimated to have the HIV virus.

As for Zimbabwe, the IISS said that as long as Mr Mugabe remained in power, there was little chance the country could extricate itself from economic and political disarray.

Horn of Africa

In it's annual strategic survey, the IISS noted that the end to the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war and "faint glimmers of improvement" in Somalia and Sudan, were positive signs.

However it warned: "It would not take a large spark to ignite a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea yet again - especially given the small size and limited capability of the UN force".

Fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea could start again
It also warned that Somalia's transitional government had no public institutions at its disposal and little money and predicted that warlords and militia leaders were likely to offer more security "and will probably prevail over the new government".

On Sudan, the IISS suggested that President Omar al-Bashir's downplaying of extreme Islamism suggested he may be hoping to attract more Western support, and become more amenable to negotiating with southern rebels.

West Africa

Prospects in West Africa had deteriorated in the past year, the IISS said, with the failure to resolve the Sierra Leone conflict leading to the collapse of regional stability.

It said the drawing in of neighbouring Liberia and Guinea made resolving the Sierra Leone crisis all the more crucial, but it warned that the UN was in grave danger of failing.

"It is doubtful the military capability of the UN mission in Sierra Leone will improve in the near future, since first-rank military powers are unlikely to consider substantial sustained contributions."

Central Africa

In central Africa, it suggested the prospects for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo remain gloomy, although acknowledging that President Joseph Kabila "seems more open" than his father, Laurent.

"Creating a viable Congo is not a realistic short-term goal, particularly in light of the West's reluctance to contribute large peacekeeping contingents," the report said.

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See also:

02 May 00 | Africa
Commonwealth criticises Zimbabwe
05 May 00 | Africa
Mbeki's quiet approach
19 Apr 00 | Business
Zimbabwe's economy under threat
05 May 00 | Africa
UN failing in Africa
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
17 Jun 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The politics of fear
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