Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nearing end game in Zimbabwe

The West, and Britain in particular, is in an absolute bind in Zimbabwe.  Calls by us for Mugabe to go will strengthen his internal position, at least within ZANU PF.  Hostile acts, such as economic sanctions, are effectively both impossible to achieve thanks to the opposition of Russia and China in the Security Council, and in any event worthless thanks to the total and utter collapse of the Zimbabwean state.

(On that point, listening to Today this morning, how can anyone still hold to the belief that the UN is the ultimate global moral arbiter?  John Humphries’s point was that since there was no UN backing for the invasion of Iraq, it was therefore immoral.  How the hell can he pimp out his conscience to Russia and China and still claim to be moral?  Baffling.)

The only move that would remove Mugabe and ZANU PF from power is a military invasion.  There’s a precedent for this in African politics too – the invasion of Uganda by Tanzania to remove Idi Amin.  That this led to the re-instatement of Milton Obote, who was scarcely any better is a further lesson that there are no knights in shining armour in Africa. But the chance of any Western power leading a military invasion of Zimbabwe are nil.  It’s fantasy politics to suggest otherwise.  The only state with the capability of invading is South Africa, and even though Jacob Zuma will probably be less cosmically useless than Thabo Mbeki, it is still the remotest of possibilities.

So what will happen?  The mysterious wounding of Perence Shiri is instructive here.  With reports ranging from assassination to suicide attempt, that Shiri, the man in charge of the Fifth Brigade during Gukurahundi, is involved brings it very close to Mugabe.  If the very inner circle (Shiri is a member of the JOC) is under suspicion, because Mugabe’s fingerprints are all over this, then surely the end of the regime is near.  But what on earth will follow?

There is only one hopeful scenario.  The fall of Mugabe, whether through his death, or a revolt of senior army officers, or a popular uprising involving everyone from ZANU officials to the police to the army to the people, will lead to a vacuum at the top.  This will be the moment for regional powers, perhaps driven by Ian Khama, President of Botswana, to send peace-keeping forces to restore order.  With them in place, steps could be taken for a provisional government to restore the constitution and take steps towards a peaceful election.  Until the installation of that provisional government, however, the West, and Britain in particular, can do absolutely nothing.  It’s frustrating, and it seems almost immoral not to act, but there is nothing we can do that would be of any help.

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