Obasanjo says talks will continue


Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was one of the facilitators of the talks between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the Movement for Democratic Change, said the talks between the two parties would continue even if he had to travel to Harare personally to make that happen.

ZANU-PF had called for the suspension of the talks citing the legal challenge of the presidential elections lodged by the MDC as one of the reasons. It said the talks should be suspended until the outcome of the court case.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Obasanjo had told his deputy Gibson Sibanda during a visit to Abuja that the talks would continue despite ZANU-PF’s request for suspension.

Tsvangirai said the MDC was pursuing a four-pronged strategy in the election aftermath.

The four were participating in the inter-party talks, challenging the election results in court, organising mass action and encouraging increased international pressure on the Mugabe regime.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2002-05-14 14:24

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001151









E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2012






Classified By: Political section chief Matt Harrington.

Reasons: 1.5 (B) and (D).


1. (C) Summary: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai told us his

party is pursuing a four-pronged strategy in the election

aftermath: participating in the (now stalled) inter-party

dialogue; challenging the election result in court;

organizing mass action; and encouraging increased

international pressure on the Mugabe regime. President

Obasanjo reportedly told the MDC the talks would continue

despite ZANU-PF’s request for a suspension, even if he had to

travel to Harare personally. Tsvangirai is skeptical the

court case will result in overturning the election result,

but will expose the fraudulent tactics the ruling party

employed to win. The party’s supporters are waiting for

Tsvangirai’s word to proceed with strikes and peaceful



demonstrations, but the MDC leader wants to ensure the timing

is right before giving such an instruction. Tsvangirai

acknowledged that some radical elements have encouraged the

party to engage in violent resistance, but he claims to have

discouraged them and appears genuinely committed to peaceful

change. End Summary.


Inter-party talks



2. (C) In a May 14 breakfast with MDC leader Morgan

Tsvangirai, the Ambassador, joined by polchief, asked about



the opposition’s thinking on the way forward. Tsvangirai

replied that the MDC is pursuing a four-pronged strategy

focused on increasing the pressure on President Mugabe and

ZANU-PF. The first element is the (stalled) inter-party

dialogue. Tsvangirai expressed his belief that Mugabe had

instructed his negotiating team to pull back because he

feared he would not be able to control where the talks led.

He reported that Nigerian President Obasanjo had told MDC

Vice-President Gibson Sibanda several days before in Abuja

that the talks would go on even if Obasanjo had to travel

personally to Harare to make that happen. Although the

facilitators are trying to convince ZANU-PF to reverse its

position, the MDC, he said, is now operating on the

assumption that the talks will not resume. To reengage, the

MDC would have to be convinced that the ruling party was

sincere about making progress, and did not insist on

precondictions for dialogue. “Look,” Tsvangirai stressed,

“I’ve come under significant pressure for participating in

these talks at all,” given the serious doubts about Mugabe’s

legitimacy. “Many of our supporters are afraid we’re going

to get hoodwinked.” (Comment: later on May 14, the Nigerian

High Commissioner told us the facilitators are actively

pressing for resumption of the talks and were scheduled to

meet with President Mugabe at noon. They were strung along

by the ruling party side without a definitive answer most of

May 13.)


Legal challenge



3. (C) The second element of the MDC’s post-election

strategy is the recently-filed court challenge of the

election results. ZANU-PF, he said, seems at a loss as to

how to respond. He is dubious that the election result will

be overturned, asking “who would have the courage to deliver

such a ruling?” The real value of the legal case, however,

is that it provides a public forum for the exposure of the

ruling party’s electoral tactics.


Mass action



4. (C) Ultimately, Tsvangirai thought peaceful mass action

in the form of strikes and demonstrations might be the most

effective course of action. He noted that he has been

holding well-attended rallies around the country, where the

crowds have pressed hard for the party to “do something” to

stanch the continued political and economic decline. The

Ambassador asked whether the MDC would lead such an effort,

or whether it would be more appropriate or effective for an

organization such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

(ZCTU) to be in the forefront. The MDC is the appropriate

actor, he replied, as the Zimbabwean crisis is caused by

broad political and economic issues and is not, at its core,

a labor problem. People around the country are waiting for

his word to launch mass action, Tsvangirai said, but he wants

to ensure the timing is right. Asked whether such action

could be imminent, the MDC leader replied in the affirmative.

(Note: Tsvangirai’s special advisor, Gandi Mudzingwa, told

us several days earlier that mass action could begin as early

as late May. End Note.)

International pressure



5. (C) Continued international pressure on the Mugabe regime

is crucial to a positive resolution of the crisis here,

Tsvangirai insisted. Targeted sanctions were helpful, and he



urged that those measures currently in place be broadened and

toughened. The degree of international attention on Zimbabwe

would also be an important factor in the timing of mass

action. Tsvangirai said he wanted to avoid giving the

instruction to proceed if the international community was, at

that moment, consumed by major developments or crises in

another part of the world.


Paramilitary planning



6. (C) The Ambassador told Tsvangirai that some people —

most of them outside the MDC’s formal party structure —

have, in recent conversations with us, advocated an

unconventional paramilitary campaign against the government.

Such an approach, he warned, could give the government the

excuse it has long sought to crush the MDC. It would also

have little prospect of success, since the instruments of

force are overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of the

ruling party. The Ambassador said we had strongly

discouraged these interlocutors from engaging in such

activity and he hoped that Tsvangirai would do the same if

approached. The MDC leader replied that every party contains

radical elements, and he acknowledged that some had urged him

to pursue the road of violent resistance. He said that some

ex-Rhodesians who wanted the MDC to adopt their violent ideas

were also being turned aside. Tsvangirai agreed that such an

approach could have disastrous consequences and, despite

criticism from some quarters that he is a weak leader,

continues to believe in and press for peaceful change.


Less violence, but more discrimination in food distribution

——————————————— ————–


7. (C) Tsvangirai believed that violence against MDC

supporters in rural areas has begun to ease. His primary

worry in rural areas is the political manipulation of food,

particularly that MDC supporters are being denied access to

scarce food supplies controlled by the government’s Grain

Marketing Board.





8. (C) Tsvangirai did not seem disappointed by ZANU-PF’s

reluctance to continue with the inter-party dialogue. He had

low expectations anyway, and ZANU-PF’s apparent intransigence

can only help the MDC’s diplomatic efforts to ramp up the

pressure on the Mugabe regime. However, if the facilitators

convince the ruling party to come back to the table, the MDC

will feel immense pressure to follow suit, notwithstanding

Tsvangirai’s rejection of preconditions. The opposition



party has been working actively with its structures around

the country to organize mass action, but it is not clear to

us how successful those efforts have been. MDC rallies have

had good turnouts for a non-election period. We believe

Tsvangirai remains convinced for now that peaceful resistance



is the best way to effect positive change and we will

continue to strongly counsel him in this direction.




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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