HARARE – President Robert Mugabe will this week come face to face with the Western leaders whose countries have rejected the outcome of the disputed July 31 polls, particularly United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mugabe is in New York for the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly running under the theme: “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Other Internationally Agreed Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities” where he is likely to meet face to face with Obama and Cameron.
Both the US and Britain have imposed sanctions on Mugabe, and dismissed the polls which saw Mugabe winning by 61 percent as a fraud.
But Mugabe last week appeared to soften his stance towards the West ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly telling Parliament that he was ready to engage the West.
It is not clear whether Mugabe, who has used the general assembly to blast the West, will go on his usual tirade or will seek reconciliation with the people whom he has for many years, described as his detractors.
The 89-year-old ruler said he was ready to “work even with those who, before, were at odds with us, our detractors”.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said it would be tricky to judge on how the Western countries would react to Mugabe’s re-engagement efforts.
“We have no choice but to re-engage, however, we don’t know how they will react, but obviously they have a lot to consider,” he said.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Western countries have been sour for over a decade with Mugabe and his Zanu PF associates being banned from travelling to Europe and the US.
Zanu PF has blamed the sanctions imposed on its party officials and linked businesses, for slowing Zimbabwe’s progress on the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose deadline is in two years.
The party claims an estimated $42 billion is said to have been “robbed” from Zimbabwe by sanctions.
Normal ties with the West would help Zimbabwe’s economic recovery from a decade-long slump that ended in 2009 with the scrapping of the “worthless” Zimbabwe dollar.
However, the successful running of the elections which was to go a long way in proving that Zimbabwe is a democratic country capable of a democratic process, failed short of impressing the West.
Mugabe was re-elected to serve for a seventh term after a disputed July 31 election this year, he has so far sworn in a new Cabinet, which is expected to carry the country forward after the coalition government.
Lovemore Madhuku, a political analyst and constitutional expect said it was time sanctions on Zimbabwe were lifted so that Zanu PF’s performance can be properly judged.
“I think it is about time the debate on sanctions is ended to open up a new discourse in Zimbabwe.
“Of course, Mugabe and Zanu PF are sincere on re-engagement, they will be happy if sanctions are lifted because they have suffered a lot under them.”
“Sanctions have always been Zanu PF’s excuse for poor service delivery even in a country with resources Zimbabwe has,” Madhuku said.
However, it will be a different story for Kenya, as for the first time since its independence, the country will not be represented at the UN Assembly.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy are facing trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.