Commonwealth group woos Zimbabwe back

THE Commonwealth Chief has asked Zimbabwe to change its hardliner position and return into the 53-member state organisation.

THE Commonwealth Chief has asked Zimbabwe to change its hardliner position and return into the 53-member state organisation.

The organisation’s Secretary General Don McKinnon said in Kampala, Uganda this week that the Commonwealth’s doors were still open for Zimbabwe, and urged Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to sweet-talk the former British colony to change its position.

Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 after it faced suspension. President Robert Mugabe’s government said it did not see any value in belonging to an organisation that “has nothing to offer”.

“It was certainly sad and difficult for us all to see Zimbabwe go beyond suspension to withdraw itself from the Commonwealth in 2003.

I have to respect that decision even if I don’t agree with it; that’s their sovereign right. What it means is that we leave our options open,” Mckinnon (above) said on Monday.  

“The Commonwealth’s door will always be open and welcoming to Zimbabwe’s return.

Meanwhile, the best we can do is to encourage the SADC process, led by (South African) President Thabo Mbeki (to play a leading role in that,” MacKinnon added at the opening of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institution.

However, the Commonwealth chief said suspension of member states as a form of punishment to human rights abusers would stay.

“I believe that the Commonwealth has not just matched international commitments to human rights but tried hard to set the bar even higher – to say that we expect a greater commitment, and higher standards.

The Commonwealth capacity to suspend members is perhaps the most visible way in which we can show how serious we are about this,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s suspension was based on human rights violations, including expulsion of white farmers. 

Mckinnon said that 19 of the Commonwealth member countries have yet to ratify the two 1966 UN conventions on civil and political rights, and social and economic rights.

Rwanda applied to join Commonwealth club, which largely brings together UK and its former colonies.

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