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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
01ABUJA1922
2001-08-02 10:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: PRESIDENT OBASANJO'S ROLE IN ZIMBABWE

Tags:  PREL NI ZI 
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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 ABUJA 001922 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CINDY COURVILLE


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2011
TAGS: PREL NI ZI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PRESIDENT OBASANJO'S ROLE IN ZIMBABWE


REF: JETER-COURVILLE TELCON 7/30/01




1. (C) In a July 31 meeting scheduled to discuss other issues
(septel), Ambassador Jeter, accompanied by EconOff
(notetaker), raised with President Obasanjo, as promised in
reftelcon, Nigeria's continuing role in addressing the
deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Obasanjo was very
forthcoming as he explained the leadership role he has played
so far, in cooperation with Mbeki and others, in resolving
tensions between the UK and Zimbabwe over land seizures and
other issues. From his animation on this issue, it is clear
that Obasanjo will remain deeply and personally engaged.




2. (C) Obasanjo commented that he first intervened in this
issue in December 1999 after a meeting with Robin Cook where
the Foreign Secretary had expressed deep dissatisfaction with
Mugabe's unwillingness to work with the UK on the issue of
voluntary sales/transfers of white-owned land to rural
Zimbabweans. Obasanjo was later able to bring Mugabe and
Cook together to begin a constructive dialogue. The
President emphasized that Zimbabwe's neighbors, particularly
South Africa and Namibia, are "frightened stiff" over the
spill-over effect the land seizures could have on their own
countries. Obasanjo claimed that while Mugabe believed land
seizures were bringing him significant domestic political
mileage, Obasanjo thought this political mileage was at the
expense of the country's economic and social development.




3. (C) President Obasanjo recommended that land seizures
would be more effectively addressed within a forum that also
included discussion of human rights, rule of law, and
democracy issues in Zimbabwe. The President declared that
although Mugabe was not initially in favor of such an
approach, he had since acquiesced. Obasanjo claimed that
Mugabe had also agreed to stop additional land seizures,
although the Zimbabwean President ultimately will seek to
claim an additional 1.5 million hectares for a total of 5
million hectares of land available for sale/transfer to rural
Zimbabweans.


4. (C) Obasanjo mentioned that "they" (apparently a reference
to himself and Mbeki) are now looking at proposals to
establish a financing mechanism to pay for the 3.5 million
hectares already seized. Obasanjo alluded to a UK land fund,
and mentioned others in the international community,
including the U.S. and EU, who might be approached to help
cover payment for 2.5 million hectares. Although the
President did not give a monetary figure to the hectare
purchases, he said that Mugabe wants "adequate compensation;"
Obasanjo said that he favors the "willing-buyer,
willing-seller" approach. Mugabe, he said, has agreed not to
grab additional land until the funds are available to pay for
it.




5. (C) Obasanjo chided Mugabe for seeking to address this
issue through the OAU, and the inclusion of states such as
Libya. The OAU effort had gone nowhere and lacked
credibility. Instead, Obasanjo said he had recommended that
next steps on Zimbabwe be pursued through the Commonwealth
with the following countries participating: Nigeria, Jamaica,
United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and Zimbabwe. The
Commonwealth Secretary General would also take part.




6. (C) Comment. The UK DCM in Abuja has told us that HMG
does not believe the GON is an effective "honest broker"
because public comments made by Nigerian FM Sule Lamido
appear too supportive of Mugabe and GOZ hard-liners.
Nevertheless, Obasanjo is likely to remain personally engaged
on this issue, given his animation when addressing the
subject and his penchant for involvement on issues of "high
politics". End Comment.
Jeter