Zimbabwe and the AU: Getting away with murder

To their shame, African leaders fail to act against Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

ROBERT MUGABE addressed his fellow leaders from the continent at a summit of the African Union (AU) two days after he was sworn in again as president of Zimbabwe. Some of the statesmen from the rest of the continent might have felt awkward in their seats—some African leaders did condemn violence employed by Mr Mugabe’s thugs ahead of the voting. Mr Mugabe keeps power thanks only to the use of murder and intimidation, which eventually forced the winner of the first round of voting in March, Morgan Tsvangirai, to quit the race. The Zimbabwean opposition says that pro-government militias killed at least 86 people and detained, injured and displaced tens of thousands more. Nobody believes that the election in Zimbabwe was fair. Yet Africa’s leaders, for the most part, have remained shamefully silent.

The AU teams and observers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), a regional block of 14 countries usually loth to criticise Mr Mugabe, suggested the vote was unsound. South African trade unions, human-rights groups and Western countries have all called for Mr Mugabe to be shunned. Several respected African individuals, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan, have asked for the AU to provide “leadership, wisdom and moral courage”. They want the results of the run-off to be declared illegitimate and to see the appointment of a special envoy to lead mediation, and to prepare for a transitional government and for new, fair, elections. Zimbabwe’s opposition wants the AU and the SADC to lead a mediation team that would help to find a political solution based on the results of the first round.

Mr Mugabe’s shameless response, via a spokesman at the summit in Egypt, has been to tell his critics in the West to “go hang a thousand times”. South Africa, together with China and Russia, are likely to oppose UN sanctions targeted at members of Mr Mugabe’s regime, which are expected to be debated at the Security Council on Wednesday.


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