Memorandum from Dr Dale Doré
1. It was with great interest that I read
the uncorrected evidence given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State, Baroness Amos, to your committee on the 14 May 2002.
The frustration and powerlessness felt by committee members was
palpable. Please allow me to comment on the proceedings by addressing
a number of important questions. First, how much should the British
Government rely on African members of the Commonwealth? Second,
what has been the impact of Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth?
Third, what will be achieved by negotiations between the political
parties in Zimbabwe? And, finally, I wish to suggest a way forward
to your original question: what can the United Kingdom do to help
Zimbabwe in terms of governance and the crisis which is now upon
2. The Minister stressed that because the
United Kingdom was unable to apply any bilateral pressure to Zimbabwe,
the UK had to use its influence through the European Union, the
United States and, in particular, through its Commonwealth partners.
In the belief that Mugabe will listen to his peers, the Minister
said: "I think that we are very, very dependent on the role
which is being played by countries in the region, particularly
by South Africa and Nigeria." Yet, in the face of everything
that the Commonwealth's suspension of Zimbabwe symbolised, African
leaders endorsed Zimbabwe's deeply flawed elections wholeheartedly.
Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi's congratulatory message referred
to Mugabe as "dear brother", and Tanzania's President
Benjamin Mkapa sent Mugabe his "warmest congratulations",
referring to the Zimbabwe leader as "a champion of democracy".
During his state visit to Zimbabwe, President Levy Mwanawasa of
Zambia pronounced the elections free and fairas did Bakili
Muluzi of Malawi when speaking on behalf of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC).
3. What faith, then, can we have in Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo's commitment on behalf of Africa's
leaders to end their reputation for corruption, human rights abuses
and lack of democracy? "We will have peer review," he
said. "We will say to ourselves: Mr President, what you do
in your country is not good. Either you change or you get isolated."
But these words are not matched by African leaders' deeds. The
only evidence of Zimbabwe's isolation by African countries is
to protect and isolate Mugabe from criticism by Britain and other
western governments that are expected to contribute massively
to Africa's development.
4. When Mr Mugabe disregarded the constitution
and the rule of law, packed the Supreme Court with his supporters,
used the public media as his propaganda tool, enacted draconian
security and media laws, and embarked on a campaign of violence,
African leaders remained silent. When Britain pleaded with Mr
Mbeki to restrain Mugabe, he refused, relying instead on "quiet
diplomacy", which all but endorsed Mugabe's brutal pre-election
tactics. When Mr Mugabe stepped up his campaign of violence, racial
invective and rushing through parliament legislation that was
inimical to the letter and spirit of SADC's electoral conditions,
Mr Mbeki stood by and did nothing. When the western democracies
within the Commonwealth called for firm action against Zimbabwe
in Coolum, Australia, African governments closed ranks and refused
to censure Mugabe. When the presidential elections were condemned
by all the major western democracies, the South African observer
mission, with indecent haste and to the disbelief of assembled
journalists, pronounced the elections "legitimate".
In quick succession, Nigeria, the SADC countries and the African
Union followed suit.
5. The unpalatable truth is that Mr Mugabe
is not just ruthless, but imperious, shrewd, and articulate; he
does not listen to his peers, his peers listen to him. By accepting
Mugabe's heady mixture of historical distortion, propaganda and
effusive nationalist rhetoric, South Africa and Nigeria went on
to persuade their colleagues that land and race lie at the heart
of an heroic political struggle that excuses Mugabe's racist and
brutal expropriation of white Zimbabweans' commercial farms. In
a shameful betrayal of the many Zimbabweans who have suffered
appalling abuse at the hands of ZANU(PF) and state security agents,
South Africa and Nigeria led 14 African countries to block a resolution
by the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights calling for
an investigation into human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
6. Is it really conceivable that Mr Straw's
promise "to do all we can" for Zimbabwe amounts to being
"very, very dependent" on Commonwealth "partners"
who, in over two years, have done precious little to restrain
their dictatorial neighbour, and who have not made the slightest
headway in restoring human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe?
7. As the Minister says, Mr Mugabe probably
does hold the Commonwealth dear; not for the values and principles
it stands for, but because it includes many of his chums. He may
have been stung by the suspension, not because of the principles
it ostensibly stood for, but because his friends were forced to
side with Mr Blair. But Mr Mugabe need never have worried. Since
then, his friends have rallied to his side. In a recent meeting
in Windhoek, the ruling parties of Commonwealth member statesSouth
Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawipassed
a resolution congratulating President Mugabe on his convincing
electoral win against all odds!
8. Some western democracies, however, still
think that Zimbabwe's suspension meant something. Walter Kansteiner,
the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, would
have some believe that it was a "strong signal". Lucie
Edwards, Canada's High Commissioner in Pretoria, called it "a
sign of real political will to apply the principles of good governance."
But I think Mr Chidgey is right: there is absolutely no indication
that President Mugabe cared anything about what the Commonwealth
does in respect of Zimbabwe. Yet, while Zimbabweans struggle in
desperation with every passing day and while the life-blood of
the country ebbs away, the Minister gave your committee the numbing
assurance that the Commonwealth troika will revisit their decision
to suspend Zimbabwe in a year hence!
