Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Call for the African union Intervention in Zimbabwe

While addressing an international press conference in Nairobi over the weekend, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on the African Union (AU) to oust Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and end the oppression the Zimbabwean people are being subjected to. Odinga specifically called on the current AU chair Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to take the lead in formulating an urgent solution to save Zimbabwe that is faced by a the triple crises of humanitarian catastrophes due to food shortages and an outbreak of cholera; a political stalemate due to the failure to implement a deal reached in September; and an economic meltdown with a record inflation rate.

Zimbabwe is going through what is termed as a “complex emergency.” According to the United Nations agency OCHA, a complex emergency is “a humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires an international response.”

What we are witnessing in Zimbabwe can in fact be described as a “complex political emergency”. The humanitarian and economic crises in Zimbabwe are linked to the disastrous politics and erratic governance of its leader. Mugabe’s politics have led to extensive violence and loss of life, massive displacements of people, widespread damages to social and economic systems, acute food shortages, and overall calamitous threats to the livelihoods of the Zimbabwean people. Since Zimbabwe is not an isolated island, the consequences of Mugabe’s reign of error and terror are reverberating in the Southern Africa region and the African continent.

When the AU was launched in 2002 to replace the ineffectual Organization of African Unity (OAU), it was wildly acclaimed for adopting a radical “principle of non-indifference,” as opposed to the “principle of non-interference” that had characterised its predecessor. The OAU had been generally despised for turning a blind eye to egregious human rights violation by despicable dictators such as Uganda’s Idi Amin, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Central Africa Republic’s Jean-Bedel Bokassa, and Equatorial Guinea’s Marcias Nguema on pretext that it was barred by the “principle of non-interference” in the internal affairs of member states. Mordantly, it condemned President Julius Nyerere when he stood up against Amin’s aggressive and brutal regime.

The AU was the only organization, until September 2005, with the mandate to intervene in member-states where “grave circumstances” are taking place. The AU Constitutive Act defines “grave circumstances” as “war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.” The AU can intervene on two grounds: when a state has collapsed and its citizens’ livelihoods are gravely threatened or when invited by a state that is too weak to protect the livelihoods of its people.

There are grey areas in invoking this audacious “principle of non-indifference.” Although one of the motivations that influenced the AU founding fathers was what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and never to let it happen again, the nascent organization seems to have been caught off guard when the crisis in Darfur happened. Its reaction could provide us with pointers to how it will handle Zimbabwe.

When the AU was called upon to invoke Article 4(h) in September 2004 to stem genocide in Darfur, it hesitated to act on the grounds that it had yet to carry out research to determine that genocide was taking, or had taken, place. This was a clever way avoiding taking action as the AU lacked the capability and capacity to undertake such a highly technical process. If the AU had undertaken research and concluded that indeed there were “grave circumstances” in Darfur, the matter would have been brought before its supreme decision-making body, the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government, to invoke Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act. Likewise, it could have invoked Article 4(j) had Sudan invited it to intervene. This would have been awkward, as the AU would have actually gone to Darfur to boost the capacity of the Sudanese government to undermine the livelihoods of its civilians!

Furthermore, the AU would also have faced a tough time to intervene in one of the powerful member states that adamantly insisted that as far it was concerned it was capable of protecting its own citizens and the AU could only come in to support it and on its terms. This is the argument that Khartoum has consistently and persistently used for the past 6 years since the Darfur atrocities came to the attention of the international community.

To complicate matters, the AU not only lacked the political will to make far-reaching decisions that would protect the civilian population in Darfur but also lacked the resources, both human and financial, to implement its feeble decisions. In view of the stark realities facing the AU—particularly its convoluted decision-making process, lack of resources, and lack of political will—it is not likely that it will intervene to protect the livelihoods of Zimbabweans. To further compound the problem of lack of resources, the capacity of the AU is currently exhausted due to its involvements in Darfur and Somalia. It will be unrealistic to expect it to add on its plate another complex political emergency.

What are the other options for external intervention? An intervention could come from the SADC region, similar to the 1998 intervene in Lesotho. However, going by that experience, countries of the region would not be keen, particularly if the Zimbabwean armed forces stand up to external aggression and fight back to defend their privileges. Another intervention could be made under the UN mandate by invoking Chapter VII and the principle of responsibility to protect. All the criteria for such an intervention exists vis-à-vis Zimbabwe—it has lost its sovereignty by failing to protect its civilians from loss of lives and livelihoods; the calamity is rising; and all peaceful efforts to end the suffering of the Zimbabwean people seem to have been exhausted. Force will have to be used as a last resort, as long as it is proportional, and would lead to a restoration of human security in the country. Nevertheless, SADC and the AU must legitimize such an intervention. However, both these organizations would be reluctant to set such a precedent and could insist on applying the cliché of “African solutions to African problems.” This would unnecessarily postpone the suffering of Zimbabwean people and would by default prolong Mugabe’s misrule.

