Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has claimed victory in a presidential runoff widely condemned as neither free nor fair, and taken the oath of office for a sixth term. But Zimbabwe’s crisis has not been resolved, leaving leaders here and abroad to consider the options.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he wants African leaders to help guide talks aimed at forming a coalition to oversee Zimbabwe’s transition to democracy. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change had said that while it could work with moderates in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, Mugabe could have no role in any coalition. That stance against Mugabe appears to be softening, which could remove a major block.
Mugabe also has said he is open to talks, and referred to mediation efforts that South African President Thabo Mbeki has led for more than a year. The opposition has rejected Mbeki’s mediation, saying his refusal to publicly criticize Mugabe amounts to appeasement. Mugabe could be hoping to stall any resolution by first debating how talks will be conducted.
At the AU Summit
While under pressure from Western governments and human rights activists to take a hard line, African leaders are more likely to try to gently prod Mugabe to engage in a power-sharing agreement.
African leaders have long had close ties to Mugabe, renowned as a campaigner against white rule and colonialism. They also are reluctant to be seen as backing the West against a fellow African. And many cannot claim to have fostered democracy in their own countries.
There have been calls on the AU to send in peacekeepers, but that is unlikely, given the difficulties the body already is having with its stalled peacekeeping mission, undertaken jointly with the UN, to Sudan’s Darfur. AU peacekeepers also are struggling in Somalia.
US President George W. Bush wants the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe as well as travel bans on Zimbabwe government officials. The US is this month’s council president, but building consensus could be difficult.
Diplomats do not expect the Security Council to go much further than a nonbinding resolution passed last week condemning violence against the political opposition in Zimbabwe. South Africa, China and Russia had opposed taking any further council action.
The US, European nations and Australia have imposed limited sanctions on Zimbabwe, and they may strengthen them, though there are concerns tougher measures could hurt ordinary Zimbabweans already struggling with economic collapse.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has severed all bilateral ties with Zimbabwe’s cricket authorities, and Cricket South Africa imposed sporting sanctions on Zimbabwe. But there has been little sign of broader economic boycotts or the kind of grass roots campaigns that were used to bring pressure on apartheid-era South Africa.