9. Having recognised the legitimacy of Zimbabwe's
presidential elections in March 2002, South Africa and Nigeria
were later forced to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth on
the insistence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and by
Tony Blair's threat to withdraw Britain's support for NEPAD. But
this pressure came at a heavy price. Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo
wrung a fundamental concession from their western counterparts:
instead of an unequivocal condemnation of the presidential elections
and a commitment to fresh presidential elections, the Commonwealth
troika's communiqué supported "dialogue"
between the MDC and ZANU(PF).
10. This has insidious implications. First
and foremost, such talks tacitly assume a one-way process of MDC's
reconciliation with ZANU(PF) and, hence, the recognition of the
election results and Mugabe's continued leadership. Second, the
talks are a substitute for the sovereign right of Zimbabweans
to choose their own leader through an internationally acceptable
and democratic electoral process. Third, reconciliation between
the parties is considered essential to address key national problemsfood
shortages, economic recovery, political stability, the rule of
law and the conduct of future electionssurreptitiously
drawing the MDC into sharing the blame and responsibility for
resolving a crisis that was deliberately and systematically created
by ZANU(PF) to retain power in the first place. And, lastly, the
talks provide a pretext for Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo to reward
themselves with the fruits of NEPAD for "doing something"
in the face of their blatant complicity with Mugabe.
11. Yet Britain has been drawn into supporting
talks that put expediency before principle and diplomacy before
democracy. Instead of condemning the elections as "deeply
flawed", your envoy to Zimbabwe, Brian Donnelly, expressed
"reservations" at the outcome of the presidential elections.
Instead of insisting on fresh presidential elections, he said:
"We believe that the best thing is an agreement between ZANU(PF)
and the opposition MDC." It is not just that the talks deny
Zimbabweans justice and democracy, but Britain is supporting talks
with an unconscionable regime that, in the Minister's words, "appears
to care not one jot for what is happening to its own people."
If Mr Mugabe is willing to subvert the whole electoral process,
decimate commercial agriculture, and allow his people to starve
in order to retain his grip on power, what faith can the Minister
have that Mugabe would honour any agreement reached with the MDC?
12. Is it conceivable that Britain still
believes that it is possible to negotiate with a government that
breaks its part of the Abuja accord "virtually hours after
the ink was dry"as Mr Olner put itwhile calling
on Britain to honour its side of the bargain? No sooner had the
Minister assured Mr Chidgey of the Zimbabwe government's guarantee
that food distribution would not be manipulated (because local
headmen were involved), when we learn from Physicians for Human
Rights that these same headmen "made it clear the food was
not for MDC children, but only ZANU children." Like Smith
before him, Mugabe will only negotiate in good faith when forced
to do so by South Africa.
13. Why should the Minister be so sensitive
to the "very strong feeling" amongst African leaders
that Zimbabwe should not be used to judge an entire continent?
After all, it was African leaders themselves who made peer review
a pillar of NEPAD. If one is to believe Baroness Amos' assurance
that Britain will "pull all the levers" to help Zimbabwe,
then, as your Prime Minister's personal representative for NEPAD
at the forthcoming G8 meeting, she must make it plain that African
leaders are not being judged only for their own countries' record
of governance, but for their acquiescence of a brutal and lawless
regime. We are talking about Commonwealth countriesincluding
South Africa and Nigeriawhose leaders failed to lift a
finger to restrain Mugabe's two-year campaign of terror, who have
unashamedly endorsed a flagrantly rigged election, and who have
every intention of legitimising Mugabe's re-election through talks.
14. If these countries are unable or unwilling
to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Mugabe to restore the
rule of law and respect for human rights, then Mr Blair must make
his influence felt at the G8 summit this month. He and other leaders
of the G8 will lose nothing by speaking out more bluntly, as Mr
Cole has, about their frustration that South Africa and Nigeria
have nothing to show for their quiet diplomacy. By insisting that
African countries take their peer review obligations seriously,
Mr Blair will enhance his moral authority by sending a clear message
to Africa's leaders: human rights, democracy and good governance
cannot be compromised if Africa is to achieve the stability, growth
and development its people so yearn for.
15. Either the presidential elections were
free and fair or they were not. If they were notas the
Commonwealth observer mission foundthen Britain must insist
that justice and democracy in Zimbabwe are not sacrificed on the
altar of reconciliation and "national unity" with a
dictator. The western democracies within the Commonwealth, the
United States and Europe must insist that any inter-party talks
must lead to a democratic solution for Zimbabwe; fresh presidential
elections that are based on an independent electoral commission,
the restoration of fundamental human rights and compliance with
internationally acceptable electoral standards.
16. If the Commonwealth insists on inter-party
talks, it must recognise that the restoration of the rule of law
and respect for human rights cannot be subject to discussion because
they are non-negotiable, bedrock values of the Commonwealth. As
such, they can only be preconditions for negotiations. Nor can
talks centre on food shortages, the economic crisis and political
instabilityfor which ZANU(PF) has been wholly responsible,
and against which the opposition fought bravely, peacefully and
constitutionally, but was powerless to prevent. This leaves only
the matter of future elections to be discussed. The British Government
must insist, in line with the European Union, that new elections
be held within a year under the auspices of the Commonwealth and
the international community to allow the people of Zimbabwe the
freedom to elect the President of their choice.
Dr D Doré