Alternatively, either intervention could be pre-empted by Zimbabwean security forces that could take matters in their own hands and end a disastrous situation. But there is a complication in this solution—the AU ban on coups d’état on the continent. At the moment the AU is in a standoff with the Mauritanian military that in August took over from a democratically elected government. The question to ask is: if the AU allows a military take-over in Zimbabwe, would that set a precedent and contradict its policy against such means of changing governments?

All things considered, and as the international community fudges and gets mired in indecision paralysis, it is upon the people of Zimbabwe to take to the streets, and to use other means, to end the nightmare they are experiencing. It is only the Zimbabwean people who can liberate themselves from their “liberator.” The best that the international community can do is to support and supplement their noble “second liberation struggle.” Let us hope that when the AU Heads of State and Government meet in late January 2009, they will take a decision to support such efforts and lead the international community in providing the Zimbabwean people with all the support that they need to free themselves.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Kenyan Commission Recommends an International Crimes Tribunal

The Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) established to investigate the violence witnessed after the 27 December 2007 elections in Kenya officially presented its much-anticipated report to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on 15 October 2008. The CIPEV, or Waki Commission, was vested with a mandate to ‘investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the violence, the conduct of state security agencies in their handling of it, and to make recommendations concerning these and other matters. Read more at www.internationallawobserver.eu.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The MDC-ZANU PF Deal:Herald of a Bright Future?

Thank you guys for the comments you are sending me, unfortunately I am not able to reply to you all by way of e-mails. First of all let me point out that I am not a political scientist nor am I an academic as many of you presumed. I am just an ordinary person who is pretty much interested in the events that take place in my beloved little country which hitherto has been held hostage by a bankrupt political class and has never known even a spectre of the democratic notions of government dating to the precolonial era. However I must hasten to say that I am aspiring to be an academic so that one day I will find myself contributing in no small measure to the entrenchment of democratic values in my society. So much for that, that is not my intention today to preach to you my aspirations in the future to come under the new political dispensation beginning Monday the 15th of September 2008

Thursday the 11th of September 2008 is a historic day in the political history of Zimbabwe in the past dacade. The day saw the signing of a pact to form a government of National Unity between the two major political players in the country, Zanu PF (the ruling party) and the opposition MDC. However the contents of the pact are not yet in the public domain as the official signing will take place on Monday the 15th of September 2008, presumably in the prsence of other African leaders. Whether the government to be formed is the answer to a litany of the woes that hound Zimbabwe today remains a key question. The power-sharing deal faces a tough credibility test to determine whether it is enough to kick start the country's emergence from catastrophic economic collapse.

There is a labyrinth of key questions that have to be examined with regards the deal. It is an open secret that the military junta is not happy with the whole arrangement especially when one goes down the memory lane to the history just before the first round of the harmonised elections. The chefs in the security forces publicly professed that they will not just allow Tsvangirai to take the thrones at the State house. Could they have changed their minds over this aspect, no one knows what they are really up to. If they still maintain such a hard line of thinking it will be a mammoth task to the government to be formed

The more contentious issue is the sustenance of the Cabinet to be formed. From the concessions that culminated in the signing of the agreement it was pointed out that the new Cabinet will comprise of 31 ministers: 15 from Zanu Pf, 13 from MDC Tsvangirai and the other 3 from MDC Mutambara faction. It is ironic that Tsvangirai who, for the past years was against Mugabe over this big Cabinet would find himself as a party to that same Cabinet which in addition would include four Deputy Vice Presidents! This is an unfortunate aberration representing his surrender or mollification in the face of Zanu PF's unpreparedness to relinguish power to the opposition. This has been viewed by political analysts as an indication of Tsvangirai's cunning for power. One will wonder how such a huge Cabinet will be financed especially in view of the fact that there are more pressing needs that have to be addressed as a matter of urgency: the food crisis being the major issue requiring urgent intervetion.

Political analysits have exprssed dismay in the whole process that led to the signing of the agreement. The non-inclusive character of the negotiation process has been hightlighted as a serious departure from the tenets of democratic governance. Various political actors and the citizenry as a whole were excluded from the whole process and in the final analysis they are not in a position to ascribe legitimacy to the whole process. It is now trite and banal that the success and legitimacy of any governmental process is a product of a participatory approach by a cross section of the society.

