Zimbabwean leaders won’t meet with U.N.
Angus Shaw | June 15 | 0820 edt
(AP) – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa called off a visit to Zimbabwe on Tuesday after he was told neither President Robert Mugabe nor any of his top officials were available to see him.
The U.N. World Food Program was feeding nearly 6 million people – almost half Zimbabwe’s population – at the height of last year’s lean season. It is currently feeding about 650,000 a month.
Meanwhile, more of the always good news from Zimbabwe:
The cancelled visit underscores a deepening rift between the United Nations and Zimbabwe, which says it no longer needs emergency food aid.
The government said Mugabe and other key representatives had “prior commitments” and could not meet with James Morris, who is also executive director of the World Food Program, U.N. officials said. Government officials did not immediately comment.
The trip was aimed at assessing the needs of countries affected by the “triple threat of food insecurity, weakened capacity for governance and AIDS,” WFP said in a statement.
United Nations crop forecasts estimate Zimbabwe will produce only half its food needs this year, despite the government’s insistence that there will be a bumper harvest.
Zimbabwe was once a regional breadbasket. But the often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, combined with erratic rains, have crippled the nation’s agriculture-based economy.
Opposition leaders accuse the government of lying about corn production and secretly importing food to use as a political weapon in the run-up to key parliamentary elections next year.
The state Grain Marketing Board has acknowledged receiving some food imports, but insists they are the remnants of contracts entered into last year.