Monday, October 6, 2008

Young African Academics Weigh in On Zimbabwe Powersharing Deal and African Democracy

06 October 2008

The Zimbabwe Advocacy Office in Geneva has hosted 17 African students of Human Rights and Good Governance for a presentation on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the work of the office. The students, from Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi, Eritrea and Ghana were on an exposure visit to Geneva-based human rights institutions organised by the German Academic Exchange Service Service and the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute. The group, led by Dr Jan Claudius Völkell, also visited the United Nations Office, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Global Humanitarian Forum and International Service for Human Rights.

Marlon Zakeyo, Human Rights Officer at the Zimbabwe Office, delivered a presentation on the general human rights situation in Zimbabwe and an analysis of the power-sharing deal signed by the country’s major political parties on September 15. Zakeyo underlined that even though the agreement was a positive step in the right direction, after similar events in Kenya the deal perpetuates a dangerous precedent where incumbent governments can subvert the will of the people through using the coercive arms of the state, violence and intimidation. Zimbabwe’s powersharing deal with all its inherent complexities has already developed problems even before take-off as the parties have failed to agree on the make-up of the coalition cabinet. On the ground the suffering of Zimbabweans is increasing and the little hope there was dissipating because of the uncertainty. Over 45% of Zimbabwe’s population is facing starvation, whilst noone is taking firm responsibility for restoring essential public services such as water and electricity. In response to a question, Zakeyo said that justice for victims of political violence is very important for Zimbabwe’s future stability and must not be sacrificed for political expediency. Zimbabwe’s history has been dominated by a century of impunity woven to serve political elites with little regard for victims and survivors.

Participants also agreed that African countries need to focus on developing and strengthening national and regional institutions anchored in the rule of law so that the future is not taken hostage by power-hungry politicians. The fact that the powersharing deal was an African initiative to solve ‘an African problem’ do must not deter Africa from setting higher goals for democratic achievement and holding up the integrity of democratic elections.

The role of South Africa in Zimbabwe’s crisis was also tackled. The main view was that the despite brokering the deal in the end, the South African government’s response was too little too late. South Africa long blocked international action against Robert Mugabe’s government and under-represented the gravity of the crisis in Zimbabwe to the rest of the world. South African civil society and churches would however be remembered for standing solidly with the Zimbabwean people as in the case of the blocking of the Chinese arms ship.

World Student Christian Federation’s Communications Intern, Andrés Lopez also gave an overview of WSCF’s history and work around the world.

© Zimbabwe Human Rights Advocacy Office
WSCF, 2008

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