AFRICAN Union Observer Mission chairperson and former Nigerian president General Olusegun Obasanjo is expected in Harare tomorrow to lead the team in observing the July 31 harmonised elections, AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said.
She said this after paying a courtesy call on President Mugabe at State House in Harare yesterday to announce the AU team’s presence in Zimbabwe ahead of elections.
She said the President welcomed the scheduled arrival of Gen Obasanjo.
Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba said in his reminiscences with Dr Dlamini-Zuma, President Mugabe had outlined Nigeria’s assistance to Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle.
“In his reminiscences with Madam Zuma, the President said because of the Biafra war, Nigeria left the OAU in protest because of some elements in the OAU who were in support of the Biafra secessionists.
“When it did return, Nigeria committed itself to back-paying its dues and set a condition that the money should be given to liberation movements in southern Africa, because of that Zanla and Zipra were able to intensify their operations.
“With that, Nigeria became a member of the Front Line States, the only country that was not geographically contiguous to southern Africa, to become a member of the Front Line States,’’ Mr Charamba said.
General Obasanjo was instrumental in that decision.
The President, Mr Charamba said, welcomed the former Nigerian leader and had no problems with his leadership of the OAU Short-Term Observer Mission.
Gen Obasanjo’s hand is further strengthened by his position on Western observers that dovetails with Government’s stance that Westerners come with pre-conceived positions.
The ex-Nigerian leader was quoted by Premium News of Nigeria in March, saying non-African election observer missions should be banned from monitoring polls in the continent.
Gen Obasanjo made the assertion while giving a keynote address at the 7th Annual symposium of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) in Johannesburg where he said Western observers were sometimes biased with their positions undermining the sovereignty of African countries.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma met President Mugabe in his capacity as Head of State and Government and as a presidential candidate.
“Mr Obasanjo is arriving on Saturday to lead the delegation of our observer team. The President has no reservations. He is looking forward to welcoming and receiving Mr Obasanjo.”
Dr Dlamini-Zuma said reservations about the coming of Gen Obasanjo had come from other circles and not from President Mugabe.
She said President Mugabe told her team that there was peace and tranquillity ahead of the elections.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma is expected to return to her base in Ethiopia today.
Before meeting the President, Dr Dlamini-Zuma had paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister and MDC-T presidential candidate Mr Morgan Tsvangirai at his Charter House offices.
Also to pay a courtesy call on Mr Tsvangirai was the Comesa Observer Mission led by Ambassador Betheul Kiplagat.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma refused to talk to the media after her meeting with Mr Tsvangirai, while Ambassador Kiplagat said they wanted to meet all the stakeholders ahead of the polls.
“We have come here as part of our programme of monitoring elections,” said Ambassador Kiplagat.
“We have monitored 19 elections since 2005 in seven countries of Comesa.
“We are here to touch base with the various stakeholders in this country. We have met with Sadc, we have been to the (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) commission, and we have been with the European Union. I think we are just sharing and ours is to wish the people of Zimbabwe all the best at in these very important elections.”
Ambassador Kiplagat said since they had just arrived they were yet to have a clear impression of the country’s political environment.