More important is the issue of bringing back the economy to a recovery path. The problems that are bedevilling Zimbabwe are of an economic character and therefore require an economic solution. It will be a Herculian task for the new goverment to be to convince and instill investor confidence that Zimbabwe will be palatable for business operations taking into account the fact that Zanu PF elements will still be part of the new government.

Corruption which is now endemic in the country will be another aspect that will have to be confronted by the new government. It is generally accepted the world over that the stemming out of corruption in a country is the fulcrum of any successful economy. The Zimbabwean populace is now generally corrupt, both in public and private sectors and including the generality of the population. It will be a daunting task for the new government to come up with successful initiatives that will invariably reduce the incidence of corruption.

So in a nutshell it is too premature I presume for Zimbabweans to celebrate the signing of the pact as this will not in any way turn around the economy in in moment. There is a lot of vapour that has to cleared so as to chat a clear and defined way otherwise we might find ourselves in a more precarious position than before after the realisation that this may be only the transfer of political power without concomitent developments beneficial to the ordinary persons in the street.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

No to Power Sharing, Yes to a Government that Works.

Bev Clek has some interesting thoughts on Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement (GPA) that was signed between Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party. The GPA was signed as a peace agreement following the March 2008 harmonized elections that were characterized by unprecedented violence that left many people dead and  others physically handicapped and traumatized. Bev has the following to say:
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Eddie Cross. Much of the time I find his optimism entirely frustrating. However this week he lays bare the litany of abuse that Zimbabwe is experiencing courtesy of Mugabe and his cabal and reminds us that “what we need is not power sharing – that is the least of our worries, its simply a government that will work and start to get the country stable and onto the pathway to recovery.

All the debates taking place regarding the SADC sponsored talks to bring about an agreement to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe center on the issue of political power. In fact that may be the most important issue to some, but its not the main issue at all. The main point of the talks is to secure a workable solution to our economic, political and social crisis.

The basic facts that underlie the crisis is that we have a military Junta running the country that cannot be overthrown by violence or armed insurrection, the political leadership has lost control of the State to this Junta and is now totally discredited, was in fact defeated at the last election but refuses to leave office, spurred on by the Junta.
The regime has totally mismanaged the economy and now it teeters on the edge of disintegration and collapse. This morning the RTGS rate for the local currency was hovering about 10 000 to 1USD. This dramatic collapse in a few days points to a number of other forces at work – the flight of capital, the reckless creation of money by the Reserve Bank and the severe shortage of cash with which to make daily transactions.
The collapse of the dollar by 700 per cent since the new currency was issued a month ago, means that while there might have been enough cash to meet needs at that time, the availability of cash notes has simply been decimated by inflation – I would guess that we probably only have the equivalent of US$5 million in cash in circulation in new notes – a drop in the ocean when we probably need US$3 billion. When you think that the new currency cost us Euro 35 million to print – now it has a face value of only US$5 million and next week probably half that again.

Our economy is literally teetering on the edge of collapse – the major retail stores are empty and unable to finance their operations. Parastatals cannot pay their staff let alone other costs. The urban councils are without fuel, chemicals, spares and tyres for vehicles. Their administrations are no longer able to produce accounts or manage their finances. The basic needs of life are not available or unaffordable – the great majority of the population is seriously considering flight to the nearest country they can go to under any conditions.

The government must be in dire straights – they can create money by simply passing credits from the Reserve Bank to local financial institutions that will then pay out salaries to the civil service and the armed forces – if they can get in the door of a bank and then along a queue perhaps 500 to a 1000 people long. When they get there they are paid out in small amounts(maximum Z$500 worth US10 cents today) and in coins, old bank notes and bearer bonds.

The parallel market – always an immediate and accurate indicator of real market conditions will no longer accept the old currencies for their deals – only the new notes and these are now as scarce as hen’s teeth. In December the regime is committed to withdrawing the old notes from circulation – and then what? No wonder the Reserve Bank Governor, Gono, wants to retire when his contract comes up for renewal in November.

And then there is the social and humanitarian crisis. Half our population has no food and no means of earning a living. They must be given their entire requirements for survival. Our hospitals and clinics are run down and dirty, they have no drugs and no blankets and few staff. If you are admitted to a State run facility you must provide everything you need, even food and any medical supplies you might require.

