West must up game on human rights 

Source: West must up game on human rights – DailyNews Live

Sunit Bagreed      7 February 2019

LONDON – Since the November 2017 coup, progressive civil society
organisations in the West have warned our leaders not to forget the
terrible human rights records of Zimbabwe’s key political players.

We have urged our governments to work together and press Zimbabwe’s new
leaders to take tangible actions to protect and empower the Zimbabwean
people in line with the country’s international obligations.

Unfortunately, political elites in the West often fail to act upon
principled arguments. In the case of Zimbabwe, the UK government provides
the most spectacular example of this failure. The former British
Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, was heavily criticised by
opposition politicians and civil society activists both in Zimbabwe and in
the UK for behaviour that strongly suggested she was supportive of
President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Prior to the coup, the UK government’s profound uneasiness regarding Grace
Mugabe saw British officials reach out to her political opponents. After
the coup, in their desire to turn a hostile relationship into a friendly
one, these officials ignored those who urged caution and scepticism
regarding the new president’s promises.

The European Union (EU) and the United States government have also been
guilty of ignoring some important calls for promoting justice.

There is a sense among many in European civil society that the EU lacks a
clear direction when it comes to Zimbabwe.

An example of this is the EU’s decision in 2015 to resume aid to the

Another example is the lack of a robust EU response to the most recent
human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

The US government is the most outspoken of all Western actors in relation
to civil and political rights in Zimbabwe, but its position on debt is
deeply unhelpful. US officials do not accept that some of Zimbabwe’s debt
is odious. There needs to be a comprehensive audit to identify where the
country’s debts come from and who benefitted from loans.

The West is right to be worried about the growing influence of China and
Russia in Zimbabwe as neither of these powers cares about human rights.

The West is also correct to be concerned about the failure of the Southern
African Development Community (Sadc) and African Union (AU) to hold
Zimbabwe’s leaders to account. Western actors need to respond by
prioritising human rights and working together more closely.

The West must call for an international investigation into all human
rights violations this year; such an investigation must shed light on who
gave the orders for the security forces to commit these violations.

All talks on re-engagement and normalising relations should be completely
suspended until the findings of such an investigation are published and
the government of Zimbabwe acts on them. If the security forces continue
to attack civilians, the EU (and the UK post-Brexit) should review
sanctions on Zimbabwe.

It is also necessary for the West to increase support – in a strategic and
critical manner – to those Zimbabwean politicians and civil society
activists who are genuinely working to break down barriers and forge
inclusive spaces for democratic transformation.

Western actors need to work as well as with those in Zanu PF who realise
that change must come. If there is to be an inclusive national dialogue to
address the current political and economic crisis, the West’s support for
those Zimbabweans who are willing to put their country first could be

In doing these things, the likes of the UK, EU and US can challenge Sadc
and the AU to take the crisis in Zimbabwe more seriously.  Of course, such
an approach would require the West to better prepare for countering the
inevitable propaganda.

When accused of orchestrating protests, Western actors should consistently
ask for proof. When accused of being “imperialist”, Western actors should
relentlessly make the case that championing human rights is fundamentally

Ultimately, the Zimbabwean people’s struggle for freedom will be won by
Zimbabweans. But their struggle is more likely to succeed if Western
actors significantly up their game on human rights.

* Sunit Bagree is Senior Campaigns Officer at Action for Southern Africa
(ACTSA), the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement.


  • comment-avatar
    Flick 3 years ago

    gave the orders for the security forces to commit these violations”. Is it just a coincidence that Chiwenga suddenly had to go to South Africa on health grounds mmmmmmm !!!

  • comment-avatar
    TANETA 3 years ago

    Now its time for action, the WEST SHOULD TAKE ACTION NOW