Saturday, August 08, 2009

KK urges Commonwealth to help Zim’s unity govt

KK urges Commonwealth to help Zim’s unity govt
Written by Bivan Saluseki
Saturday, August 08, 2009 1:52:02 PM

DR Kenneth Kaunda has said the slow road to recovery in Zimbabwe shows that it is high time for the Commonwealth to engage proactively with the Government of National Unity. And former Australian prime minister Malcom Fraser has said if the Commonwealth is to survive as an effective organisation, it should not be shy and retiring.

In interviews conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society to mark the Lusaka Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which took place 30 years ago this week in August 1979 paving the way for Rhodesian independence, Dr Kaunda said if Zimbabwe was one of the Commonwealth's greatest successes, it was also one of its greatest failures.

Dr Kaunda said no one predicted that the country, to which the Commonwealth gave birth, would end up leaving the fold in 2003.

"A number of Commonwealth leaders have been quietly involved in Zimbabwe over the years, but the Commonwealth itself could have been more influential and arguably did not marshal its resources early enough or adequately enough. Zimbabwe belongs within the Commonwealth family, and we should welcome her back. The Commonwealth could be the perfect vehicle to help Zimbabwe bring sustainable economic and social development to its people," he said.

"For this to happen, the relationships between Commonwealth leaders need to be nurtured. One of the unique strengths of the Commonwealth is the CHOGM retreat. Sitting down for two days with your fellow Heads of Government and really getting to know one another better might terrify our officials, but it is an invaluable way to engender trust and build fruitful relationships. Retreats are times to roll up our sleeves and get down to business - as we demonstrated in Lusaka."

But, as the time available for retreats is curtailed by leaders' increasingly crowded schedules, Dr Kaunda said the CHOGM risked becoming just another meeting and, if it did not take decisive action on topical issues, it would become indistinguishable from other international summits.

Dr Kaunda said there could be no doubt that the role of the Commonwealth remained as important today as ever.

He said the myriad of problems facing the world needed resolute action from international organisations such as the Commonwealth.

"Our current leaders should continue to use this organisation to search for solutions to the challenges confronting the human race," he said.

Dr Kaunda said white rule in Rhodesia had been a thorny issue in Commonwealth debates for many years before 1979.

He said but in Lusaka, it was clear that something had to be done or the Commonwealth risked becoming irrelevant in global peace building

"We knew when we gathered at the CHOGM leaders' retreat, that reaching agreement would not be easy, particularly given the apparent intransigence of the British position," he said. "But the Commonwealth did what it does best: among its hugely diverse members and in the face of complex negotiations, it found consensus. We emerged from the CHOGM not only with a commitment to genuine majority rule, but with a promise from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to hold a London conference - Lancaster House - that led to Zimbabwean independence in 1980. The CHOGM's accompanying Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice was a clarion call to equality, and remains a fundamental Commonwealth document to this day."

Dr Kaunda said as the chair of that important conference, he looked back on it with a deep sense of nostalgia.

"After years of conflict and devastation, and the protracted efforts to resolve the question of Zimbabwe, the Lusaka summit enabled us to find a just and lasting solution to that vexing issue. It was an epoch-making moment," he said.

Dr Kaunda said there was little doubt that the Lusaka CHOGM was one of the Commonwealth's greatest accomplishments.

"Where many other organisations had failed, the Commonwealth succeeded in effecting radical and lasting change. We came together with a collective unity of purpose and a determination to move beyond rhetoric into action," he said.

Dr Kaunda said alongside everything, the Commonwealth needed a Secretary-General who was committed to action; someone who could lead discussions on the most difficult of issues with the right balance of force and moderation.

"I am pleased that the Commonwealth has always been blessed with vibrant and visionary Secretaries-General," he said.

And Fraser said current leaders, and a strong Secretary-General, must put more effort in to make sure that the Commonwealth achieves its potential.

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