Monday, December 15, 2008

Pundit: “Softly, softly oust Mugabe”

Some Western and African leaders have reacted to the horrors in Zimbabwe by condemning that country’s wretched dictator President Robert Mugabe and his henchman. Some of the leaders are now urging military intervention to remove Mugabe.

In today’s Guardian Jonathan Steele argues nothing will come of the condemnations.

As for military intervention, he says it could fail for a variety of reasons and leave Zimbabwe in a worse state than at present.

If you agree with Steele, you’re left with the questions of what to do to get rid of Mugabe and his henchman and how to bring measure of desperately need safety, health care and economic stability to the people of Zimbabwe.

Here’s what Steele recommends - - -

... The power-sharing deal that Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, struck in September after mediation by [South Africa's Thabo] Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is still the best solution, precisely because it offers a transition through peace.

Mugabe is haggling over the distribution of ministries between his party and Tsvangirai's, refusing to abandon all control of the police. But he has not repudiated the pact. He would rather provoke Tsvangirai into doing so - a trap which the opposition leader must avoid at all costs.

Threatening Mugabe and his army and police commanders with criminal proceedings at The Hague … is only likely to entrench them further. This summer's indictment of Sudan's president has complicated the already difficult search for peace in Darfur.

A similar move would have no better effect in Zimbabwe.

The opposite tactic would be to offer Mugabe and his friends a soft landing. Distasteful though it is, allowing Mugabe a quiet departure and judicial immunity is more likely to persuade him to go than a cascade of threats.

The Southern African Development Community's mediation proposals make no mention of prosecution, so the offer may be interpreted as being on the table by default. It would be better to write it in explicitly.

That is the lesson from the collapse of virtually every dictatorship over the past 30 years. Whether it was the Shah of Iran or Nicaragua's strongman Anastasio Somoza or Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines or, as recently as this year, Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, the lever which got these discredited men to relinquish their grip was not the threat of a jail cell, let alone invasion. It was a guarantee of retirement in safety.

Zimbabwe should follow this model. In the case of Mugabe's cronies, offers of jobs in the new coalition government may also help to split them from their current boss. The power-sharing pact provides a mechanism, which is why it is still Zimbabwe's best hope.

Force is the wrong answer.

Steele's entire column's here.


Folks, I don't know enough about the situation in Zimbabwe and its surrounding region to say much about what Steele proposes except that he lays out his case carefully and seems himself to be informed.

I'd like to hear what others of you think.


Ken said...

I have followed the disaster in Zimbabwe. It is truly a tragedy and Mugabe is indeed a monster. But there is no solution in which the US can play a part. Mugabe is secure unless there is an intervention from outside and that is politically impossible in Africa. Only the African states can help and a vast majority have no desire to do so. Whether they are kleptocracies like South Africa and Zimbabwe itself or brutal dictatorships African countries would rather Mugabe survive than introduce any instability into their own countries. Even Africa's rare democracies are reluctant to do anything as they are usually unstable. Zambia has been the bravest of the neighboring states and it cannot get any support from the others except perhaps Botswana. About all we can actually do is pray for the people of Zimbabwe and hope an opening occurs where we can help.

The worst legacy of European colonialism in Africa is the patchwork of unrealistic countries that it left. They have no relation to tribal, linguistic, religious or traditional borders. The second worst is the legacy of distrust. No state outside Africa can do much without paying hugh diplomatic costs.

I wish it were otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I think that if fiat currency was real money Zimbabwe would be the richest country in the world. This is the same path the US government has taken.

Ken said...

I would also recommend as a source of information.