The politics of pressure, the world and Zimbabwe

Published on openDemocracy, by Roger Southall, June 26, 2008.

The international reaction to Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the presidential run-off election scheduled for 27 June 2008 may prove to be a key moment in the long-haul campaign to bring about political change and a return to democracy in Zimbabwe. Nelson Mandela’s pithy reference to the country’s “tragic failure of leadership” is only the most resonant of a range of critical judgments from African leaders; the latter enabled passage of an unprecedented and unanimous United Nations Security Council statement condemning violence against Zimbabwe’s opposition and saying that this has rendered a free and fair poll impossible …

… A new motion: Any credible answer to these and related questions depends on carrots and sticks. Much is made of the prospect of an “honourable” exit for Mugabe and amnesty for him and his politico-military cronies from domestic and international prosecution for multiple offences against domestic and international laws covering a myriad of crimes from corruption to genocide. Such concessions, distasteful though they may be, will have to be convincing (especially in the light of Charles Taylor’s arraignment before the special court for Sierra Leone in the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, following the revocation of his immunity from prosecution in Nigeria). A massive infusion of international economic assistance and humanitarian relief, with particular material acknowledgment by Britain of its historic responsibility for the present mess, will also be called for.

Yet to be effective, such a breakthrough would require consistent and focused international pressure. This would include serious international supervision of the electoral process (eventually with an army of international monitors – not just observers – on the ground) and very possibly a significant presence of African peacekeeping troops (in the name of either or both the AU and UN) to neutralise the influence of the Zimbabwean military.

There has been little indication from Mbeki hitherto that his recommendation of a GoNU carries real weight, his preference for a reformed (if preferably Mugabe-less) Zanu-PF over the MDC having long gone before him. But circumstances are changing rapidly, with drastic action needed to prevent Zimbabwe falling further into the abyss. The silver lining is that for the first time there are prospects of Africa and the west coming together on how to deal with Robert Mugabe, and in doing so offering a glimmer of light to Zimbabwe’s hard-pressed people. (full text).

Links:

The Zimbabwe Situation, daily update;

The Zimbabwean a newspaper;

The country profile: on BBC; on the CIA world-factbook; on wikipedia;

Zimbabwe on all’Africa.

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