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Don McKinnon, Commonwealth Secretary Genera
Don McKinnon, Commonwealth Secretary Genera
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: DON MCKINNON COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY GENERAL OCTOBER 28TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
Well just now we were hearing from the President of one of the Commonwealth's troubled countries and now we can turn to the Commonwealth Secretary General for an insight into another, this time it's Zimbabwe, because this weekend the Commonwealth has called on President Mugabe to resolve the land crisis and the Secretary General Don McKinnon arrived back from there just about two hours and he's come direct here to the studio to tell us the latest. Don, welcome. The, the body that went out there was trying to analyse whether in fact President Mugabe and the government had taken the action seven weeks ago they pledged to take and the verdict was no, was it?

DON MCKINNON:
The verdict was partially but given, we have to say, September the 11th it slowed a few things down, we lost momentum on the process. I think we've regained that momentum but we spoke to hundreds of people there and by and large they're saying well it is a bit better but the land situation is yet to be resolved, there's a lot of confusion there and the government could probably be doing a lot better job.

DAVID FROST:
And so what is the, what is the official verdict then, the Commonwealth requests what?

DON MCKINNON:
Well the official verdict was we now go back to President┐who started this whole initiative from Nigeria and say to him this has been worthwhile, we are making a little bit of progress, people on the ground are saying the process is something worth living for, something worth abiding by┐

DAVID FROST:
┐is where this was agreed in Nigeria seven weeks ago?

DON MCKINNON:
Back on September the 6th, so they're saying it's worthwhile pursuing, they're saying the Commonwealth should remain involved so what we are saying is it would be appropriate for us to maintain a monitoring role from now on.

DAVID FROST:
But there was a lot of acrimony I gather in the sense of when you wanted to go out and talk to people that the government didn't want you to talk to, what happened there?

DON MCKINNON:
Well they rejected me and the three foreign ministers of the Commonwealth which emerged from the Commonwealth Ministerial, actually I mean these are all names I know, but President Obas Anjo Nigeria then pulled together another group of foreign Commonwealth ministers and as a result that group of seven ministers and myself have made a bit of progress.

DAVID FROST:
And what about the forthcoming presidential election, I mean the, the movement for democratic change, the opposition out there has said that they would like to see monitors, Commonwealth monitors there deployed to try and make sure there's no foul play or intimidation as there was in the last election there. Do you think, can the Commonwealth do that?

DON MCKINNON:
Well they'd like to see a lot of international monitors there, I mean last time there were, I think a few hundred, the Commonwealth had probably 40 or 50 including staff people, there were 4,000 plus polling places so it was spread fairly thinly anyway but we got a clear strong signal from both President Mugabe and his Justice Minister that there would be an invitation for Commonwealth observers. I've got to say we can only go by virtue of an invitation, we do not impose ourselves on a country to observe elections.

DAVID FROST:
So that in fact the sanctions that the Commonwealth has in a situation like this if it got worse is really just to expel a country isn't it?

DON MCKINNON:
Well it is just the moral persuasion that the other 53 countries can bring upon another country and it is quite true that the fact that the heads of government meeting in Brisbane which has been postponed, I think there was probably going to be a fairly major discussion on Zimbabwe at that conference. That may well change as a result of the change in dates and of course the upcoming Presidential election, but there are a lot of Commonwealth leaders, particularly in Southern Africa, who are still very concerned about the events in Zimbabwe in particular.

DAVID FROST:
So you would say that the Presidential election at the moment, we don't know whether it will be fair and peaceful or unfair and violent?

DON MCKINNON:
Well I think what everyone is saying and correctly so, let's look at the whole voter registration process, the delimitation of boundaries, insuring that the right people in the right place and then the monitors come in. You can't actually get people to, to be around for five months of the year watching a whole process but you can give an oversight to that process and see what's going on.

DAVID FROST:
Don thank you very much for that update, direct from the airport, did you get some sleep on the plane?

DON MCKINNON:
Oh a little bit.

DAVID FROST:
Good, well you look as fresh as daisy.

END


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