Member Sign In
International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
PDF Print E-mail
As the World Fudges, Zimbabweans Should Act to End their Nightmare
The Daily Nation
Wafulu Okumu
8 December 2008

Dr. Wafulu Okumu is a Senior Research Fellow at the African Security Analysis Program and the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa.

While addressing an international press conference in Nairobi at the weekend, Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on the African Union to oust Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and end the oppression the Zimbabwean people are being subjected to. Mr 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 an economic meltdown with a record inflation rate, food shortages, an outbreak of cholera and a political stalemate due to the failure to implement a power sharing deal reached in September.

Zimbabwe is going through what is termed as a omplex emergency. According to the United Nations agency OCHA, a complex emergency is 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. The humanitarian and economic crises in Zimbabwe are linked to the disastrous politics and erratic governance of its leader. Mugabes 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 Mr Mugabes reign of error and terror are reverberating in the Southern Africa region and the African continent. ()

The AU was the only organisation, until September 2005, with the mandate to intervene in member-states where rave circumstances are taking place. The AU Constitutive Act defines rave circumstances as ar 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. ()

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. ()

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. ()

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--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 legitimise such an intervention. However, both these organisations would be reluctant to set such a precedent and could insist on applying the clich of frican solutions to African problems. This would unnecessarily postpone the suffering of Zimbabwean people and would by default prolong Mugabes misrule.

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 iberator.


Browse Documents by Region:

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
c/o World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
708 Third Avenue, Suite 1715, New York, NY 10017