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December 08, 2003The otherwise unclubbable. The Declaration of Aso Rock was swamped by Zimbabwe: the only live issue of this year's CHOGM (read all posts here). Just the same, Secretary General McKinnon's spokesman was buoyant afterwards, "The Commonwealth has been vindicated. We have stood firm on the Harare Principles."
President Obasanjo warned against talk of winners and losers, then proceeded to blame John Howard, Australian PM and Troika chair, for his role in the Zimbabwe issue...
Howard was in the air heading back to Australia and unlikely to reply. But like British PM Tony Blair, he cannot be said to have lost much in what is a faraway dispute. The real trouble lies for Mugabe's neighbours.
Mozambique's Chissano, a member of the committee of six, broke ranks almost as soon as the decision was announced. Along with Mbeki of South Africa and Mwanawasa of Zambia he's said to be furious. All are members of SADC, and it's here we may see the fallout from today's messy end.
McKinnon keeps his job after a fumbling attempt to unseat him by eleven out of the fifty four nations. Obasanjo gains greater influence as Chair-in-Council, and with some expectation that he may open up channels to Mugabe.
And CHOGM? We came expecting news on development, democracy and the Doha trade talks. Not only us, but the Nigerian press has been full of little else, while the business and people's forum all hosted lively debates.
But the heads of government produced little evidence that they had considered anything other than Zimbabwe, while quartered in the president's villa at Aso Rock. After all, can any of the Aso Rock's stated declarations (pdf) be achieved by what is, in Mugabe's words, little more than 'a mere club'?
The summit has depressed many observers. Is the Commonwealth a serious organization able to make a tangible difference - both locally and globally. Or is it an international society for the otherwise unclubbable?