Thursday, June 19, 2008

Let's face the truth about Zimbabwe (Norman Geras)

Another important African political figure who has publicly criticized Robert Mugabe's tyrannical and increasingly murderous rule in Zimbabwe (along with these) has been Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. African heads of government don't normally criticize each other for such peccadillos, but Odinga's attitude may not be entirely surprising, since he has his own reasons to be upset about stolen elections.

Odinga is no angel himself, but most informed observers agree that he did actually win the Kenyan election for President in December 2007, before the results were rigged to keep incumbent President Mwai Kibaki in power. This touched off several months of terrifying inter-ethnic violence that was eventually calmed down by a political deal in which Kibaki remained President, with reduced powers, while Odinga became Prime Minister.

That background may help explain why Odinga has been willing to talk turkey about Zimbabwe, most recently in a speech on Tuesday:
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s critical remarks about Zimbabwe have reverberated through a speech he delivered Tuesday at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during his first official visit to the United States. Describing the southern African country as an eyesore and an embarrassment to the African continent, Odinga called for President Robert Mugabe to resign if he fails to win Zimbabwe’s June 27 presidential run-off election. He criticized the silence of some African leaders, who he said have failed to speak out about election irregularities in Zimbabwe. The Kenyan prime minister also urged South African President Thabo Mbeki and other regional leaders of the Southern African Community (SADC) to get international monitors on the ground in time to curb election fraud in Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off.
Given everything, talk like this from the Prime Minister of an important African country is commendable and refreshingly honest. But as Norman Geras correctly points out (below), the truth is that even Odinga's formulations were unrealistically diplomatic. After everything that has already occurred, "whatever should happen between now and the actual voting," there is no longer any chance that a "victory" by Mugabe in the June 27 run-off election could possibly deserve to be considered legitimate.
But, in any case, held so soon after a wave of government-sponsored terror has swept across the country, this election is already long past the point where any impartial election observer could call it a free or fair one. Perhaps the various spokespeople feel restrained from saying it outright by the worry that to do so would invalidate the result should Morgan Tsvangirai still win, despite everything. There is a simple point to be noted here, however [....] Should the Zimbabwean opposition manage to prevail, even against what has been a campaign of intimidation, assault and torture, then it will have shown the will of the Zimbabwean people to get rid of the Mugabe regime. If Mugabe 'wins', the result is nothing but an ugly lie.
At this point, in short, there is only one possible legitimate outcome.

Hoping for the best (but not optimistic),
Jeff Weintraub
==============================
Norman Geras (normblog)
June 19, 2008
Only one possible legitimate outcome

From Zimbabwe:
Often the corpses are hidden, but occasionally the killers like to display their handiwork as a warning. Chokuse Muphango was murdered in Buhera South last week. His killers put his body on the back of a truck and drove it through town announcing: "We have killed the dog."
Ditto:

Four opposition activists... were burned to death last night after the house they were in was firebombed...
And here's a map of the campaign of violence.

Against this background, what is one to make of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's statement to the General Assembly?
Should these conditions continue to prevail, the legitimacy of the election outcomes would be in question.
Or what is one to make of this?

[Raila] Odinga called for President Robert Mugabe to resign if he fails to win Zimbabwe's June 27 presidential run-off election... The Kenyan prime minister also urged South African President Thabo Mbeki and other regional leaders of the Southern African Community (SADC) to get international monitors on the ground in time to curb election fraud in Zimbabwe's presidential run-off.
Given what has happened already, and whatever should happen between now and the actual voting, how can it be entertained as a serious proposition that this election could be free or fair? A statement from the foreign ministers of Tanzania, Swaziland and Angola is more robust in reckoning that to be improbable:
Zimbabwe's run-off presidential election next week is very unlikely to be free and fair, a group of southern African ministers said on Thursday, in the strongest regional condemnation yet of pre-poll violence.

"There is every sign that these elections will never be free nor fair," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told a news conference. He was speaking on behalf of a peace and security troika of nations from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
But, in any case, held so soon after a wave of government-sponsored terror has swept across the country, this election is already long past the point where any impartial election observer could call it a free or fair one. Perhaps the various spokespeople feel restrained from saying it outright by the worry that to do so would invalidate the result should Morgan Tsvangirai still win, despite everything. There is a simple point to be noted here, however, and it should not be beyond the grasp of those making the various quoted statements: in the circumstances prevailing the result could be considered democratically valid if Tsvangirai were to win but not if Mugabe does. That may sound paradoxical or perverse, but it is the only reasonable conclusion. If T runs a race with M and is forced to hop because M has smashed one of his ankles with a club, and T still crosses the finishing line ahead of M, T wins. M cannot legitimately win. Should the Zimbabwean opposition manage to prevail, even against what has been a campaign of intimidation, assault and torture, then it will have shown the will of the Zimbabwean people to get rid of the Mugabe regime. If Mugabe 'wins', the result is nothing but an ugly lie.

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