Annan due in Harare ahead of elections

FORMER United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan is expected in Harare later this week for meetings with the country’s political leadership as well as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) ahead of the general elections on July 30.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of a heated campaign amid fears of another disputed poll, despite consistent assurances by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the elections would be free, fair and credible.

Confidence in Zec’s ability to run an impartial election has plummeted in the last few weeks, as tensions over the quality as well as structure of the voters’ roll and ballot paper escalated.

In a statement yesterday, head of communications at The Elders Council, William French, confirmed Annan was heading to Zimbabwe.

“The Elders, with the support of the Kofi Annan Foundation, will visit Zimbabwe from July 19-21 to meet political leaders and support all actors working for free, fair and transparent elections and an inclusive transition and a brighter future for the country,” French said.

Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, will lead the delegation, which will include former Irish President Mary Robinson and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as former Algerian Foreign minister and UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.

Annan is a respected African and global diplomat who has consistently called for the respect of the rule of law and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.

At the height of Zimbabwe’s political and social crisis in 2008, Annan and his colleagues, who at the time included former US President Jimmy Carter and former South African First Lady Graca Machel, were denied visas by then President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe had just forced through a blood-spattered run-off election from which the late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had pulled out, citing systematic State-sponsored violence in which a reported 300 MDC-T activists were killed.

Mugabe was forced out of power last November in the wake of a military intervention that paved the way for Mnangagwa, who has been undoing the country’s international pariah image by opening up lines of engagement across the globe.

In April, The Elders issued a statement on Zimbabwe calling for credible, free and transparent elections.

Annan, who chairs the eminent group, was quoted as having said Zimbabwe needed national renewal, with Machel reportedly saying “Zimbabweans have suffered for too long.”

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