KOFI Annan's decision to live in his native Ghana after ending his service as Secretary General of the United Nations has meant that he is on constant call to help with Africa's problems. His negotiating skills calmed the turbulent state of Kenya after its rigged election earlier this year. Now he is involved in the situation in Zimbabwe and, for the first time, we have heard an independent voice speaking about it. Mr Annan's analysis on CNN yesterday went beyond the “Mugabe bad -Tsvangirai good” stereotypes to which we have become accustomed. He said that if Morgan Tsvangirai defeats Robert Mugabe in their run-off election on June 27 it will be essential for him to draw on the long experience of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party “if Zimbabwe is to survive.” Annan agreed that Mugabe should be condemned for his tyrannical rule but insisted that there should not be a backlash against him.

Such views may not find favour among opponents of Mugabe's regime, especially among those Zimbabweans who in recent weeks have paid for their support of Tsvangirai with beatings and burning of their homes. An article by Peter Oborne in last week's Spectator painted a disturbing first-hand account of the brutality of the Zanu-PF crackdown, including raids on almost every Anglican church in Harare on the Sunday morning when Oborne was there.

Christian forbearance will be needed in great measure if Kofi Annan's advice is to be followed should Mugabe's rule end in a months' time.