The Daily Nation
19 December 2008
Despite their denunciations of gross human rights violations in some African countries, the worlds leading powers remain both unable and unwilling to force the removal of tyrants such as Zimbabwes Robert Mugabe.
This impotence is undermining the UNs Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which states that international military force should be used to stop a governments from crushing its own citizens.
But the UN Security Council appears unlikely to respond positively to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rices expected call on Monday for eaningful action against Mugabe.
China and Russia
Two of the councils five veto-wielding members China and Russia have not endorsed demands by the other three Britain, France and the US that Mugabe step down. China and Russia both vetoed a US-sponsored Security Council resolution in July calling for an arms embargo against Zimbabwe and financial restrictions on him and 13 other top officials. And there is no indication that Moscow and Beijing have grown favourably disposed to more direct efforts to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe. The US and its allies have also not managed to convince South Africa to take action likely to lead to Mugabes downfall. An unnamed US official was quoted last week as suggesting that if South Africa were to close its border with landlocked Zimbabwe, ithin a week, it would bring the (Zimbabwe) economy to its knees.r
South Africa does have the power to bring down Mugabe, US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee implied last week. Describing South Africa as he big dog on the block, he said that e expect South Africa to take an active stance on everything that happens in the southern tier of Africa. We do continue to work quietly and behind the scenes with South Africa to make that happen.
But just as South Africa continues to resist US pressure, America itself shows no sign of moving unilaterally to apply the Responsibility to Protect doctrine in the case of Zimbabwe. With the US already engaged militarily in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public has no appetite for an intervention in Africa. The African Union, which has dispatched forces to both Darfur and Somalia, has likewise made clear that it will not send troops into Zimbabwe, despite calls for such a step by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and respected South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
All this has led Rice to express frustration over the worlds inability to topple oppressors such as Mr Mugabe. e all undertook this notion of a responsibility to protect a couple of years ago with great fanfare, and weve, as a community, fallen short, she said in an interview last week with National Public Radio in Washington.
The failure does not result from US inaction, she added. eve put unilateral sanctions on Sudan, on Burma, on Zimbabwe. And very often, weve been joined by other states, particularly the Europeans, in several of those circumstances. But much of the world is prepared to turn a blind eye, and thats really unfortunate, and I think it really damages the credibility of the Security Council.r
The incoming Obama administration can break this global deadlock, a group led by two former top-level US officials said last week. The Genocide Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by ex-Pentagon head William Cohen and ex-secretary of state Madeleine Albright, urged Obama and his designated foreign policy chief, Hillary Clinton, to launch obust diplomatic efforts to gain consensus for action on the part of the UN Security Council. principal aim should be informal, voluntary mutual restraint in the use or threat of a veto in cases involving ongoing or imminent mass atrocities, a report by the task force said.