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Military Intervention Not Likely in Zimbabwe


Analysts say the political crisis in Zimbabwe is not likely to go away any time soon. Increased diplomatic pressure for dialogue within Zimbabwe is one option being proposed by the international community, but some leaders are discussing more direct intervention. However, as Tendai Maphosa reports from London, military intervention seems the least likely route at the moment.

As heads of state and government gathered for the African Union summit in Egypt, it was clear that the crisis in Zimbabwe would dominate the session. African leaders are divided over how to react to Zimbabwe's political crisis and its very flawed election which handed Robert Mugabe a 6th presidential term. Some wanted strong condemnation; others were reluctant to openly criticize Mr. Mugabe.

There has been increasing international pressure to do something about Zimbabwe, with further sanctions and pressure for a dialogue between the government and the opposition the most likely options.

But others have gone further. In Nairobi, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga issued one of the latest calls for military intervention on Monday. He went further and asked the African leaders gathered in Egypt to suspend President Mugabe.

"The situation in Zimbabwe calls for nothing less than an intervention by the African Union. It is necessary for the African Union to show leadership by appointing a team of mediators to go to Zimbabwe," he said. "It is necessary also to send a peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe to preside, or to help to create normalcy, so that free and fair elections can take place in Zimbabwe."

Prime Minister Odinga joins a growing list of those advocating direct intervention in the troubled southern Africa country. On Sunday South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a similar call.

But Peter Hain, a former British minister for Africa and leading anti-apartheid activist, dismisses the idea of a Western-led military intervention in Zimbabwe.

"I think talk of a military intervention is just fanciful. However, I do believe that there may be a role for African soldiers, African peacekeepers not those from Europe or America to go in at some point to police and support an orderly and peaceful transition to a new government," said Hain.

Christopher Alden, an expert on international relations with the London School of Economics, agrees that military intervention is not likely any time soon. Alden adds that if conditions in Zimbabwe do worsen, military action will only happen with the blessing of Africa's leaders.

"The UN will take its lead from the African Union which is meeting. If the African leaders see this crisis as they did with Darfur, if they see it as an equivalent kind of crisis that it's reached that stage, they will give the green light that will enable the UN to step in. So I think a lot of the pressure is really on the African leadership which up until now has been privately critical but publicly largely supportive of Mugabe," said Alden.

In a related matter British supermarket chain Tesco has announced it will stop importing products from Zimbabwe while "the political crisis persists." Tesco buys about $2 million worth of imports a year from Zimbabwe, including vegetables. The announcement follows a call by a British Foreign Office minister to "look carefully" at investments in Zimbabwe.