News / Africa

Key Western Diplomats Leaving Zimbabwe

Ambassador Sten Rylander (file photo)
Ambassador Sten Rylander (file photo)

Two of the senior Western diplomats in Harare have finished terms of office in Zimbabwe. Before leaving, they spoke out about the difficulties in executing their duties during their tenure.

Sweden's recently departed ambassador to Zimbabwe,  Sten Rylander, is well known to many of the former liberation movements in southern Africa, particularly the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party.

Sweden, unlike most other Western countries, supported the ANC financially and politically for many of the last decades of the anti-apartheid struggle.

He also knew many of the older leaders in President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party when they were fighting to end white minority rule in the former Rhodesia.

Speaking at his embassy in Harare days before his departure, Rylender said he was surprised and shocked when he discovered soon after arriving in Harare nearly five years ago that he could make little diplomatic progress with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

"I was well known to them and there was an open door and I was very hopeful at that time that it would be possible to reach results by bridge building, by more intense dialogue, but I soon discovered you can't build bridges between Zimbabwe and the international community when they are so divided as a nation.  They need to build bridges between themselves before they can go further," he said.

Rylander, who has been in Africa for 20 years said the worst part of his job was to witness to ZANU-PF's political persecution of the then opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), including a 2007 assault on MDC president and current Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.

"The other thing was the repression and violence - I was not prepared to condone that," he said. "Remember the events in March in 2007.  Some of us went out looking for Morgan Tsvangirai because we thought they were killing him and we went around to police stations to find where he was and we were castigated at that time, by the government.  I am very proud of what we did at that time.  I have no regrets."

In the wake of the violence against Mr. Tsvangirai and scores of his colleagues, then South African president Thabo Mbeki succeeded in persuading Mr. Mugabe to enter into negotiations with the MDC.  The goal was to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. Despite the negotiations, there was extraordinary political violence against the MDC in 2008 after it narrowly won the general election.

Mr. Tsvangirai, victor in the first round of the presidential poll, withdrew from the run-off because of violence against his supporters.  Mr. Mugabe consequently won the second round uncontested.

However regional leaders, in particular South Africa, did not recognize him as president.  Negotiations then began in earnest and produced a political agreement nearly two years ago that led to the formation of the inclusive government in February last year.

Rylander said he believes Zimbabwe has turned the corner.  And he says, it is time for the EU and United States to lift travel and financial sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF colleagues and some companies they control. Rylander says the sanctions are no longer useful in resolving Zimbabwe's political problems, pointing out that Mr. Mugabe uses them within Africa against pro democracy voices.

He says he leaves Zimbabwe with hope, but reflects on moments when ZANU-PF ran a smear campaign against him in the state media. He also has continuing fears about ZANU-PF violence against its political opponents.

"I have been spending a lot of time trying to understand the culture of violence in ZANU-PF, and it goes all the way down long before independence when they had their rifts and discussions, the way they dealt with that was often to kill people, with violence, they have that history, that's why they need to deal with it, both them as a party and Zimbabwe as a nation," he said.

Rylander left Zimbabwe Thursday and retires from Swedish government service later this year.

Outgoing European Union ambassador Xavier Marchal was presented with a farming Oscar earlier this month by the Commercial Farmers' Union for what they said was his outstanding contribution in trying to rebuild Zimbabwe's depleted farming sector.

An agronomist by training, Marchal admits he became "very involved" during his term of office in Zimbabwe and understood personally what many white farmers and their workers had been through during the last ten years of ZANU-PF invasions of white-owned farms.

"I think Zimbabwe was special for me because I have gone through that, because I was born in the Congo," he said. "My father had a plantation which he lost and I witnessed that when I was a teenager so I have been exposed to that and I think that is the reason I became so involved in Zimbabwe."

Like many other Western diplomats, Marchal says he remains frustrated at the slow pace of political reforms in Zimbabwe since the inception of the inclusive government.  Most political analysts in Zimbabwe say political violence has decreased, but blame Mr. Mugabe for delays in political reform.  Marchal regrets that he leaves Zimbabwe before some key issues of the political agreement remain outstanding as he says the EU longed for political stability so it could contribute to Zimbabwe's reconstruction.

"I am a bit sad because I would have wished things to have moved forward further than that," he said. "In that sense I think I am a little bit disappointed because a lot of time is wasted.  If people had listened better or to each other or been a little bit more genuine maybe, things would have moved faster.  I would have been used better than I was."

Marchal left Zimbabwe a few days ago and becomes EU Ambassador in Ethiopia.  He said before leaving that he will return to Zimbabwe one day.  

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid