Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Malloch Brown Will Face a Zimbabwe Question
By BENNY AVNI April 14, 2008
Here is a question I plan to ask Britain's Minister Mark Malloch Brown, who will visit his old Turtle Bay stomping grounds this week: Are the U.N. Development Program's representatives in Zimbabwe too close to the dictator Robert Mugabe?
President Mugabe, who for decades has held back his country's potential for success on the pretext of fighting colonialist ghosts, is justly one of Britain's least favorite world leaders. He is currently involved in a fight for his long political life, attempting to steal the recent election. Mr. Malloch Brown, whose role for the British government includes responsibility for Africa and the United Nations, would score a victory for British Prime Minister Brown — and for himself — if he gets the Security Council involved in Zimbabwe during this week's summit of world and African leaders here. But more about that later.
Prior to joining Britain's government, Mr. Malloch Brown was the U.N.'s deputy secretary-general. Before that, between 1999 and 2005, as the UNDP's administrator, he was hailed by admirers as a forceful leader who made sweeping changes at the agency, and created practices and policies that govern its activities to this very day.
It was therefore entirely appropriate for Baroness Park of Monmouth to address Lord Malloch Brown during an April 3 debate on African issues in Britain's House of Lords. "Unless the present head of the UNDP" — Agostinho Zacarias — "is withdrawn, there will not be very much confidence in the U.N.'s role in the future of Zimbabwe," Ms. Park was quoted as saying by Zimbabwe's Sunday news. "Two successive UNDP leaders" — Victor Angelo and Mr. Zacarias — "have been far too close" to Mr. Mugabe.
A UNDP spokesman, David Morrison, told me the agency has looked into the matter of whether its officials ever accepted land from Mr. Mugabe and has determined that the charge is unfounded. Privately, UNDP officials wonder how they could ever operate in dictatorships without being considered "too close" to the local dictator.
Zimbabwe's crisis is not expected to be on the agenda of Wednesday's special Security Council meeting on Africa's relations with the United Nations, called by Prime Minister Mbeki of South Africa, which holds the rotating council presidency in April. Mr. Brown will represent Britain, and will be accompanied by Mr. Malloch Brown.
Currently, issues involving Sudan-Chad, Somalia, Kenya, and other African crises are expected to be discussed only "at the margin" of the council's summit, as a Western diplomat put it last week. Mr. Mbeki was hoping to raise Africa's profile in general, and to stress international coordination on the continent. He certainly did not intend to embarrass Mr. Mugabe. On his way to this weekend's emergency meeting of southern African leaders, Mr. Mbeki defied some of his neighbor's wishes, stopping by for a visit with Mr. Mugabe in Harare. There is "no crisis in Zimbabwe," Mr. Mbeki announced, indicating no change in his long-held opposition to international intervention in his neighbor's affairs.
The London Times reported over the weekend that to soften such opposition, Mr. Malloch Brown is conducting a "discreet" visit to Beijing, where he would try to leverage worldwide anger over China's policies in Tibet and Sudan to convince the Communist regime to drop its support for Mr. Mugabe. China has long insisted that problems in places like Burma and Sudan — not to mention Tibet or Taiwan — do not add up to threats to international peace and security, the threshold for Security Council action. getting Beijing, a veto-wielding council member, in this case to drop such opposition could help pave the way for a British-led action on Zimbabwe.
The British prime minister is the highest-ranking official among the Security Council's permanent members planning to attend Wednesday's council meeting and the press in London will laugh at him if he returns home without action on Mr. Mugabe. Conversely, Mr. Malloch Brown will be crowned a hero if the council does issue at least a statement on Zimbabwe. But first, Mr. Malloch Brown will have to field a question about the role there of the UNDP he once led.