By Toby Reynolds
The deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe shot to the fore at the World Summit in Johannesburg on Monday when Namibia's president slammed Western sanctions imposed on the troubled southern African state.
Harking back to colonial exploitation of the African continent, President Sam Nujoma singled out British Prime Minister Tony Blair as being at the root of one of the region's biggest problems.
"We here in southern Africa have one big problem, created by the British. The honourable Tony Blair is here, and he created the situation in Zimbabwe," Nujoma said in his address to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
"The EU, who have imposed the sanctions against Zimbabwe, must raise them immediately, otherwise it is useless to come here," he told a crowded hall.
The EU slapped sanctions on President Robert Mugabe's government earlier this year to protest against a March presidential election, which the EU deemed illegitimate, and the seizure of white-owned farms.
Blair, who took the floor about 10 minutes after Nujoma's address, did not respond to the accusations.
"His focus is exclusively on the outcome of the summit," a spokesperson said, adding that the Namibian President's words were not a surprise. "He has been saying it for years."
Asked about Zimbabwe at a news conference, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that the rest of the world should join the EU in imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
"I think the whole international community should adopt such a firm stance," he said. "Personally, I don't see any need for further steps... Everybody is aware of our strong criticism of President Mugabe."
Mugabe has vowed to press ahead with the eviction of 2 900 of the country's 4 500 remaining white commercial farmers, despite legal challenges at home and criticism in the West.
About 1 500 people gathered on Monday for an anti-Mugabe march outside the plush conference centre where heads of state and government delegates were discussing a UN plan to cut poverty while protecting the environment.
That protest was called by a South African opposition party on behalf of commercial farmers in Zimbabwe whose land had been seized. Most of the marchers were black South Africans.
Nujoma said those farms represented most of the land in Zimbabwe and millions of poor Zimbabweans had no land.
"The British colonial settlers in Zimbabwe today, they own 78 percent of the land in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe is a tiny country," he said. "It has 14 million indigenous (people) who have no land."
He said Africa had been oppressed in the past and was still suffering from that oppression, referring to the slave trade that shipped blacks to the Americas to work on plantations.
"The Africans who were taken there are being discriminated (against) in America and South America... They are the underdogs, they are the poorest of the world.
"We, the African people, have suffered more than any other nation in the world," Nujoma said.