The Zimbabwean government has barred a group of prominent world leaders, including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, from visiting the country to see first hand the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.
The group, including former US President Jimmy Carter, and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, had wanted to visit the country to see what it described as the ‘escalating humanitarian crisis’ in Zimbabwe.
The southern African country is mirred in a political and economic crisis which has led to near-starvation by an estimated four million people, the collapse of the health and education sectors and the flight of more than three million people to neighbouring countries in search of greener pastures.
But the government told the prominent world leaders, also known as the Elders, it was busy concluding a power-sharing agreement with the opposition and making farming preparations, to receive them.
It said it was also opposed to the trip because it was unclear who the group represented, or intended to report to, after the visit to Zimbabwe.
“The Elders wrote to government on the intended visit but they have been advised that while it (government) appreciates the humanitarian concern by the group, it was important for them to plan their visit on a date that is convenient and agreed by both sides,” a top government official was quoted as saying by the state-owned Herald newspaper.
“Government would want to know whose mission they are representing and who they report to. This stems from documented and well-known attitudes by some of the group’s members towards Zimbabwe,” the official said.