Our State run schools have just opened – 70 000 teachers short of their establishment. Hostels have no food, students no books or writing materials. Teachers cannot even pay for transport to school. Buildings are dilapidated and in most school rooms there are no lights. Children come to school hungry and cannot study because they simply do not get enough food at home.

I was at a meeting of our City Council yesterday – the head of the Cities medical services told us she couldn’t dig graves fast enough to bury the dead. She said they could not get labour to clean the streets or handle waste or dig graves. This situation is repeated across the whole country – the City Engineer said they have 4 days chlorine left in stock, after that, we drink unpurified water, 1,3 million people at risk.

We have the shortest life expectancy in the world, the highest ratio of orphans to population in the world, staggering infant and maternal mortality rates. In a country where we once had one of the fastest growing populations in the world – our death rates from all causes is now so high that our population is shrinking rapidly. In line with this, our economy has also shrunk – every year since 1998 and will decline again this year by at least 10 per cent.

So what we need is not power sharing – that is the least of our worries, its simply a government that will work and start to get the country stable and onto the pathway to recovery. For that we need the following: -
-A return to a democratic government that is accountable to the people.
-New leadership that is honest, capable and caring.
-A government team that will work together and put the country first.
-A basic agreement to bring about these conditions that is acceptable to our development partners who are essential to the stabilisation and recovery process.

Any agreement that does not meet the simple criteria listed above will simply not work. It will not be worth the paper it is written on. Mbeki must know this; it may not be acceptable to the Mugabe group or to Mutambara but it is the only way forward.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

~ Langston Hughes

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Diderot, the great French encyclopaedist of the 18th century once said that every age has its dominant idea. In African political systems in general and in Zimbabwe in particular, democracy is the dominant idea of this 21st century. That Zimbabwe is in a serious political, constitutional and socio-economic quagmire cannot be assailed. It has been noted the world over that the acid test for democracy in a country at any given time can only be measured in a situation where the socio-economic and political conditions of that country are in the doldrums.

Since the Harare Heads of State meeting of October 1991, fostering democracy in the Commonwealth countries has been the dominant preoccupation of different States (Zimbabwe by then had not yet ex-communicated itself from the Commonwealth). How to consolidate democracy and make it durable has been and still is the greatest challenge facing many African countries, especially Zimbabwe which, to say the least seems to be regressing in that respect. The Harare Heads of States meeting of October 1991 was very clear on the merits of democracy as a system of government. From the deliberations of that meeting, it was also equally clear that democracy could not take a standard or uniform format in all African countries but that it has to take different forms to reflect national circumstances in different regions.

However, the point must be stressed that whatever national variations, a true democracy would be judged and recognized by the presence of a number of essential universal ingredients. These include the right of a people to choose freely the men and women who would govern them and to cashier them, the primacy of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary; freedom of expression and association and the continuing transparency and accountability of the government. At the heart of any democracy lies accountability. Where there is no accountability there is really no democracy. It is society’s insurance against abuse of office on the part of those who form government at any given time. Accountability can only be enforced if the governed have the power to make and unmake governments.

Democracy is essentially about choice – choice of policies articulated by parties and choice of personalities. This freedom of choice is meaningless without free and fair elections. Free elections in turn entail freedom of speech and association. Without freedom of speech, the appeal to reason, which is the basis of democracy, cannot be made. Without freedom of association, meaningful political parties are practically inconceivable because in the absence of freedom of association and assembly it is difficult for people to band together into parties and formulate policies to achieve their common ends. Moreover, none of these freedoms can be secured without the rule of law and the independent judiciary. An independent and honest judiciary has an importance that cannot be overemphasized. Where the judiciary is either corrupt or incompetent; elections, accountability fundamental human rights and all other rights guaranteed by the constitution become in effect illusory.

A situation in which the activity of politics is devalued is inimical to democracy. Democracy after all is about debate. It is also about the right to dissent in a civilized manner. Political parties provide the necessary platform for constructive criticism of government policies. Genuine political opposition is a necessary attribute of democracy, tolerance and trust in the ability of citizens to resolve differences by peaceful means. The existence of an opposition without which politics ceases and administration takes over, is indispensable to the functioning of efficient political systems.

The division between government and opposition is as old as political democracy itself. In Aristotle’s Athenian polity, the essence of self-government was that citizens were, in turn, both the rulers and the ruled. Government could alternate among different groups of citizens, and the minority could seek to persuade the majority of its point of view by peaceful (i.e. Political) means. In the age of mass politics, direct citizen democracy has been replaced, with rare exceptions, by representative systems providing for periodic elections. In turn, these electoral contests are usually dominated by a small number of political parties, which select their candidates and leaders. What has not changed, however, in our modern liberal democratic society is the hallowed principle that government must rest on the consent of the governed – which means, inter alia, that the minority accepts the right of the majority to make decisions provided that there is reciprocal respect for the minority’s right to dissent from these decisions and promote alternative policies.

It therefore follows as a logical corollary from the above that there can be no genuine or durable democracy without genuine political parties. This prevails notwithstanding the surviving school of thought which underscores that genuine political parties in the present conditions in Africa in general and in Zimbabwe in particular are practically inconceivable and that the foreseeable future ought to lie in a no party or one party system of government of all talents. According to this school of thought in the absence of social and economic conditions of the type which exist in the old democracies in Europe and North America, African political parties (especially opposition parties) are invariably either tribal coalitions or religious groupings or western puppet formations with little or nothing to do with national interest. In short, this means that political parties under prevailing conditions in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular will make for division and national retardation.

It is my submission that I do not share the same underlying fear and pessimism as expounded above. A no party system can easily degenerate into a no party dictatorship, very much akin to the way the old one party professed democracies quickly degenerated into one party dictatorship. It is my sincere belief that it is possible for agreed national constitutions of pluralistic states to proscribe the formation of political parties based on potentially divisive factors as ethnicity, race or religion. A viable democracy has to evolve organically- it has to evolve through civic education and no institution is better placed to perform the task of civic education than a political party. Inter party rivalry within the law also contributes to the growth of freedom. Modern political parties provide the channels for peaceful competition between one set of ambitions and another. Political parties are then central to democracy and since this has now been accepted in practically the whole of Africa, what needs to be looked at are the respective positions of ruling parties and opposition parties for the advancement of democracy in their respective countries.

In any democratic order or environment, the ruling party derives its mandate to govern from its success at free and fair elections. For a defined term, it has the exclusive responsibility for governing the country but within limits, some defined and enshrined within the provisions of the constitution and related legislation, others subsisting by convention. Because electoral majorities do come and go, no ruling party can plausibly claim to be the sole conscience and sole embodiment of the will of the people, let alone their own prophet and Messiah. Neither does a ruling party claiming to be co-terminous with the state champion the cause of democracy. If these and other excesses are to be avoided, the restraints provided by the Constitution will have to be supplemented by self-restraint on the part of the political parties. Majority parties must be allowed to govern but they must not govern in such a way as to appear to be gathering to themselves all power and influence within the state, thereby denying the rights of the opposition parties. However, the way the opposition parties oppose is equally important.

An opposition political party is part of the institutional machinery for democracy. A loyal and credible opposition is a boon to a country in a number of ways. As a party with an alternative programme for government, an opposition party serves as a peaceful channel for popular discontent. An effective loyal opposition is an effective argument against illegal and extra-constitutional means of gaining power and therefore a force for stability. To be effective and to remain true to the national interest, a government needs the stimulous of constructive and disciplined criticism to perform, and in sustained way, that can only come from a loyal opposition.

But no opposition will confer legitimacy on the government of the day and the other institutions of the state, or make for national stability, if it is not an opposition that is loyal to the interests of the country and the generality of the citizens. And it cannot be a loyal opposition if its manner of opposing is utterly unprincipled or if it seeks to couple constitutionalism with a readiness to exploit unconstitutional means to gain power. If in their respective roles ruling parties and opposition parties were to contribute to the greater good of their nations, they would need to cultivate a relationship based on mutual confidence. That confidence will enable them to agree on what aspects of the national interest transcends the party divides and, therefore, be legitimately withdrawn from inter party strife and brawls; the locus classicus being the British government policy over the Northern Ireland.

It is therefore unassailable that like constitutions, judiciaries and other related institutional frameworks; opposition political parties are also vital for the functioning of democracy. But in the end the point can never be stressed enough that democracy is no more than a system of government by men and women over men and women and, as such requiring for its smooth functioning more than inter party rivalry. Sir Winston Churchill once said that the best way of governing States is by talking. The fact that Zanu PF and the MDC have finally agreed to come to the negotiating table is in itself significant. In a sense, it is in recognition of the different roles each party plays on the political landscape in Zimbabwe. What remains to be seen is how the two parties are to resolve the problems that have bedeviled the whole nation: it being recognized that whatever they agree on, it has to be centered on the legitimate interests of ‘‘we the people’’- the conferers of that political power.