Sadc must use Ecowas way to tackle Mugabe

Source: Sadc must use Ecowas way to tackle Mugabe – DailyNews Live 23 January 2017

Gift Phiri

HARARE – Following Ecowas’ sustained pressure that has forced Gambia’s
former authoritarian leader Yahya Jammeh into exile in Equatorial Guinea
after his crushing poll defeat, analysts and opposition parties said
yesterday Sadc must abandon its cautious diplomatic approach and dissuade
leaders such as President Robert Mugabe from subverting elections.

This comes after Ecowas sent 7 000 troops into Gambia on Thursday, forcing
Jammeh to relinquish power in the face of onslaught from West African
States to recognise his election defeat to opposition coalition leader
Adama Barrow, who was forced to hold his inauguration as president in
Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Sadc throughout its history has steadfastly avoided criticism of veteran
leader – Mugabe, 92, and in power for 36 years – and even conferred
legitimacy on the nonagenarian by continuing to recognise him as head of
State and by advocating the formation of a coalition government to ensure
the extension of his occupancy of State House, even after opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat the Marxist leader in a March 29, 2008
election, but fell short of enough votes to avoid a June run-off.

Rather than seeking to uphold the will of the people, Sadc leaders fell
into line behind Mugabe – in effect positioning themselves in agreement
with the view that there is a malevolent white racist conspiracy to oust
Mugabe and re-colonise Zimbabwe, led by Britain and the US.

Mugabe has adroitly capitalised on British denunciations of his policies
to present himself as a victim of neo-colonial bullying.

As Zimbabwe lurches into ever deeper trouble amid very real fears about
vote-rigging and subversion of the electoral process in the forthcoming
2018 polls, analysts said yesterday it was time Sadc learns from Ecowas
and abandon its softly-softly approach which has been criticised as
ineffective and tantamount to appeasement.

If the next Zimbabwe election is seriously flawed, it is imperative that
the entire regional community responds immediately and all states refuse
to recognise the results, analysts said.

The crisis that erupted after the March 29, 2008 elections, when it became
clear Mugabe was bent on defying evidence of his defeat at the polls by
Tsvangirai, was an important moment for Sadc but betrayed the regional
bloc’s impotence.

“It is rather sad that the person who had the highest votes in the 2008
(Zimbabwe) election was forced to become a junior partner in a coalition
government,” Gladys Hlatywayo, an analyst said.

“In the case of Gambia, Ecowas was clear in terms of its objective; they
were negotiating and putting pressure for Jammeh to go.

“Sadc might have given us a breathing space given the enormous challenges
the country was facing in 2008 but they did little to solve the crisis in
a sustainable manner.

Eight years later, Zimbabwe still faces the same challenges.”

Analysts said Sadc has provided substantive moral and political support
for the Mugabe regime, which has encouraged it to behave with impunity.

With the Zimbabwean economy in freefall; law and order in the country
breaking down alarmingly; and with presidential elections due next year,
Mugabe faces the real prospect of being defeated again at the polls by a
coalition of opposition parties.

But as checkmate day approaches for the 92-year-old leader, his
administration is predictably going to ridiculous ends to stem the tide.

Since Mugabe’s crushing defeat in the 2008 polls, he has committed to
clawing back his authority through a number of strategies including the
deployment of terror and the use of judicial intimidation against the
opposition; widespread torture and intimidation attested to by both
national and international human rights bodies and using threats by the
state and sections of the paramilitary youth movement.

He has also re-organised Zanu PF structures to ensure the promotion of a
provincial leadership committed to a strategy of coercive mobilisation;
constantly harassed the independent media, and imposed legislative
interventions to consolidate the monopoly of the ruling party over the
electronic media.

Analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it was a good move that Ecowas was able to
rein on a losing head of State who wanted to cling to power.

“This is positive and refreshing. Though this succeeded in this case, it’s
not a sustainable way of asserting people power.

