Minister Martin condemns continuing tragedy in Zimbabwe
Speaking in Seanad Éireann this afternoon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin T.D said that
"The eyes of the world are focused with sorrow and disgust on the continuing tragedy in Zimbabwe. It is opportune therefore to place on the record our shared and utter condemnation of the situation there and our rejection of the sham re-election of Robert Mugabe after a campaign of violence and other gross abuses which made free and fair elections impossible and which forced the withdrawal of Morgan Tsvangirai from the race. The principle of free and fair elections is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy.
The obscene charade on Friday last, marked by reports of terrified voters being herded to polling stations, was deeply distressing for all those endeavouring to promote peaceful change in Zimbabwe and concerned with the welfare of the Zimbabwean people. The re-inauguration of Robert Mugabe on Sunday is an insult to democracy.
Of course the reality is that Robert Mugabe has abused the current electoral process from the start, beginning with his decision to ignore the views of the MDC and proceed with presidential elections in advance of much needed constitutional and political reforms. This abuse is all the more tragic when we reflect on the courage and the hope in the future shown by the Zimbabwean people in exercising their democratic right to vote on 29th March last".
Stressing the active role Ireland was playing the Minister commented that,
"I want to make clear here today the Government’s unequivocal position that the results of last Friday’s vote cannot be regarded as legitimate or in any way constituting the democratic and free expression of the Zimbabwean people’s will.
Ireland has been extremely active in working with both the regional organisations and the countries of the Southern African region to address the current situation. Prior to the withdrawal of Morgan Tsvangirai from the run-off election, Irish Aid had provided financial support to the UN to support deployment of SADC election observers in Zimbabwe. In Malawi and Lesotho, Ireland has acted as the local Presidency to convey the EU’s concerns to the governments of those countries. Indeed, all our Missions in sub-Saharan Africa have been engaged in close dialogue with their host governments on the situation. The Irish Ambassador to South Africa and officers from the Embassy in Pretoria have made regular visits to Zimbabwe to assess the situation, most recently over the weekend, and they are available at all times to offer consular assistance to the Irish community in Zimbabwe. I would also like to pay tribute to the role of the Irish Honorary Consul in Zimbabwe, Gary Killilea, whose presence on the ground is a valuable assistance to the work of our Embassy in Pretoria.
However, it is clear that it is Zimbabwe’s African neighbours, and above all South Africa, which have the greatest potential influence and leverage.
South African President Mbeki’s mediation has, despite his very considerable efforts, on which he briefed the then Taoiseach and me when we were in South Africa in January, not brought the results at which he was aiming. However, it remains vital that South Africa, which has more influence over the situation than any other external actor, remains fully engaged. I therefore welcome yesterday’s fresh call by South Africa for talks between the regime and the MDC aimed at achieving a transitional government. The African Union should add its weight to this call – and I welcome reports that it may- and it should, with SADC and possibly the UN, work actively to put such a process in place.
Irish Aid support to the Zimbabwean people has totalled over €25 million since 2006. All of this assistance is channelled through non-governmental organisations, missionaries or UN agencies. I would like to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to the excellent work done by these valuable partners, and I am sure members of this House will join me in acknowledging the contribution which they make to the daily lives of the most vulnerable.”
Note to Editors:
The full text of the Minister speech is available on the Department of Foreign Affair’s website www.dfa.ie
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