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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 21:35 GMT
Should Mugabe be allowed to travel?
European Union foreign ministers have failed to decide on a new package of sanctions against the government of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe at a meeting in Brussels.

The EU's Greek Presidency said the matter had been referred on to EU ambassadors in order to try to reach consensus.

This comes after France angered a number of countries by inviting Mr Mugabe to attend a Franco-African summit in Paris to discuss human rights and democracy next month.

The European Union currently forbids Zimbabwean leaders entering any EU country because of doubts about the legitimacy of Mr Mugabe's re-election last year.

But the ban expires a day before the summit and the UK wants to see the travel restrictions, sanctions and a freeze on his assets renewed.

Do you think the ban should be renewed or lifted? Why do you think France have invited Mr Mugabe to Paris? Would there be benefits in lifting the restrictions? Does prohibiting travel like this help solve the situation in Zimbabwe?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Mugabe needs to be dealt with one way or another; permitting travel to Europe may anger some extremists (who have a valid case against this, in my view, disgraceful and wicked leader) but bringing him to Europe might give him a flavour of the kind opposition that is continually mounting against him and the way he treats all members of Zimbabwe. Let him come and while he's here, make sure he understands that just as the democratic world is tackling Iraq, it will (albeit eventually) tackle the horrors of Zimbabwe, him being the main one.
Dan, UK

Let him make his case

Noel Almeida, Australia
Let him go, let him make his case. The UK government representative should also be present. It is not all about white farmers, it is about millions of black and white Zimbabweans. Like it or not the British have a lot to answer for.
Noel Almeida, Australia

Absolutely not. This despot has caused absolute chaos and misery in his homeland simply because in the fifteen years between attaining power and the opposition MDC becoming a political force to be reckoned with, he did absolutely nothing about land redistribution because no-one was there to force him. Maybe if he had spent some time in attempting to instigate a credible land reform programme instead of stealing the odd farm and giving it to his family or his cronies and stuffing most of the national wealth into his Swiss bank account, he wouldn't have been panicked into action by the rise of popularity for an opposing political movement.
Peter, UK

Let him go, then as soon as he's settled in his hotel send a few thugs round to beat him and his party up. Spit on them and insult them. Then throw them out onto the street and physically kick them all the way to the border. After all, that's what he did to all the whites in Zimbabwe.
Nigel, UK

Not all EU members were fully convinced that the sanctions were necessary

Joey Nkomo, Zimbabwe
The coming of Mugabe could usher in a new era of positive and constructive engagement with the EU. After all not all EU members were fully convinced that the sanctions were necessary. Look at the French, the Portuguese, the Spanish, Italians and Belgians. They were just there for the sake of the EU. Also remember the ACP-EU joint meeting in Belgium last year! Should the EU break up because of Zimbabwe and Mugabe particularly?
Joey Nkomo, Zimbabwe

This latest episode, combined with the Ivory Coast episode, demonstrates that France is, in fact, given to unilateral action and also demonstrates lack of respect for international law. France's criticism of the US, therefore, is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
D. Jones, USA

He should be allowed in together with Morgan Tsvangirai. And both must be allowed to present their cases and let the world judge for itself.
Phyllis, Zimbabwe

Let Mugabe be invited to the summit

A. Setako, Philippines
The French are free to invite anybody. Let Mugabe be invited to the summit, maybe he may listen to his peers' advice. Who knows? He may change for the better of the people of Zimbabwe and of his own future.
A. Setako, Philippines

Yes allow him to travel to France and the moment he touches French soil he should be arrested and tried for his crimes against humanity.
Mike, UK

Please let him go. Just don't send him back.
Ian, Zimbabwe

It depends what President Chirac is going to say to Mugabe. If he is planning to reinforce the European message that Mugabe's treatment of his citizens is unacceptable, fine. If the invitation is simply a kindergarten way for the French to get back at the British for their relationship with the US, then President Chirac is guilty of the petty cynicism and self-interest that has always marked the French relationship with Africa.
Margaret Odinga, Nairobi, Kenya

Isolating Mugabe has not helped so far

Ramba, UK/Zim
Isolating Mugabe has not helped so far, a lot of people in Zimbabwe will give testimony to that. What the international community, the other name for the powers that be, needs to do is to engage with him. That might help. It might be painful for others within and outside Zimbabwe who are not directly affected by the current catastrophe though.
Ramba, UK/Zim

