Business As Usual in Zimbabwe

Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.

Women and children are disproportionally affected by collapse of social services in Zimbabwe.

Everything and nothing has happened in Zimbabwe over the past month. Prime Minister Tsvangirai briefly boycotted the unity government. His goal: force the hand of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to step up in its role as guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that forms the basis of the unity government. It worked; SADC held emergency meetings and appointed President Zuma of South Africa as the new negotiator, but the people in Zimbabwe who need to be talking are only grudgingly doing so.

Tsvangirai’s boycott led to an emergency meeting in Mozambique with Tsvangirai, Mugabe, the SADC Troika (Organ on Defense and Security comprised of Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia), SADC Chair Joseph Kabila, Zuma and former South Africa President Mbeki; where it was decided that Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party and President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party had 15 days to iron out their differences or South Africa would step back in, with all issues to be resolved within 30 days. (Who was not at the party was Zimbabwe’s civil society, excluded thus far from every step of the process in negotiating a conclusion to the political stalemate and violence.)

The major sticking points are the appointment of the Attorney General, the appointment of the Reserve Bank governor, the appointment of ambassadors and regional governors and the harassment of MDC supporters by police.  ZANU-PF also insists on the lifting of targeted sanctions imposed by the European Union, United States and other nations against key members of the ZANU-PF party. An excellent assessment of the situation can be found here.

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Feeling Out of Options? Try a Boycott.

Update: Amnesty International warns of deteriorating human rights conditions in Zimbabwe. 

Amnesty International warned today that Zimbabwe is on the brink of sliding back into the post-election violence that erupted last year, risking the stability brought about by the creation of the unity government in February. The organization called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) foreign ministers, visiting Zimbabwe on Thursday to assess the eight month-old unity government, not to ignore the worsening human rights situation. Amnesty International also challenged SADC and the African Union (AU) to tackle human rights violations by government bodies under the control of ZANU-PF.

The civil rights boycotts that occurred in the southern US during the 1950′s are some of the most famous and successful examples of this pressure tactic. In the last two weeks, boycotts have suddenly became en vogue again. Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s embattled Prime Minister, declared his political party, MDC-T, would boycott the compromise government formed following contested elections last year. This seemingly courageous attempt to force compliance with the negotiated agreement by his opponent, President Mugabe, was promptly undercut in its significance and boldness when accused war criminal Karadzic declared he was boycotting his trial at the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague. Awkward…

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Mozambique Rocks the Vote

Mozambique goes to the polls tomorrow in its fourth general election since independence from Portugal in 1975. Parliamentary control and the Presidency are up for grabs. Election observors from the African Union, the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community have arrived to monitor the elections. Which is good, because so far things have been a bit bumpy.

President Armando Guebuza of the governing Frelimo party is being challenged by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo, and Daviz Simango, mayor of Beira city and founder of the Mozambican Democratic Movement. Seventeen parties and two coalitions are meanwhile in the running for seats in the Mozambican parliament and, for the first time, provincial assemblies.

So far, there have been several incidents of violence between supporters of Frelimo and Renamo, resulting in harm to persons and property. Several people have been hospitalized or forced to seek medical attention while offices have been vandalized and property stolen. Violence is often a serious issue in Mozambique; Amnesty International has documented many incidents of extra-judicial killings by the police with few prosecutions of the perpetrators and no justice for the victims or their families.

Mozambique has recently been praised by the International Monetary Fund for its economic policies and last month President Guebuza chaired the World Climate Conference, taking a strong stand on the need for new environmental policies to address climate change. Emerging in 1992 from a devastating civil war, Mozambique is now poised to take strong strides in the region and become a leader on climate change, tourism and economic development (despite the nation’s current continuing desperate poverty). Let’s hope a free and fair election unmarred by further violence or human rights violations speeds Mozambique further along this path.