Mugabe's UN Remarks Seen as 'Sign of Desperation'

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's verbal attack on the leaders of the United States and Britain is a sign of desperation at a time the southern African country's economic situation remains dire, analysts here said.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Mugabe demanded that President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown keep out of Zimbabwe's affairs.

"They have no role to play in our national affairs. They are outsiders and should therefore keep out," he said, adding that Zimbabwe would never again be a "colony."

Mugabe also called for an end to economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union.

Brown has bee speaking about the possibility of extending E.U. sanctions. "This is a tragedy that requires the whole of the world to speak up and also to act," he said in a recent television interview.

Kwame Owino, programs manager for the Nairobi-based Institute of Economic Affairs, said Mugabe's priority should be to fix the economy, not posturing on the world stage.

"It's a show of desperation," he said of Mugabe's comments. "He wants to show the world that he is in charge, yet that is not the case."

In a bid to rein in galloping inflation, Zimbabwe's government last July implemented a price freeze and printed more money. Its Central Statistical Office reports that year-on-year inflation dropped in August, but at 6,500 percent it remains the highest in the world.

Mugabe has been in power in the former British colony for almost three decades. Bush in his own address to the General Assembly this week called the Zimbabwean regime "brutal."

Some analysts here argue that sanctions have not worked against Mugabe, and tend to hurt those they are meant to help - ordinary citizens.

While sanctions are a good political tool, they have ended up "dispossessing" Zimbabweans rather than their leaders, said Owino.

"Why should one man make millions suffer?" asked political analyst Kagwe Maina.

"The world should understand that Zimbabweans may want change but the political and social realities may not allow them to effect change the way Europeans may do for instance," he said.

African leaders have long been criticized for failing to pull Mugabe into line. Some movement was seen recently, however, when South African President Thabo Mbeki initiated compromise talks between the Zimbabwe government and some factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In a rare show of unity, the MDC supported passage of a constitutional amendment that among other things will allow parliament to select a new leader should Mugabe step down or die in office.

Some Zimbabwean critics of the government said the MDC erred in supporting the amendment.

"Giving parliament power to elect a president when an incumbent dies, is incapacitated or resigns runs against accepted international norms," said Irene Petras of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights group.

But Mugabe, who is 83, says he plans to seek another term in presidential elections scheduled for next March.

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