Zimbabwe let down by international community
However, in today’s political terms it appears the term international community denotes the EU, UN Security Council, US and UK. The term international community resonated very well with the people of Zimbabwe because of its association with the first liberation of the people 26 years back.
Since the early 1990s when the Zanu PF government started tempering with the Lancaster House Constitution to bring about change in the land policy, relations with major players of international community took a nose dive resulting in the imposition of the unofficial economic sanctions and an arms embargo.
The sanctions although technically described as ‘Targeted Sanctions’ have resulted in untold suffering for the generality of Zimbabweans when the targeted people, the politicians per ser are not affected at all. It was again during this period when the most formidable and promising opposition party (MDC) in Zimbabwe was formed. For a few years the international community supported the opposition party in different ways and the people invested some hopes in the International community.
Now the international community seems to be gradually drifting away from not only the discredited government of Zimbabwe but unfortunately from the people of Zimbabwe as well. The people of Zimbabwe are ironically being treated as part of the collateral damage in the war with Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.
The name Zimbabwe today makes very sad reading both at home and abroad. Being a Zimbabwean now equates to some measure of ridicule as much as the Nigerians have been fairly or unfairly associated with top notch international fraud and chicanery. The international corporate media BBC, Civil, Reuters etc have all had their fair share of negative reportage on Zimbabwe ostensibly not because they believe in their stories but because there is absolutely nothing news worth in Zimbabwe these days.
Cricket and Tennis are dead courtesy of the Chingoka brothers who seem to have inherited the Zanu PF ‘hatiende syndrome’ at the expense of the success of these formerly successful games. Football, rugby and athletics are all dead, what’s left now is the people’s nostalgic thoughts of the once glorious past. In essence, the fact remains that there is nothing positive happening in Zimbabwe. The situation is just not conducive for any organised business sanity save for the already established organisations. Even the established businesses are struggling to survive the harsh operational conditions. In this instance, the people of Zimbabwe need to be respected and honoured for their resilience and determination to survive under very hostile political, social and economical conditions.
The Zanu PF government blames the current hardships on the International community which they accuse of being motivated by colonialism, racism and a desire to protect white farmers from land reform efforts by the estranged Harare administration. The international community mainly the EU, UK and US attribute their harsh treatment of the Harare administration to its failure to uphold basic human rights, the absence of rule of law, bad governance and failure to implement basic fundamentals of democracy. The Harare administration also stands accused a siege mentality, increased political repression, decent and most crucially unprecedented economic collapse.
However, in view of the aforementioned it is my contention that the major actors of the International community, the UK and US and UN Security Council members as a cartel have dismally failed the people of Zimbabwe. The UK as the former colonial power could have done more to save the people of Zimbabwe who have done so much for the economy of the UK. The UK should have sought a more effective and perhaps less hostile policy to resolve their differences with the political charges in Zimbabwe. It is common knowledge that when the regime in Zimbabwe is under intense international pressure they become even more repressive to the people. Maybe it was time to combine both carefully crafted tough diplomacy and open dialogue at the same time.
The UK’s careless tough and high toned rhetoric has not worked and may not work in its current configuration. There is need to consider both bilateralism and multilateralism as potential avenues of conflict resolution with Harare. There are times when it is imperative to talk to your enemies in order to achieve the best outcome out of a difficult and complicated situation. London talks tough on Zimbabwe but without backing its tough lingua Franca and critique with enough sustained action or diplomacy, severely undermining its credibility as a trouble shooter.
The Blair government could have used it leverage over South Africa (Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner and close political ally) to force Mr Mugabe and his Zanu PF government to comply with demands for constitutional and electoral reforms, workable economic policies, a rational and peaceful land reform process resulting in better life prospects for Zimbabweans.
The UK and US have failed particularly in convincing other influential governments especially in the South to take a stronger stand on Zimbabwe at forums such as United Nations Security Council. Ironically, China, Russia and the bulk of African countries and their counterparts from other developing countries have categorically stated in many different platforms that Zimbabwe does not warrant discussions at the Security Council as they claim it is not a threat to international peace and security. One wonders why the same measure of international importance placed on Darfur in Sudan can not be accorded to Zimbabwe. The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe warrants the intervention of the international community at the highest level and this needs to happen sooner than later.
