Quo vadis Zimbabwe?

2008-07-03 00:00

The political impasse persists in Zimbabwe with the African Union (AU) summit in Egypt having failed to speak out on the sham of a presidential election. Instead, Robert Mugabe presented himself at the summit, with his usual arrogance and defiance, as Zimbabwe’s continuing president. The pleading voice of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for some kind of denunciation has been ignored. There are too many other African leaders whose authority is illegitimate for them to take the risk of condemning their wayward colleague in Zimbabwe. Tutu’s courageous stance has all the echoes of the biblical voice crying in the wilderness.

Against this background of deafening silence the summit did nonetheless pass a resolution calling for the establishment of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe. There is no immediate prospect of this happening because the memories of recent events in that country are still too raw. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was open to negotiations with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF before the presidential election run-off. Now that Mugabe has, in effect, stolen that election, the MDC is understandably unwilling to engage in talks. Mugabe, in his turn, is hyper-sensitive to criticism or pressure even from other parts of Africa, let alone the nations of the West, and Zanu-PF has dismissed the recent Kenyan model of partnership as a possible way forward.

The present stalemate cannot last for too long because the MDC holds a majority in parliament while Zanu-PF retains the presidency. Mugabe could presumably choose to rule by decree but ultimately some form of negotiated solution will have to be found. Mutually accepted mediating assistance from outside the country will be essential. These columns have already suggested former United Nations

Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a suitable mediator. The sooner a settlement can be put in place, with both sides willing to bend in some respects, the better it will be for the people of Zimbabwe as a whole.

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