British Conservatives endorsed by… Robert Mugabe!

Ever eager to criticize the sitting British government, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe piped in today with an endorsement of the Conservative party’s David Cameron in the British election. This is, to be sure, more of an indictment (if that’s the right word…) of Brown than a boost for Cameron. "Conservatives are bold, [Tony] Blair and ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images
DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images
DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images

Ever eager to criticize the sitting British government, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe piped in today with an endorsement of the Conservative party's David Cameron in the British election. This is, to be sure, more of an indictment (if that's the right word...) of Brown than a boost for Cameron. "Conservatives are bold, [Tony] Blair and [Gordon] Brown run away when they see me, but not these fools, they know how to relate to others," Mugabe said.

(Apparently Mugabe hasn't done his homework: in 2008, Cameron told a Chatham House audience that Britain should be ready to send a big aid package to Zimbabwe ... if and when Mugabe has been voted out.)

Timing is everything on this odd piece of news. Just today, Robert Mugabe announced that he plans to stand again in Zimbabwe's next election -- just days after celebrating his 86th birthday. South African President Jacob Zuma was also in London today meeting with Gordon Brown, a visit during which Zuma pushed for an end to sanctions on Zimbabwe's unity government. Brown declined, citing the need for "free and fair" elections first.  (Sadly, not likely if Mugabe is still around.)

Ever eager to criticize the sitting British government, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe piped in today with an endorsement of the Conservative party’s David Cameron in the British election. This is, to be sure, more of an indictment (if that’s the right word…) of Brown than a boost for Cameron. "Conservatives are bold, [Tony] Blair and [Gordon] Brown run away when they see me, but not these fools, they know how to relate to others," Mugabe said.

(Apparently Mugabe hasn’t done his homework: in 2008, Cameron told a Chatham House audience that Britain should be ready to send a big aid package to Zimbabwe … if and when Mugabe has been voted out.)

Timing is everything on this odd piece of news. Just today, Robert Mugabe announced that he plans to stand again in Zimbabwe’s next election — just days after celebrating his 86th birthday. South African President Jacob Zuma was also in London today meeting with Gordon Brown, a visit during which Zuma pushed for an end to sanctions on Zimbabwe’s unity government. Brown declined, citing the need for "free and fair" elections first.  (Sadly, not likely if Mugabe is still around.)

It’s all quite depressing, really. In recent months, Zuma has convinced Mugabe’s partners in the coalition government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)  to drop all their outstanding demands from the Mugabe camp so that negotiations can really focus on just one: free and fair elections in what will likely be 2012. Now that it’s certain Mugabe will be in the ring, still fighting, the prospects of even that one request are ever the more bleak.  For Zimbabwe, it doesn’t quite matter who’s prime minister in London.

Hat tip: Alex Massie, guest-blogging on the Daily Dish. 

For more, I appeared on the Leonard Lopate show today to talk about Zimbabwe. Listen here.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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