The current political situation in Zimbabwe is alarming and African Leaders must be serious about addressing the problem. Unfortunately, African leaders lack the political will to handle the situation and have been making statements which lack any substance in terms of presenting concrete ways to avoid the impending danger in Zimbabwe. When African leaders make statements such as, “the world community should take action” – what exactly does this mean? What actions are they proposing? Anyone who has been closely following the elections in Zimbabwe knows that the current President – Robert Mugabe – lost the election held in March, but refuses to relinquish power After a very long delay, the so-called electoral commission published manipulated election results. In recent days, the President's wife has promised that the Opposition Leader Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai will not see the State House which many have interpreted as a thinly veiled threat to Mr. Tsvangirai's safety.
One of many problems with Zimbabwe's electoral process is that military officers have been ordered to either vote for Mr. Mugabe or “get out” of the military. This statement should not be taken lightly because it has a lot of predicable implications. For example, The so-called run off election held on June 27th did not help matters. The aftermath of the election was the failed power sharing negotiations under the President of South Africa Mr. Mbeki. This has failed miserably and the way forward is unknown. One can now assume that the next step will be continued and intensified crisis in the country. This will only increase the political instability. It would have been better if President Mugabe had asked the military chief to voluntarily resign or if the opposition party had asked for his resignation. It appears that the country is now under miliatry dictatorship as the miliary have much control of the President. Many writers have already contributed to the history of Zimbabwe and the noble and fearless war waged against the white minority regime. This war was effectively led by President Robert Mugabe. Nobody doubts his sacrifice, but the time has come for him to go. He has nothing else to offer the country after ruling and ruining it for the past 28 years. The people of Zimbabwe honored him by voting for him all these years, but now they want to give someone else a chance to run and, hopefully, improve the country. It would have been better for ZANU-PF if someone else from the party had run for President this time around. He cannot and should not think that he will be president until the day he dies. He is now 84 years old and he has given all he can - good and bad - to his country. His place in the annals of African liberation fighters is solid and cannot be forgotten. However, he has been in power too long and has now jeopardized whatever positive legacy he might have had if he had quietly stepped aside. People of his age – most of them dead now – and those who witnessed the liberation struggle have been replaced by younger people who have no personal recollection of the liberation struggle and
instead are only witnessing an oppressive leader who is determined to stay in This is a perfect opportunity for African leaders and, for that matter, the international community to engage in conflict prevention instead of waiting for the violence to escalate. They need to prevent the almost inevitable human rights abuses which will occur RIGHT NOW. They need to have the political will to tell their colleague President Mugabe – “It is over and give up.” The recent statement by Mr. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, that the opposition should sit with the President and negotiate is completely out of the question and will not aid in conflict prevention. There is nothing to negotiate when the only wish of the president is to stay in power even though he has been rejected by his people. All that needs to be negotiated is Mugabe's peaceful exit The onus of negotiating Mugabe's exit should not be on the opposition leader, who the people duly elected. As further proof that this is not the best strategy, just take a look at what happened in Kenya when the opposition leader was asked to play that very role. Such a course is inconsistent with the principles of democracy. It is tantamount to usurping power via an unconstitutional way under the pretext of democracy. One aspect of democracy is one person one vote and this was exercised in Kenya and Zimbabwe, but the running elite in these countries will not give up power. If this is not immediately curbed, it will become the trend in all African countries. Mr. Kofi Annan, knows this and should also have the courage to advise leaders who lost elections to give way instead of negotiating with the winning opposition leader. The people of Zimbabwe, just like citizens of other African countries, have suffered tremendously under their leaders. Some leaders have ruled worse then the imperialists/colonialists did in their days. This was the system that people like Mugabe fought to overthrow. Unfortunately, it appears that Mugabe, a former freedom fighter, is even worse given his background. Is it because he is a black man doing the same thing to his people that Africans should not complain? What is clear is that he has become drunk with power. While his young wife (45 years his junior) should be the first person to tell him “Honey you have done the best you can do for this country and it is time for you to have a long rest before you die” she is encouraging him to hang on. The reason is not very clear to me. She has enjoyed the benefits of being the first lady of Zimbabwe after finding her way to him before and after the death of his Ghanaian wife. Should President Mugabe die before she does, she will enjoy all the wealth legal or ill gotten by President Mugabe. It is also believed that she has acquired her own wealth most of it stacked away in foreign bank accounts. Relatives of this young woman should advise her to have a “pillow talk” with the husband and advise him to give up and take a long