Western powers have no moral right to demonise Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda said on yesterday.
Kaunda, one of the few African statesmen with Mugabe's liberation-era credentials, said Zimbabwe's economic and political woes were largely due to "broken promises" by former colonial power Britain on land reforms.
"Mugabe should not be demonised ... he will not accept any humiliation. He needs to be talked to see sense in doing something to change things in Zimbabwe because he is a victim of broken promises from Britain," Kaunda told Reuters.
"We need to find an answer and not to throw accusations at him."
Kaunda said Zimbabwe required the immediate intervention of African leaders and this would have to be through talks that brought Mugabe and leader of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, together.
Tsvangirai was badly beaten this month after he attempted to attend a banned protest rally, spurring international condemnation of Mugabe's government.
Act quickly to guide Mugabe
Few African governments have joined in the criticism. Zambia's President, Levy Mwanawasa, said the region would have to agree on a new approach to Mugabe.
Kaunda said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano and other African leaders should act quickly to guide Mugabe and Tsvangirai towards a negotiated settlement.
"Of course, what is happening in Zimbabwe needs to be solved and African leaders must get involved," he said.
BRITAIN AT FAULT?
Kaunda accused the British government of failing to honour a 1979 agreement to carry out land reforms in its former colony to rectify post-independence imbalances in land ownership between black and white.
Kaunda played a major role in the independence of Zimbabwe from Britain in 1980.
"I attended a meeting in London where (former British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher agreed to help Zimbabwe to carry out a land redistribution exercise, but when the Labour Party came to power, they withdrew from the programme," Kaunda said.