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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 17:24 GMT
Head to head: Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth
Amid a Commonwealth split over possible suspension of Zimbabwe from the organisation, BBC News Online presents opposing viewpoints from Mompati Merafhe, Botswana's Foreign Minister and chairman of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), and Glenys Kinnock, a UK member of the European parliament.

Botswana's Foreign Minister and CMAG chairman Mompati Merafhe

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is of the considered view that the international community, including the Commonwealth, should remain constructively engaged with the Government of Zimbabwe.

The intention is to secure an amicable resolution to the problems faced by the country for the good of the people of Zimbabwe.

The forthcoming presidential elections offer an opportunity for the international community to support and encourage the government and people of Zimbabwe in the task of building an atmosphere in which there will be a free and fair electoral process.

Yesterday's meeting of CMAG was unanimous in this understanding.

UK's MEP Glenys Kinnock

Now it is time for African leaders to - at last - break ranks with President Mugabe. The sensitivities of a tyrannical regime should not be as important as responding to the suffering of the people of the country, which has been brought to economic ruin and is tragically beleaguered by state-sponsored repression.

The world's perception of the whole African continent is tainted as people watch Zimbabwe's descent into a situation which makes the prospect of a fair and open election difficult to imagine.

They think it is typical, whereas in reality there is so much that is hopeful, positive and optimistic in Africa.

African governments are naturally and understandably loyal to those who played such an important part in the liberation struggle.

However, they also know, especially as they work to implement their new Africa initiative, that this is a defining moment in history. It is a moment which should not be lost.

Too much is at stake when the values of democracy and social justice are being challenged on their own doorsteps.

Many African leaders, and their people, have heroically spent their lives fighting for freedom, tolerance and the right to vote.

That is why they, and other Commonwealth leaders, should now join with those who believe that expressing concern is simply not enough.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe splits Commonwealth
30 Jan 02 | Africa
Suspension 'not the answer'
28 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK's patchy sanctions record
29 Jan 02 | Africa
Analysis: Crunch time for Mugabe
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