Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Clerk from the Head of Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  In my letter of 4 September, I promised to write again following the meeting of a group of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in Abuja on 6 September to discuss Zimbabwe.

  Nigeria's Foreign Minister, Sule Lamido, chaired the meeting. The other participants were: Ministers from Canada, Kenya and South Africa; the Jamaican Attorney General; the Australian High Commissioner to the UK; two Ministers from Zimbabwe, representing Foreign Affairs and Land; and the Commonwealth Secretary General. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa attended for the UK.

  President Obasanjo hosted a breakfast for all heads of delegation. Unfortunately the Zimbabwean delegation was unable to get there due to trans-African flight schedules. But President Obasanjo was clear, as we were, that the ensuing meeting had to address all issues of international concern, and should not focus solely on land reform. He also joined the main meeting at several points, following the Zimbabwean's arrival, and was instrumental in the outcome.

  During the meeting, delegations expressed their serious concern over political violence, as well as violence on the commercial farms; the state of the Zimbabwean economy and the adverse effect it was having on the region; intimidation of the independent media and the judiciary; and other human rights abuses in Zimbabwe over the recent months.

  Under pressure from the participants, Zimbabwe signed up to a number of specific commitments, including:

    —  no further occupation of farms, and removing squatters from all non-designated properties;

    —  restoring the rule of law to the land process and re-engaging with UNDP on a land reform programme; and taking firm action against violence and intimidation.

  The Foreign Secretary restated our willingness to support a land reform programme that was transparent, just and sustainable and in line with the principles agreed with international donors and the Government of Zimbabwe at the 1998 Land Conference.

  I enclose a copy of Nigeria's opening statement, delivered in front of the international press, and a copy of the meeting's Conclusions agreed by all participants.

  There is no reference to election observers in the agreement, despite the fact that the meeting pushed Zimbabwe hard to agree to them. President Obasanjo agreed to follow up on this point directly with President Mugabe. We will also continue to press the Zimbabweans to accept observers.

  Foreign Minister Lamido flew to Harare on 7 September to deliver the Conclusions to President Mugabe who has since told the press that he has agreed to abide by the Abuja agreement. We will monitor the situation closely between now and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane on 6 October. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will discuss Zimbabwe at its meeting held immediately prior to CHOGM, so that it can make appropriate recommendations to Heads of Government.

Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department,

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

13 September 2001

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