Tuesday, April 8

The international response in Zimbabwe

In an op-ed in the Guardian on Monday, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appealed for international pressure on Robert Mugabe:
Major powers here, such as South Africa, the US and Britain, must act to remove the white-knuckle grip of Mugabe's suicidal reign and oblige him and his minions to retire.
Today, AFP reports:
Mugabe is under enormous international pressure to allow the release of the results after a flurry of statements on Monday from the European Union, the White House, the United States State Department and the United Nations.
But AP points out that the international community's leverage is limited. Robert Mugabe and his top deputies (unlike Kenya's leaders) have already been isolated by the international community. A "flurry of statements" isn't going to go too far in Zimbabwe. The article quotes U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack:
We have worked closely with many in the international community to try to bring pressure on the government in Zimbabwe to change its ways. That has not had much effect.
Regional countries, particularly South Africa, are seen as having influence. But while most would likely love to see Mugabe go, they have been hesitant to actually pressure Mugabe, a liberation hero. South African president Thabo Mbeki hasn't said much beyond an appeal to wait for the election results to be announced.

Tendai Biti, the secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, criticized this lack of response:
We are concerned by the deafening silence in the region in the AU. I say to our brothers and sisters across the continent: Don't wait for dead bodies in the streets of Harare."
The AP article says the only major African to speak out this week has been Kofi Annan. Though I suppose this depends on who qualifies as a "major African." Opposition leaders in Botswana and Uganda (and Zimbabwe) have criticized Mugabe, as have reasonably prominent voices in Kenya's newspapers (see for example Muthoni Wanyeki of the Kenya Human Rights Commission in the East African).

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