Raila Flies Out Into Mugabe Firestorm

Nairobi — A visit to Zimbabwe by Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Friday has provoked vicious attacks from state media.\r\n

The government-owned press launched attacks on Mr Odinga after he accepted an invitation to a congress for a party led by a fierce rival of President Robert Mugabe.

\r\n

Mr Odinga’s office in Nairobi confirmed that he will officially open Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party congress in the second city of Bulawayo on Friday.

\r\n

\r\n

While Mr Odinga has agreed to speak at the MDC meeting, it is not clear whether Mr Mugabe might try to keep Mr Odinga out of the country.

\r\n

However, State media propaganda against the PM’s party has gone into overdrive in what analysts say is a reflection of widening cracks in Zimbabwe’s coalition government.

\r\n

The state owned Herald newspaper, which usually reflects the thinking in President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, described Mr Odinga as a merchant of violence.

\r\n

\r\n

Dictatorial streak

\r\n

“Raila Odinga is a political schizophrenic. His rhetoric oozes with (sic) refined contemporary democracy dogma but his actions reveal a very violent and dictatorial streak.

\r\n

“The exorbitant nature of this obsessive preoccupation with violence is rivalled by a few in modern day African. His proclivity for violence can be traced to his student days.”

\r\n

Mr Mugabe’s sympathisers have never forgiven Mr Odinga for calling for the 87 year-old leader’s exit in a 2008 interview with BBC.

\r\n

In the interview, the Kenyan Prime Minister called on African leaders to push Mugabe out of power because he was a stumbling block to political reform in Zimbabwe.

\r\n

\r\n

The Zimbabwean power-sharing deal that brought opposition leader Tsvangirai into government was modelled on the Kenyan agreement after the disputed 2007 elections that saw Mr Odinga become prime minister while Mr Mwai Kibaki retained the presidency.

\r\n

The MDC congress whose theme will be “United Winning Covenant for Real Change” started on Thursday afternoon and ends on Saturday.

\r\n

All the executive positions will be contested at the congress except the presidency and party leadership which will remain in the hands of Mr Tsvangirai.

\r\n

Zimbabwe’s unity government was also formed after contested elections in 2008. Mr Mugabe declared victory in a one-man presidential runoff after a violent campaign against the MDC and its supporters.

\r\n

This led to the signing of the Global Political Agreement, similar to Kenya’s National Accord, that created the unity government.

\r\n

Early this month acerbic comments in the state owned Sunday Mail newspaper precipitated a diplomatic row between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

\r\n

One of the paper’s columnists and a former Information Minister in Mugabe’s previous government attacked South African President Jacob Zuma saying he was not a suitable mediator in Zimbabwe’s crisis.

\r\n

Mr Mugabe had to send emissaries to apologise to Zuma following the public fallout. – Daily Nation