Jun 29, 2008


We have avoided this subject for a couple of reasons - mainly because it was getting great coverage in the New Zealand TV, radio and print media (our international focus is on important issues which are not getting the attention they deserve in the New Zealand TV, radio and print media), and because we really haven't got that much new or different to say.

We were pleased to read this article by Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times. We agree with every work and particularly strongly with the conclusion

The solution is for leaders at the African Union summit this week to give Mr. Mugabe a clear choice.
One option would be for him to “retire” honorably — “for health reasons” after some face-saving claims of heart trouble — at a lovely estate in South Africa, taking top aides with him. He would be received respectfully and awarded a $5 million bank account to assure his comfort for the remainder of his days.
The other alternative is that he could dig in his heels and cling to power. African leaders should make clear that in that case, they will back an indictment of him and his aides in the International Criminal Court. Led by the Southern African Development Community, the world will also impose sanctions against Mr. Mugabe’s circle and cut off all military supplies and spare parts. Mozambique, South Africa and Congo will also cut off the electricity they provide to Zimbabwe.
If those are the alternatives, then the odds are that Mr. Mugabe will publicly clutch his chest and insist that he must step down. There will still be risks of civil conflict and a military coup, but Zimbabwe would have a reasonable prospect of again becoming, as Mr. Mugabe once called it, “the jewel of Africa.”
Some people will object that a tyrant shouldn’t be rewarded with a pot of cash and a comfortable exile. That’s true. But any other approach will likely result in far more deaths, perhaps even civil war.
How do we know that sanctions will work? Well, we have Mr. Mugabe’s own testimony.
In a 1987 essay in Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mugabe called on the U.S. to impose sanctions on white-ruled South Africa for engaging in a “vicious and ugly civil war” against its own people. Mr. Mugabe demanded that the world “accept the value of sanctions as a means of raising the cost” of brutal misrule.
If only Mr. Mugabe were a white racist! Then the regional powers might stand up to him. For the sake of Zimbabweans, we should be just as resolute in confronting African tyrants who are black as in confronting those who are white.

We also note that the much maligned Bush Administration has ignored the advice from South Africa's African National Congress to not interfere in Zimbabwe, and has been quick to act following Friday's farce of an election.

President Bush called Saturday for an international arms embargo against Zimbabwe in the wake of last week’s “sham election,” and announced that the United States is drafting new economic sanctions that, for the first time, would take aim at the entire government of President Robert Mugabe.

Does this mean anything? Yes

“This certainly steps up pretty dramatically the scale of punitive action,” said J. Stephen Morrison, who directs the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, and worked on Africa issues in the State Department under President Clinton. “It’s long overdue, but having Bush get out there and say some hard things is very important.”

Will the rest of the world make these sanctions work? Probably not

The call for an international arms embargo, which Mr. Bush coupled with a proposed ban on travel by officials of the Mugabe government, is unlikely to be successful. American officials said it would almost certainly run into opposition at the United Nations from South Africa, Russia and China; South Africa’s position has long been that the Zimbabwe election is an internal affair.

Would unilateral action by the US (and New Zealand) be possible and effective? Yes

The United States’ own sanctions, by contrast, can be carried out unilaterally. American officials and outside experts said they hope the sanctions would put pressure on Zimbabwe’s mining industry, a crucial source of foreign exchange for a government that is very short of it. The sanctions are expected to restrict the government’s ability to do business with American companies, although it is unclear which agencies or state-controlled businesses would be affected.
Africa experts and human rights advocates have not generally been calling for sanctions, in part, Mr. Morrison said, because they have been so focused on trying to tamp down the violence and abuses surrounding the elections. In Washington, Mr. Morrison and a colleague, Mark Bellamy, a former ambassador to Kenya, have been pressing for a diplomatic offensive to create an international consensus that Mr. Mugabe must be ousted.
Zimbabwe’s opposition spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, asked whether his party favored sanctions, would say only that it sought intensified international pressure. It seems likely that the opposition is reluctant to demand sanctions for fear of playing into Mr. Mugabe’s hands. The state media, daily, in story after story, blame the limited sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on the Zimbabwean elite for having led to the country’s economic ruin.

We look forward to hearing about New Zealand's intended policy response tomorrow.