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Don McKinnon, Commonwealth secretary-general
Don McKinnon, Commonwealth secretary-general
Menzies Campbell MP, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman
Menzies Campbell MP, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: DON MCKINNON COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL AND MENZIES CAMPBELL MP LIBERAL DEMOCRAT FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESMAN FEBRUARY 24TH, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: In a fortnight's time the people of Zimbabwe will be voting in the Presidential election, already as we've read and seen although more reading than seeing because of the restrictions in Zimbabwe the level of violence and intimidation indicates that Robert Mugabe is determined to win whatever the cost and whatever his age because at 78 he seems even more determined than ever. In a moment we'll be hearing from the man challenging Mr Mugabe for presidency but first this from our own correspondent Rageh Omaar?

[FILM CLIP]

DAVID FROST: Well I'm joined now by Don McKinnon who is the Secretary General of the Commonwealth and has to try and sort out this mess and by the Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell. Welcome to both of you. Don moral obligation there that Morgan Tsvangirai was talking about, do you think the Commonwealth has done enough?

DON MCKINNON: Well we've remained engaged, we've tried to influence, we've tried to engage at a number of levels, we've attempted to have envoys go there, we've attempted to have a ministerial group grow there, it hasn't been very successful so the mark we get for our engagement is probably a D or a D minus but we do remain engaged and the fact that we are engaged means there are election observers there on the ground now.

DAVID FROST: And the number of Commonwealth election observers is about 30 to 40?

DON MCKINNON: Well we're looking at 30 to 40 and of course since the EU effectively pulled out we've had a lot of pressure to can we send more, well we can probably get a few more but given that we're just days away from an election, not that easy to get good, experienced people there.

DAVID FROST: And we hear a lot of the pressure, a lot of the intimidation by Mugabe takes place in the rural areas, someone quoted the fact that there are 4,000 different election points around the country, I mean what can 30 to 40 people do?

DON MCKINNON: Well the total number of observers there were for all other organisations could amount to 400 but still as you say 4,300 polling booths, you're still only going to provide a snapshot. But even the last time we were there June 2000, our snapshot said there was an effect, the effect of the violence, the intimidation did have a bearing on the outcome. So we've always given a pretty honest appraisal.

DAVID FROST: Menzies you've heard what Don has said there, do you think that the Commonwealth could and should have done more and could Britain have done more, could we have cut off relations or whatever?

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I've got some sympathy for Don McKinnon because the problem is that the mechanism that the Commonwealth, constitutional mechanisms really are not appropriate for the circumstances of Zimbabwe. There's little doubt that the behaviour that President Mugabe breaches all the values of the Commonwealth, indeed Morgan Tsvangirai said that just a moment or two ago. Ironically the Harare declaration talked about individual liberty and democratic principles and Zimbabwe has simply ignored these. I think the Commonwealth mechanisms need to be reformed and revised but so far as the United Kingdom is concerned I think we were a bit dilatory in going to the European Union although of course the EU has now imposed targeted sanctions. But I also believe that if we're not satisfied that the election is free and fair and the Commonwealth is unable to act collectively, then the United Kingdom should act independently and withdraw recognition from the Mugabe government.

DAVID FROST: Because we look at these figures, for instance they're saying that one member of NBC of Morgan's party may have been killed every 48 hours since the beginning of the year. They say 159 reported cases of torture in the first 16 days of February, these are terrifying statistics and what else could you do?

DON MCKINNON: It's an incredibly sad whole process and as Morgan Tsvangirai himself said, you know we've had 40 years of violence through elections in this country and the whole country really has to put that violence behind it. But one can say that having observers on the ground, the people of Zimbabwe have said themselves, look we want observers, we need observers because at least they are some kind of a deterrent. How much they can deter remains to be seen.

DAVID FROST: Menzies was saying that the Commonwealth's not set up to move quickly in these situations, could you change that, could you change the constitution of the┐

DON MCKINNON: The Commonwealth, the Commonwealth heads of government are meeting in Australia in about a week's time and they have in front of them a document which re looks at this whole issue of who do you handle states within your membership that are causing problems and it's very much motivated by what's happening.

DAVID FROST: And in the meantime, another statistic, they've had 73 rallies cancelled, cancelled by the government with new swingeing regulations. I mean┐

MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well this man will stop at nothing to be re-elected, he makes promises like for example The Abuja the agreement apparently about the redistribution of land, that was ignored and denied almost as soon as the ink was dry on the signature. I mean some of the more frightening statistics are the fact that inflation is now over 100 per cent, unemployment is estimated between 60 and 80 per cent, a large percentage of the population is HIV infected, the very social fabric of this country is being torn apart and not just Zimbabwe itself, the whole region is affected and the Rand has fallen, tourism is down, inward investment in the whole of Southern Africa has been affected. I mean this man is destroying not only his own country but the possible renaissance of Southern Africa.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you both very much indeed. Do you think Mugabe will turn up at the Commonwealth Conference?

DON MCKINNON: Well he hasn't missed one in the whole time he's been president but when it's a week out from his own election I wouldn't put bets any way.

DAVID FROST: But if he steps off the plane, do you shake his hand warmly?

DON MCKINNON: Well he's a Commonwealth leader and he was democratically elected to the Commonwealth leader so he may still turn up but we shall see next week┐

MENZIES CAMPBELL: I think it's 50-50, I think he might well decide to stay at home.

DAVID FROST: Yes I would have thought so, thank you both very much indeed.

END


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