Kenya softens call for military intervention in Zimbabwe

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Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula has dismissed calls by Prime Minister Raila Odinga to have the African Union (AU) send soldiers to Zimbabwe to forcefully remove incumbent President Robert Mugabe and instal a new government.

Wetangula said the Zimbabwe crisis was not a rebellion that would warrant military intervention. “What the Zimbabwe crisis is lacking is a ‘father figure’ who will guide the talks the way former South African President Thabo Mbeki had guided them until he was removed from office,” said Wetangula Monday.

Wetangula told a press conference that the AU did not have the capacity to intervene militarily in the Zimbabwe crisis. He expressed the hope that the African Heads of State meeting, slated for January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, would help bring peace to the southern African country, currently ravaged by soaring inflation and disease.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Odinga asked the AU Chairman, Jakaya Kikwete, who is also Tanzanian President, to urgently convene an extra-ordinary meeting of AU member states to discus the Zimbabwe crisis and send a peace-keeping African force to the southern African country.

He said it was wrong for African governments to continue staying aloof and using what he termed “kid gloves” on Mugabe, while people died of preventable diseases in Zimbabwe due to the callousness of the current leadership.

“It is wrong for African states to stand aside and watch while Zimbabwe faces a total collapse in the face of high inflation and disease,” said Odinga. “The African Union must not wait any longer,” he said.

But Wetangula says whereas the government is alive to the fact that the people in Zimbabwe are suffering, sending military troopes or even declaring sanctions will only make the innocent Zimbabweans suffer. “Sanctions always hurt the wrong people,” the Minister said.

He said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should come together as a block and seek to make the Zimbabweans see the need to find a workable solution in their country and deal with the Zimbabwe crisis decisively.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe

Reports say Zimbabwe, continuously isolated by Western countries under Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, is now on the verge of collapse.

Food stocks are running out fast, official inflation is at 231 million per cent and a cholera outbreak has so far killed 575 people while another 13,000 are hospitalized. The country is facing a serious shortage of medicine and clean water.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on the other hand, has been unable to print money fast enough to keep up with soaring inflation and prices, which double every 24 hours, and has also tried to stamp out a thriving black market for US dollars and other foreign currencies.

Zimbabweans have grown increasingly angry over the government’s failure to tackle the crisis. Many are forced to line up outside banks for hours to try to get scarce bank notes, often coming away with barely enough to buy a loaf of bread.

Tensions flared in the capital Harare last week when mobs and police clashed wit h groups of unarmed soldiers who had seized cash from foreign currency traders and shops.

Trade union activists also took to the streets to protest against the crisis.

The central bank said it would soon introduce a Z$ 200 million note (worth US$ 20 on the black market) after launching Z$ 10 million, Z$ 50 million and Z$ 100 million notes on Thursday.

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