Controversial Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is heading for Zimbabwe next week and human rights activities are already planning protests.
Ahmadinejad will open a trade exhibition set for the second largest city of Bulawayo on the April 23 2010.
Human rights activists and journalist have condemned the invitation extended to the Iranian leader by President Mugabe. They say the only “sensible thing” the two leaders would do is “exchange notes on dictatorship”.
In inviting Ahmadinejad, Mugabe’s spokesperson said, “President Ahmadinejad will open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair this year on April 23, said George Charamba.
It would be the first time that a leader from both the Persian Gulf and outside Africa has been to Zimbabwe to officially open the annual premier trade exhibition.
Over the last decade, Zimbabwe’s premier business exhibition has lost its glamour as international exhibitors mainly from Europe have been shunning the exhibition due to the political situation.
Local firms including a dairy company owned by First Lady Grace Mugabe is this year shunning the exhibition as little business is generated.
Campaigners against Ahmadinejad’s visit say it is worrying for Zimbabwe to be still interested in nurturing friendships with repressive regimes at a time it should be closing ranks with progressive governments.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemned the decision by Mugabe’s government to invite Ahmadinejad, who is viewed worldwide as an incorrigible dictator.
Said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson said, “We see the visit by the Iranian leader as part of the exchange of notes between the Zimbabwean government and the Iranian dictator.
“We are really worried that our government is still interested in making friendships with repressive regime at a time it should be closing ranks with progressive governments.”
ZimRights director Okay Machisa says they would not recognize Ahmadinejad saying his track record of rights abuses was well documented and unacceptable. “The big question is who invited him… was there any consensus within the inclusive government?” he asked.
Movement for Democratic Change has not issued a statement.
The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the largest journalist representative body says Ahmadinejad’s visit is “from a journalism perspective is no cause for journalists especially in Zimbabwe to celebrate especially as his country and Zimbabwe are viewed as serious violators of press freedom”.
Mugabe has over the last few years sought to strengthen ties with Asian and Middle Eastern countries under what he calls a “Look East policy”.
In February we reported that a state of the art helicopter training repair center is being set up in Zimbabwe by Iran. Iran and Zimbabwe have also signed several joint venture deals ranging from agriculture to telecommunication and broadcasting that led to the digitalization of the state controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation’s television studios in Harare.
Pic: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe