Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Conclusions of the Meeting of the Committee of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers on Zimbabwe, Abuja, Nigeria, 6 September 2001

  1.  The Meeting of the Committee of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers on Zimbabwe met in Abuja on 6 September 2001 at the invitation of H E Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ministers from Canada, Jamaica, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom, as well as the High Commissioner for Australia to the United Kingdom, representing the Australian Foreign Minister, and the Commonwealth Secretary General attended. The Nigerian Foreign Minister, Sule Lamido, chaired the meeting.

  2.  The meeting recognised that as a result of historical injustices, the current land ownership and distribution needed to be rectified in a transparent and equitable manner. It also agreed on the following:

    (a)  Land is at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe and cannot be separated from other issues of concern to the Commonwealth, such as the rule of law, respect for human rights, democracy and the economy. A program of land reform is, therefore, crucial to the resolution of the problem.

    (b)  Such a programme of land reform must be implemented in a fair, just and sustainable manner, in the interest of all the people in Zimbabwe, within the law and constitution of Zimbabwe.

    (c)  The crisis in Zimbabwe also has political and rule of law implications, which must be addressed holistically and concurrently. The situation in Zimbabwe poses a threat to the socio-economic stability of the entire sub-region and the continent at large.

    (d)  The need to avoid a division within the Commonwealth, especially at the forthcoming CHOGM in Brisbane, Australia, over the situation in Zimbabwe; and

    (e)  The orderly implementation of the land reform can only be meaningful and sustainable, if carried out with due regard to human rights, rule of law, transparency and democratic principles. The commitment of the Government of Zimbabwe is, therefore, crucial to this process.


  3.  The Committee recognises the need for the adoption of confidence-building measures to ensure the implementation of the conclusions of the meeting. In this regard, the meeting welcomed the assurances given by the Zimbabwe delegation as follows:

    (i)  Commitment to the Harare Commonwealth Declaration and the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration.

    (ii)  There will be no further occupation of farm lands.

    (iii)  To speed up the process by which farms that do not meet set criteria, are delisted.

    (iv)  For farms that are not designated, occupiers would be moved to legally acquired lands.

    (v)  Acceleration of discussions with the UNDP, with a view to reaching agreement as quickly as possible.

    (vi)  Commitment to restore the rule of law to the process of land reform programme.

    (vii)  Commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe and to take firm action against violence and intimidation; and

    (viii)  Invitation by the Foreign Minister to the Committee to visit Zimbabwe.

  4.  The meeting agreed, in the overall context of the statement, that the way forward is for Zimbabwe's international partners:

    (a)  to engage constructively with the UNDP and the Government of Zimbabwe in pursuing an effective and sustainable land reform programme, on the basis of the UNDP proposals of December 2000;

    (b)  to respond positively to any request from the Government of Zimbabwe in support of the electoral process; and

    (c)  to continue to contribute to poverty reduction programmes for the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe,

  and that those partners present (Australia, Canada and United Kingdom), would actively pursue these objectives.

  5.  The Meeting also welcomed the re-affirmation of the United Kingdom's commitment to a significant financial contribution to such a land reform programme and its undertaking to encourage other international donors to do the same.


  6.  The meeting expressed its profound gratitude and appreciation to President Olusegun Obasanjo for his continuing efforts at finding a durable solution to this problem. It also expressed gratitude to the Chairman, Foreign Minister Sule Lamido, for the excellent manner in which he conducted the proceedings. Lastly, it expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria for the hospitality and the conducive atmosphere provided for the meeting. The spirit of camaraderie, informality, honesty and forthrightness that was brought to bear on the proceedings of the meeting, was also recognised as being consistent with the best Commonwealth tradition.

  7.  Finally, the Committee agreed to convey to President Obasanjo its willingness to hold further consultations, if he so desires.


6 September 2001

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