What will it take for the British Government to actually make an effective contribution to this crisis? Peter Hain's dismissive remarks are pathetic. Britain should be prepared to arrest Mugabe under international humanitarian law the moment he sets foot in Paris. Britain should also consider sending its troops to Zimbabwe in order to ensure that people are able to access food. It is interesting that France has no moral problems sending its troops to one of its former colonies, namely Ivory Coast essentially on humanitarian grounds. British policy towards Zimbabwe is simply making the situation worse for the average Zimbabwean because it is seen as toothless provocation. Britain should act decisively now.
James, Zimbabwe

For those who say Mugabe has committed the worst atrocities in the world I really wonder what they mean. Would it be compared with the massacres of innocent children in South Africa in 1977? Is it anywhere near to the heavy armoured vehicles that were being driven in the shanties of Soweto uprooting houses and killing sleeping innocent people. We never witnessed anything near to that during Mugabe's 22 year rule. If anything is to go by Britain and the white Zimbabweans will be the end losers if they do not soften their attitude towards Mugabe. Let him attend and if the world is genuine about his human rights then they should engage him into dialogue.
Langeci Ncube, Zimbabwe

To Langeci Ncube, I ask if 30,000 murdered Zimbabweans in 1980's does not compare to the viciousness of the Apartheid regime? Mugabe must be kept away from any world recognition since he is, in my view, an illegal ruler (he did not win the last election). Whilst our country burns, people around the world concentrate on the few white farmers instead of the millions of black victims of the Mugabe regime.
Alex, UK

A continued policy of isolation only serves to strengthened Dr Mugabe's regime (the imperialist west against defiant Africans as Mugabe puts it). A policy of engagement allows those opposed to him to question him, and perhaps an international forum like the one in Paris avails such an opportunity for human rights activists to grill Mugabe. Isolating Mugabe makes him seem as a hero to thousands of the masses in Zimbabwe, who will easily accept Mugabe's assertion that Zimbabwe's economic woes are a result of acts of sabotage by the ethnic Europeans in Zimbabwe.
Gus Bahati, Australia

By all means let him into Europe but then never let him out again! Within a few weeks the rightful government of Zimbabwe, the MDC, will have taken over with the agreement of the police and the military and the country can get back on the long and difficult path to economic stability.
Bruce Smith, USA

The West has made some questionable deals in the past, but that doesn't mean we are powerless to resist further tyranny. If we still have a conscience, we should resist Mugabe with every tool we can find.
Peter Vevang, USA

I was surprised at the reason advanced for banning Mugabe from entering the EU countries. The fact that the ban was for a short period of time indicates that the EU was not sure it was doing the right thing in the first place. Anyway after what happened in Florida which president can be deemed to be absolutely legitimate?
Ramollwane, UK/BOTSWANA

Mugabe is a megalomaniac in charge of an evil and oppressive regime but there are lots of others of those in the world that we are not doing anything about (Saudi Arabia included). I think his land reform as a base idea was a good one but he implemented it terribly. His people will suffer due to the loss of farming expertise the farm owners held. He would have been better off compensating them and/or giving them jobs as agricultural tutors/forepersons.
Douglas Murray, Scotland

It is typical of the French that when they feel that they are not getting enough world attention they become belligerent and contrary. France is using two diplomatic hot potatoes, Zimbabwe and Iraq, to attract attention, much as a prima donna would throw a tantrum. French actions will directly cause death, pain and suffering for the citizens of these two countries, the starving and the oppressed will pay the price for the legendary French ego.
RL, UK

Mugabe has proved to be very arrogant and impervious to any criticism or calls for good governance. Inviting him to France with the hope of confronting him on such issues like human rights is not only a waste of time but an insult to us the people of Zimbabwe who are suffering under Mugabe's repressive regime! I say don't legitimise this rogue by inviting him anywhere in this world!!!
Munos M.B., Zimbabwe

There is no way the Europeans have the guts to ban Mugabe, everyone moans about this evil dictator but the EU has not got the guts to do anything about him, to cure dictators you have to oust them, ie Saddam Hussien.
Mike, England

The UK Government should stop hypocrisy. When Mugabe was waiting for 20 years for the British Government to implement the Lancaster agreement millions of Africans suffered dearly. Nobody cared. When the interests of the whites are touched everyone cries foul to Mugabe. Are whites more human than blacks. This is total hypocrisy.
Shitrael, Ndewina, Tanzania

