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Mugabe Bolstered, Others Struggle For Democracy

U.S. Unilateralism Bolsters Mugabe as Zimbabweans Struggle for Democracy

As Zimbabwe's presidential elections draw near, Africa Action expresses its solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in their efforts to build a free, democratic, and socially just nation. Africa Action's Briggs Bomba is currently in Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission. His observations indicate that while there has been far less outright violence than in past elections and turnout is likely to be high, the democratic process is being undermined by technical subversion of proper electoral procedure, intimidation and coup threats by state security agencies and other violations of political rights. Briggs describes the mood as "pregnant with political tension and possibilities."

Africa Action calls on the international community to support the efforts of Zimbabwean pro-democracy civil society to achieve a peaceful and just resolution to this political crisis and in order for leadership to address the related economic crisis. However, because of the lack of credibility the U.S. holds with Zimbabwe's people, Africa Action does not recommend U.S. leadership in the international response to the elections at this time.

"Regardless of what transpires on and immediately after March 29, U.S.-led intervention in Zimbabwe would only make things more difficult for pro-democracy activists on the ground," said Gerald LeMelle, Africa Action's Executive Director. "President Bush's aggressive unilateral stance against the Mugabe government strengthens the regime's assertion that Western imperialist forces are to blame for Zimbabwe's economic turmoil."

Several scenarios could emerge from Saturday's vote, as Briggs Bomba explains. "If Mugabe loses the election but is declared the winner, popular anger will be intense. Whether or not this frustration translates into any form of mass political action or just a drawn-out legal challenge of the results will depend on the decisions of opposition leadership. If Mugabe loses and Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni is declared a winner, there is a risk of a coup by hardline Zanu-PF supporters."

Africa Action notes that if violence erupts - via a coup or by disenchanted, fed-up voters - the U.S. should support the African Union and regional bodies in mediating a peaceful solution. Despite the temptation to recreate Kenya's recent power-sharing agreement, mediators should approach Zimbabwe's political challenges with caution and with a flexible strategy that balances the need for peace and security with electoral justice. While a power-sharing arrangement may turn out to be a practical solution, the international community should avoid encouraging another precedent where tarnished African elections result in all parties gaining access to power, regardless of how the people actually voted.

For further on the ground coverage of Zimbabwe's elections, visit Africa Action's new blog: More Africa Action resources analyzing U.S. and international policy toward Africa are available at


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