The current ‘Interests based diplomacy’ by sections of the international community has also condemned Zimbabwe to political Siberia. If Zimbabwe was some diamond rich Botswana, oil rich Iraq and Iran and nuclear threat North Korea more efforts and determination could have been invested towards resolving the political impasse and economic malaise In the 2002 presidential elections in Zimbabwe the UK and US in particular were very vocal and critical of the outcome of the election which they said was marred by serious irregularities.
Logically, it was expected the two countries would review their diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. Many expected the two countries to either relocate their embassies or downgrade their representation to Charge de Affairs level as a protest to the conduct of the Harare administration. Paradoxically, a few years later the two countries replaced their ambassadors to Harare thus reaffirming their approval of the Zanu PF government and this ostensibly demonstrated their double standards.
To make matters worse for the ordinary Zimbabweans at home, soon after the presidential elections in Zimbabwe a new visa regime was introduced to curtail the number of people from Zimbabwe visiting the UK including asylum seekers. In short it could be argued that the UK policy on Zimbabwe in particular has been characterised by inconsistencies/ contradiction s and has been largely ineffective.
The UN under Kofi Annan has been very critical of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe including the Operation Murambatsvina. A lot of diplomatic travel between Harare and the UN offices in New York, Geneva and Nairobi happened but nothing concrete beyond words of condemnation from Kofi Annan and his two lieutenants Anna Tibajika and Humanitarian disaster expert Egland ever materialised.
In essence Kofi Annan could have influenced the UN Security Council to act strongly on Zimbabwe but preferred romantic diplomacy with Harare whose outcome has been disastrous as has happened to South Africa’s so called Quiet Diplomacy. Mr Annan allegedly pledged urgent UN action after Operation Murambatsvina to mobilise international humanitarian assistance to prevent further suffering to the victims but this never materialised. However, to be fair to the International community, the Harare administration has been making life very difficult for anyone wishing to work with it on humanitarian aid and political reform.
SADC has also been a grotesque institutional fiasco in diplomatic terms in as far as the Zimbabwean issue is concerned. They pass resolutions they are incapable of enforcing when it comes to Zimbabwe. It raises questions as to whether SADC is effective and responsible to its founding charter.
The situation in Zimbabwe is very dire when SADC are looking and pretending as if Zimbabwe does not exist. Zimbabwe is never seriously discussed at SADC summits and where it is discussed it is only in passing and without according it the seriousness it deserves. The best we have heard from the SADC secretariat so far is that ‘the leaders are disturbed by the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and are carefully monitoring the situation’.
The African Union has equally been ineffective; they are more concerned about Darfur and the coup soap operas in West Africa. The AU and several African governments refuse to publicly condemn human rights violations and also choose to remain silent on issues of democracy, human rights and good governance in Zimbabwe. This apparent lack of sustained attention to criticise Zimbabwe on its poor human rights situation raises questions about the effectiveness of the AU as a respected member of the international community.
What the people of Zimbabwe want from the international community is to use their leverage over Mr Mugabe and his Zanu PF administration to influence change and save lives of millions of disenfranchised and impoverished Zimbabweans. What the people of Zimbabwe want is not the violent overthrow of Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF from power but to send a message that the people of Zimbabwe need their mandate back. Mugabe and his moribund Zanu PF party should be forced to accept and implement basic fundamental principles of democracy, constitutional reform, allow free and fair elections. If Mr Mugabe and his Zanu PF contest and loose elections supervised by international observers they should accept defeat gracefully and become a responsible and loyal opposition supporting democracy if Zimbabwe.
In conclusion, l would like to say it is saddening to note that Zimbabwe is gradually becoming a forgotten state with a pariah tag and already condemned to the axis of evil nations that deserve to die by US. Unless the more passionate and equally powerful members of the international community make concerted efforts to save the small southern African nation of Zimbabwe, its people may have lost hope and their efforts alone however huge and spirited may not be enough to save this former African jewel from extinction.
During the liberation struggle the international community was there to help Zimbabweans gain freedom and now the struggle is even harder because of the culture of silence, repression and a huge sense of paralysis. The international community can still rescue Zimbabwe from total collapse it’s never too late. Zimbabwe should not be allowed to die whilst the international community is watching helplessly.
Crisford Chogugudza is a political commentator based in North London. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
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