Either the EU accepts Zimbabwe's election results or not

Nyirenda, UK
If the EU did not accept the outcome of the March 2000 election in Zimbabwe, in what capacity is France inviting Mugabe? Either the EU accepts the results or not.
Nyirenda, UK

If Libya can be elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission why should we sanction Mugabe? He is almost as nice and civilized as Gaddafi.
Meerkat, USA

Mugabe has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt one hundred times over that he doesn't care about Zimbabwe's human rights record. Let Mugabe travel to Europe, but the United Nations must arrest him and send him to The Hague.
Jim, UK

It is a disgrace but so has the whole policy towards Mugabe from all the Western powers since independence. What he has done is worse than what happened in Yugoslavia, but we all have let him get on with it for years. No wonder he's a little confused what all the fuss is about now.
Nick Adder, UK

Nobody needs to have him at any conference as he has nothing constructive to say. It does help, a little bit, for the oppressed people of Zimbabwe to see that Europe does not accept Mugabe as a leader. France must not even consider inviting him.
Aleta, Finland

Mugabe has become more entrenched under the ban

Nick, UK
Mugabe has become more entrenched, more extreme and more defensive under the ban. He will react positively to having his inflated ego massaged rather than punctured. Let him strut around in his sashes if that effects getting him to the negotiating table. Britain needs to swallow its pride whilst the vast majority of Zimbabwe's population have little or nothing of substance to swallow.
Nick, UK

If the French are inviting him then they should also invite the opposition president for the talks because he is perhaps the legitimate leader.
Anon, Ghana

If legitimacy of Mugabe's election victory is a reason to ban him from travelling, then perhaps George W Bush should have a similar sanction imposed on him. Or is it different rules for such a powerful country?
Anon, UK

Mugabe should be allowed to attend the summit. This would enable the world to strongly confront him with his dismal human rights record. Sanctions and isolation hurts the interests of the people supposedly being protected.

Evidently the Anglo-American "tough approach" to global matters increasingly alienates a growing number of countries in the international community. It is hugely commendable to see other powers like France, adopting the alternative, usually more effective approach of dialogue and engagement.
Abba Drammeh, Gambian (living in the US)

It might knock some sense into him

Will, Zimbabwe
This meeting is for the good of everyone in the country and the region. While I am not a supporter I still feel that he should be allowed to attend this seminar. It might knock some sense into him. Instead of criticising France I also think the MDC should be trying to find ways meet the current party half way. That's the only way progress will be made.
Will, Zimbabwe

If Mugabe's regime is as "odious" and "devastating" as Peter Hain claims - and I've no reason to doubt him, why doesn't the UK Government do something more substantial than ban him travelling to the EU and pester cricket teams not to play in Zimbabwe?
Dougal McKinnon, UK

Yes - it would be an ideal opportunity for the people of Zimbabwe to remove him from power.
Simon, UK

If the reason for the ban is people starving under Mugabe's rule then it is dubious as there are many countries where in similar situations. I suspect the reason for the ban is taking over of land by Mugabe from white landowners. But then Hindustan also took over land from landowners soon after independence and there was no ban on Nehru or Gandhi! They were not labelled as racists either!
M S Sheikh, UK

From massacres to his refusal of food aid and appalling actions against white farmers and homosexuals, Robert Mugabe has led one of the world's most appalling regimes. I am sick of seeing those of my fellow citizens who seem to be more interested in money than morality treating him as if nothing has happened.

There are some people who seem to think that his victims are white; I only wish they would realise that his victims are white and Asian but most overwhelmingly black.
Robert Warr, England.

Yes he should be allowed in - then he should be taken straight to The Hague and tried for crimes against humanity.
Paul C, Glasgow

It is like we are not sure we did the right thing

Dineo, UK/Botswana
The question should not arise altogether. If we keep revisiting the ban every time there is a global meeting or conference, what message are we giving to Mugabe? It is like we are saying we are not sure we did the right thing by banning you in Europe! Let it be settled once and for all. Otherwise Mugabe will have the last laugh.
Dineo, UK/Botswana

If the UK Government is so opposed to Mugabe, why do they allow 300 British companies to trade freely in that country? It's arrogant hypocrisy.
R James, UK

 VOTE RESULTS
Should Mugabe be allowed to travel to Europe?

Yes
 20.92% 

No
 79.08% 

16610 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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23 Jan 03 | Africa
14 Jan 03 | Cricket
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