(AFP) – Jul 4, 2008
GABORONE (AFP) — Botswana's government urged its neighbours Friday not to recognise Robert Mugabe's re-election in a one-man presidential poll as it reiterated calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from a regional bloc.
"As a country that practices democracy and the rule of law, Botswana does not ... recognise the outcome of the presidential run-off election, and would expect other SADC member states to do the same," Foreign Minister Phandu Sekelemani said.
On Tuesday, Botswana called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) meetings.
Sekelemani said violence ahead of the June 27 run-off election "was not conducive to the holding of a free and fair election", adding that unrest "resulted in the loss of lives, destruction of property and displacement of people from their homes."
"It is therefore Botswana's position that Zimbabwe not be allowed to participate in SADC meetings until such time that they demonstrate their commitment to strictly adhere to the organisation's principles," he said.
Sekelemani's comments came as Mugabe arrived back home to a hero's welcome by his followers after an African Union summit in Egypt, where he avoided serious censure after the widely condemned election that handed him a sixth term as president.
AU leaders shunned calls for Mugabe's suspension or the imposition of sanctions over Zimbabwe's political crisis and instead passed a resolution calling for the formation of a national unity government.
Botswana had taken a harder line on Zimbabwe, and Sekelemani told reporters he believed international condemnation would get Mugabe's attention.
"He did say in Egypt recently that he was saddened by the position of Botswana," the foreign minister said of Mugabe.
"I could see it in his face that the old man was really sad, but I pray that he understands it is not personal."
Sekelemani said Botswana agreed mediation should continue, but called for such efforts to "be expedited, given a defined time frame, and conducted in an atmosphere of mutual trust and good faith, where both parties are treated as equal partners."
He also expressed support for South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts in Zimbabwe despite widespread criticism of Mbeki's quiet diplomacy approach.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted Zimbabwe's presidential run-off, citing rising violence against supporters he blamed on Mugabe thugs and which left some 90 dead and thousands injured.
Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the March 29 first round of the election, but with an official vote total just short of an outright majority.
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