Lobbying efforts by Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have produced agreement with the Southern African Community (SADC) to send additional election monitors for Zimbabwe’s June 27 presidential run-off. Angola Foreign Minister Joao Miranda announced the increase yesterday, shortly after Tsvangirai’s return from six weeks in South Africa. Miranda, who chairs SADC’s security and defense committee, told Angola’s Angop news agency the 14-nation regional bloc would boost its observer team above the 120 provided in March, when no western monitors were allowed to view Zimbabwe’s first round of voting. Africa director Georgette Gagnon of Human Rights Watch recently urged the African Union to provide observers to promote free and fair voting. She says that without more monitors, escalating violence will ensure a run-off victory for President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF supporters.
“Without any changes on the ground, we are very concerned that the violence could escalate because with no independent observers or condemnation or action by the African Union, by SADC, and others, obviously, ZANU-PF is free to do what it wants with impunity, and in our view will try to win at any cost,” she said.
In a written statement last week, Human Rights Watch called on the African Union to demand publicly that the Zimbabwe government halt what it called a campaign of violence, torture, and intimidation. Among steps recommended to reduce tensions, Gagnon called for the end of attacks and intimidation of MDC supporters, who she charged have been beaten, tortured, and killed since March 29 in the provinces of Masvingo, Manicaland, and Mashonaland West, East, and Central. Other steps include changes and implementation of new legislation, a lifting of media restrictions, a halt in ZANU-PF’s targeting and harassment of election officials, the resolution of various court cases involving election irregularities, and an improvement in Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) officials being able to conduct their operations fairly and impartially. Gagnon said that sending in outside peacekeepers to halt the violence probably won’t happen and that further sanctions against Harare are an unlikely option because those already in place have not worked.
“I do not see any international peacekeepers coming into the country or even being suggested at this point. Some would say this isn’t enough of an internal conflict for that to happen. In terms of sanctions, the European Union already has some sanctions on Zimbabwean authorities. The United States has in fact a sanctions regime in place. But it is unlikely more sanctions will be forthcoming because obviously, they haven’t stopped the violence up to now,” she said.
Since his return, Tsvangirai has requested that SADC election monitors be deployed in Zimbabwe by June 1. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s state-run Ziana news agency reports this week that 30 observers from the Pan African Parliament, the African Union’s legislative body based in South Africa, are expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on June 13. Gagnon says the importance of an AU presence in Zimbabwe to ensure a fair June 27 vote cannot be played down.
“The chances are probably quite low unless the African Union as a united team urges and confronts the Zimbabwean government to let them in. Also, the observers would need probably financial support from the United Nations or some other group to actually permit them to deploy quickly. We are hopeful that as the pressure mounts, it will come out publicly and condemn these abuses and try and pressure the government to hold a free run-off vote on June 27,” she noted.