vacation of rest. The stress is too much on him these days and that may add to his demise. President Mugabe can longer continue his accusations against of Western nations as the ones responsible for his economic woes. The economic woes are due to his mismanagement of the country's natural resources and wealth. Why should a country that used to be a bread basket of Southern Africa now become the “beggar for food” from his neighbors and the international community? The key question for African leaders is what happens after June 27th. A run-off Presidential election? More than likely what will happen is that when the winner is declared .whoever it might be – there will be an instant conflict in the country. President Mugabe will not accept any defeat and will instead initiate political disturbances in the country. The Opposition Leader Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai will be arrested immediately if he is declared the winner; if Mugabe is declared the winner, the result will not be accepted by the people because they had already voted him out. Unless African leaders have totally ignored the political crisis in Zimbabwe, they must have some sense that these predictions most likely will come to fruition. They also have a personal and professional stake in the outcome because any instability in Zimbabwe will have implications on the continent and certainly the region. Much already has been written and said about the current situation in South Africa. The immediate cause of the problem in South Africa is the great number of refugees coming in from Zimbabwe. It will be worse if the result of the run off election on June 27th is not acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe. They want Mugabe out, period. He wants to stay in power by all means. International monitoring of the run off election, even if Mugabe allows them to enter the country, will not resolve the political issue unless Mugabe decides to give up power. He has shown his defiance of international involvement in previous elections and assistance to help in the famine in the country. It appears that Mugabe no longer loves his people the way he did during the liberation struggle. Maybe he used his own people to gain “personal power” and he has no need for them any more. The blind support he is getting from his cabinet and other followers should be dealt with by African leaders. They should assist in getting Mugabe to give up power for the sake of stability in the country and the region. The question of non-interference in each others country should be revisited by the African Union. When heavy casualties begin to take place, it is the African Union that will provide the military forces to bring about peace and calm in the country. For all of the reasons stated above, African leaders must have the political will to tell Mugabe to adhere to the results of the run off election so that peace will prevail in his country. The majority of the people deserve that kind of behavior from their leaders. It can be argued that some leaders who have entrenched themselves in power will not have the back bone to call on him to resign or accept the election results. However, leaders who have the political credibility should be able to tell him to his face, it is time for you to go and bring peace to your country. Most world leaders have voiced their concerns about Zimbabwe. Recently, the Prime Minister of Norway, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, sent a letter to the Chairman of the SADC, a copy of which he also sent to the President of the African Union, which states in part:
“The crisis in Zimbabwe has become even more serious in recent days. Recently, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was detained while campaigning. Intimidation and restrictions against civilians and election observers demonstrate a lack of commitment to the democratic process that can not be tolerated. I therefore urge the leaders of the region to put additional pressure on the Zimbabwean authorities, to ensure that the elections on 27 June are free of violence and intimidation and open to the press”
Does African leaders have to be told what to do? Of course, it they are not acting right they will have to be compelled to comply with international pressure. Since it is generally believed that this is an African issue and should be handled as such, if they fail to act, the pressure will now come to them to act from the international community instead of directing an appeal to Mugabe that goes to death ears. It is a shame that after years of decolonization, African leaders have not learnt a lesson to take care of themselves and always seeking assistance either financial, social, economic and now political from the countries from whom they fought and got their independence. The pronouncement by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah prior to the independence of Ghana which implies give us our freedom and let us rule or misrule ourselves has now become a reality because African leaders are now misruling and some lay the problem on colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism. I believe that after so many years of independence it is time we do away with such blames and accept the fact that our leaders cannot govern. One thing that they can do and do very well is “govern their pockets” and where do they safe their bounties, it is in the European countries. These European countries use these stolen monies saved in the countries to help in their national developments..
There is not much time left to prevent this impending conflict in Zimbabwe. The time is NOW. All the signs of conflict abound and action should be taken immediately either by the African Leaders, who appear too impotent to act, or by the international community, which appears disinterested in addressing the problem. Africa cannot deal with another conflict and if African leaders cannot act, African citizens must join together to counter the political takeovers happening in their countries.
Paul B. Abudu, PhD.
Founding Executive Director
African Institute of Strategic Studies