Correction to This Article
The article misspelled the name of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and incorrectly identified him as the president of the African Union. Kikwete is the chairman of the African Union.

African Leaders Plan to Discuss Mugabe's Future

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is officially sworn in as president after a sharply criticized runoff vote that was boycotted by his only rival, Morgan Tsvangirai.

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By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, June 30 -- African leaders allowed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to take his seat at a summit here Monday, but controversy over the coercion and violence surrounding his recent reelection prompted some of the leaders to begin discussing how to end his 28-year rule.

Although formal talks about Mugabe at the African Union meeting were put off until Tuesday, Ghanaian President John Kufuor said he and other leaders were concerned "by what we saw in the prelude to the election, in terms of the violence and the extreme intimidation" of voters.

Mugabe was inaugurated Sunday after a vote that African Union monitors and other international election observers said Monday was marred by harassment and attacks against voters. Backers of Mugabe's party had pledged to murder opposition supporters and their families. More than 80 people died in election violence.

Mugabe, 84, a heroic figure to many Africans for his struggle against colonial rule, has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. In recent years, his supporters have crushed the political opposition and his policies have destroyed the economy. Some inflation estimates exceed 1 million percent.

Many African and other international leaders denounced Friday's presidential runoff, which Mugabe won after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out, fearing further violence against his supporters. The Bush administration announced new economic sanctions and called last week for an international arms embargo against Zimbabwe.

Mugabe came to the summit, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, vowing to confront any fellow African leader who challenged his right to stay in power. He warned at a final election rally that he wanted "to see the finger that is pointed at me and I will check if that finger is clean or dirty."

He strolled into the summit Monday amid three African leaders, including African Union President Jakaya Tikwete, the leader of Tanzania. Tikwete opened the summit by acknowledging that Zimbabwe's people had voted and saying he "wanted to commiserate with them on their suffering." He did not recognize Mugabe as the victor.

South Africa has played a lead role in seeking to persuade Mugabe to hold free elections and to treat Zimbabweans more humanely. But top African figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, say South Africa failed to push Mugabe hard enough.

African foreign ministers, meeting on the eve of the summit, refused to endorse a South African draft resolution that merely expressed concern over the elections in Zimbabwe, participants and observers in the meeting said.

African leaders are considering tougher actions. Proposals include a power-sharing deal with the opposition that would ease Mugabe from power; the appointment of African Union mediators to replace those from South Africa; sanctions; and deployment of African peacekeepers.

The governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia, two West African nations where international sponsorship of elections was a crucial part of recovery from civil wars, were among the most vocal in lobbying other African governments for tough action, according to observers at Sunday night's meeting of foreign ministers.

Zimbabwe's foreign minister told counterparts at the meeting that reports of voter intimidation were exaggerations by foreign news media and the U.S. government, according to two observers of the session who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


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