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Vol 44 No 25

Published 19th December 2003


The cost of Mugabe

Poor diplomacy allows the Zimbabwe row to weaken the Commonwealth and divide Africa

Like a slow-motion train crash, from 5 to 8 December Commonwealth leaders allowed a bad-tempered discussion on Zimbabwe to dominate their summit, ending in the continuation of sanctions against President Robert Mugabe's government and its predicted withdrawal from the 54-member club. Other important business, such as ending agricultural subsidies, trade reform, more cooperation on anti-HIV/AIDS strategy and regional security, was sidelined as the Zimbabwe row divided the summiteers. Commonwealth staffers dismissed such worries: the theme of the summit was 'democracy and development' and the row focused attention on both. Two questions emerge from the debacle in Abuja: could more astute diplomacy have secured a better result? Will the fall-out cause lasting damage to the Commonwealth and its African members? The answer is a double'yes'.

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