Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Can we avert a Zimbabwean nightmare?

Watching last night's shocking BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News reports from inside Zimbabwe, it is hard to see how Robert Mugabe can fail to steal the presidential election. His torture camps for dissidents, his hijacking of the media and his use of the state security apparatus to cling to power stack the odds against Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party. Yet, even amidst such gruesome provocation, people were telling reporters that they would vote against Mugabe.

The United Nations attitude has predictably been low key, as its wont when any country goes to war against its own people. It should be condemning in the strongest terms the destruction of democracy. But the real tragedy has been the lack of guts among many of Mugabe's Southern African neighbours, not least the gloriously wrongheaded South African leader Thabo Mbeki, whose continued embrace of Mugabe amidst it all has succeeded in making his successor Jacob Zuma appear statesmanlike.

That is why we should salute the Swazi parliamentarian Marwick Khumalo (pictured), who heads the Southern African observers of this increasingly farcical poll, for his no-nonsense condemnation of the violence, for laying the blame where it belongs at ZANU-PF's door and for promising not to endorse the run-off if the violence continues. And we should also congratulate Botswana for its strong condemnation, the more powerful as it comes from a country which has a successful democracy since independence.
Meanwhile, I share Iain Dale's suggestion that the rest of us who feel so powerless should donate to the Friends of Zimbabwe in their efforts to give people the chance - however remote it may seem - of a fair election.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Britain’s foreign policy is being undermined by an unwillingness to acknowledge the full force of an uncomfortable truth: Britain does not have the power to command the foreign policy outcomes that it considers desperately important. The primary baleful consequence is the default decision to continue to fight counter-insurgent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have adopted a policy of wait-and-see or occupy-and-hope, an aimless watching brief, whilst we wait for a deus ex machina to deliver us from our folly. The government’s hope of progress, of “success” is so inane because if one thinks imagines five years time, ten years, twenty – it isn’t clear how any of the fundamentals of the stalemate are going to have changed. Except the atrophy of the western will to maintain these occupations.

We remain in both countries because we don’t have the strength to accept that what we have been trying to do is impossible. We are there because things have not become bad enough, the enterprise has not worn itself out sufficiently, for us to admit that it is beyond us. Before we can conscience withdrawal we have to make sure that we have atoned for our hubris through noble suffering.

The second baleful consequence is a foreign policy that looks inward, not outwards – one which aims to assuage our howling consciences, rather than effecting desired outcomes. The combination of a collection of consciences quickened by the globalised media and British impotence reduces much of foreign policy discussion to the elaboration of empty pieties. Amongst this politics of the conscience-ache, realist discussions of power and national interest are completely absent; as is a clear-headed appraisal of the potentialities (as well as disadvantages) of American power.

Read more at my blog, just who the hell are we?, at: