WASHINGTON DC – THE US government has said it was under no pressure to reconsider its decision to omit President Robert Mugabe from the landmark US-Africa summit in August.
The gathering will seek to widen Washington’s trade, development and security ties with the African continent.
Mugabe, banned from travelling to the US over allegations of rights abuses and electoral fraud, was excluded from the list of 47 African leaders invited to the summit by US President Barack Obama.
But the crafty Zimbabwean leader, also banned from travelling to Europe, recently forced the European Union (EU) to invite him to Brussels for April’s EU-African Union summit after African leaders threatened to boycott the gathering if Mugabe was not welcome.
It remains unclear whether African leaders will employ a similar threat to force Obama to invite Mugabe.
However, US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said Mugabe’s exclusion was “a very conscious decision” by Washington and any plans to revise it would not be influenced by events in Europe.
“Those are decisions made by the EU but not by the United States,” Ambassador Wharton said on the side-lines of a donation ceremony for anti-HIV/Aids programmes in the country.
Wharton however said it was within the prerogative of the White House to revise its decisions and “it would be a mistake for me to try and predict the sort of decisions that the White House would make”.
The US diplomat said his country’s decision not to invite Mugabe to Washington was linked to the controversial conduct of last year’s elections which saw the 90 year-old leader register a thumping victory over bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai and two other presidential hopefuls.
“We are pretty clear that we believe that the July, 2013 elections had some very fundamental problems,” said the US envoy.
“The same issues that were raised in the AU report, the SADC report and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission report, the irregularities in the electoral process prevented us from saying we thought that it was a credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe so that’s the fundamental problem.”
Ambassador Wharton gave his support to the current push by the opposition towards the establishment of another unity government in Zimbabwe adding that it was up to the political protagonists to initiate dialogue among themselves as opposed to waiting for help from outsiders.
“I think that dialogue and engagement are essential. People need to understand each other. They need to understand their positions and that’s a critical step towards building a national consensus or an international consensus on anything,” he said.
“If the people of Zimbabwe need or wish to have a dialogue then it’s going to be up to the actors to players in Zimbabwe to create the space for that dialogue and have it.”
The Tsvangirai led MDC has, in the past few days, been calling for a broad-based national dialogue to rescue the country from a looming economic catastrophe.
The opposition insists Mugabe and his Zanu PF were “clueless” on how to reverse the country’s economic decline after this year’s government expenditure took off on a deficit while companies continue to shut down, throwing thousands out of formal employment.