Queen congratulates Zimbabweans

HARARE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has wished Zimbabwe a happy Independence and prosperity in the coming year.

The 86-year-old British monarch sent the message to the people of Zimbabwe from Buckingham Palace on April 18, the day the southern African country gained its independence from British colonial rule 33 years ago.

“It gives me great pleasure to send the people of Zimbabwe my congratulations on the celebration of your National Day, together with my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity in the coming year,” Queen Elizabeth II said in a terse statement.

The British head of State, who last year celebrated 60 years on the throne, did not acknowledge Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe in her statement in an uncharacteristic move by a head of State wishing well for another country.

Mugabe, 89, who has ruled the former British colony since 1980, likes the British Queen, but not so much the politicians at No 10 Downing Street.

In 2009, Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president, was stripped of a knighthood issued by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

The Zimbabwean leader accuses the former colonial power of interfering inhis country’s domestic affairs.

The Queen’s message is significant as relations between the two countries have entered a new phase, with Britain and the European Union suspending most sanctions first imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002, in protest against human rights abuses and violations of democracy under Mugabe’s rule.

The former colonial power, which has regularly clashed with Mugabe, has said EU sanctions remained in place on a small core of people around the president.

“That small group includes those who we believe ultimately carry the most responsibility for ensuring elections are free of violence and intimidation,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

In an address to mark 33 years of independence, Mugabe said he will not brook any foreign interference in the forthcoming poll to end the coalition. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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