WRITING while the African Union summit meeting in Egypt is apparently still in session, it is difficult to predict what contribution, if any, this summit will make to solving the crisis over Zimbabwe. From the few available accounts of the progress of this tightly-sealed gathering it seems that President Mugabe did not get a standing ovation when he entered the conference room, as has happened on previous occasions. That was something.

But while there were reports of comradely presidential embraces in the corridors of the conference hall there was none of the cold-shouldering of Mugabe. Two African leaders have spoken out strongly to the media: Sierra Leone's Ernest Koroma said that the Zimbabwean people had been denied their rights and Mugabe should be condemned; Kenya's prime minister, Raila Odinga, said that Zimbabwe should be expelled from the African Union. Such reliable reports as have been heard suggest that discussions are centring on a resolution calling for talks between Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to discuss a government of national unity or reconciliation; a new constitution and even new elections have also been mentioned. Of course, in most circumstances that would make sense - something of the kind got Kenya out of the dangerous mess it was in earlier this year followed a rigged election. But Zimbabwe's circumstances are quite different and it would be a brave - or perhaps foolish - man who sat down with Mugabe thinking he would get anything constructive or trustworthy out of it in the long term.


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