“Citizens of a country must be able to reclaim their vote if politicians
intend to steal it. A citizen cannot depend on foreign forces to address
internal issues.

“I have heard people trying to draw parallels with Zimbabwe and Sadc. This
approach worked in this one case and must not be expected to work

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Africa is moving away from the era of
“Big Man politics” to the era of democracy centred on the people having
the right to choose their leaders in free and fair elections.

“Jammeh and Mugabe are basically cut from the same political cloth, both
of them are rabid and diehard dictators,” Gutu said.

“They are yesterday’s men. Such tyrants are now an anachronism on the
African continent. If Sadc had properly and democratically intervened on
the side of the people in Zimbabwe in March 2008, Mugabe would be history
by now.

“Unfortunately, Sadc was more concerned with protecting Mugabe’s political
reign that they effectively aided and abetted the Zanu PF regime to trash
the people’s will.

“After losing the March 2008 presidential election by more than 74 percent
to …Tsvangirai, Sadc should have put its foot down and called upon
Mugabe to hand over power.

“Right now, Zimbabwe is a political and socio-economic hellhole thanks to
Sadc’s incompetence and indolence.”

Opposition PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Ecowas has put Sadc – which
betrayed its mandate to promote respect for human rights and the rule of
law, subverted the democratic processes and abandoned the people of
Zimbabwe – to shame.

“Ecowas has shown that it is a community for the people and not a
community for the leaders,” Mafume said.

“… Sadc seems to view democracy as a debatable notion only to be
practised when it’s convenient. In other times, they pretend that regional
security is by keeping ruling parties in power.

“In 2008, had they taken a decisive and bold stance, then Zimbabwe would
be a better place and the region would have benefitted as a whole. Sadc is
led by leaders who are dwarfs in giant robes,” he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch senior researcher for southern Africa,
Dewa Mavhinga, told the Daily News that generally Ecowas was more decisive
and committed to its principles than Sadc, as the Jammeh case confirms.

“Ecowas did not hound Jammeh out of office; it simply stood up to dictator
and defended its values.

“This is unlike Sadc which had strong principles for free and fair
elections but is unwilling to defend them and was too cowardly to stand up
and insist on those values in Zimbabwe in 2008,” Mavhinga said.

Analyst McDonald Lewanika said Ecowas continues to be a breath of fresh
air and encouraging sign for the respect of people’s will and democratic
practice on the continent.

“The lesson for other regional bodies like Sadc is clear, they must stop
negotiating with power thieves and dictators when their people reject them
or decide to go another route.

“The will of the people is supposed to be sacrosanct and Sadc should be
able to defend it and associated threats to life to the end,” he said.

He said in Sadc, old loyalties and institutional cronyism takes precedence
over democratic practice.

Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and
African Studies at the University of London told the Daily News there are
no parallels of any decisive sort with Sadc.

“The situation in The Gambia was one where the electoral commission
declared a clear winner in an observed election, and where the president
at first accepted the results – seemingly with good grace,” Chan said.

“None of those conditions have pertained elsewhere. The Nigerians were
particularly incensed about Jammeh’s change of mind, as the peaceful
transition to (Muhammadu) Buhari in Nigeria depended on (former Nigeria
President who served from 2010 to 2015) Goodluck Jonathan’s concession of

“For a while, it seemed Jonathan was indecisive about this.”

Chan said the other key player in case was Senegal, which surrounds The
Gambia – itself a freak of colonial history where the people on both sides
of the border share the same ethnicity, language and religion.

“But Senegal is huge and The Gambia is tiny and in strategic military
terms, being long and narrow, is indefensible in any military sense.

“So, when 7 000 Senegalese soldiers in light armour crossed the border,
the 2 500-strong Gambian army – which has never been tested anywhere –
realised that all posturing was ridiculous and abandoned the president,”
he said.


  • comment-avatar
    Zambezi 5 years ago

    Apart from Botswana – SADC countries are toothless. They all worry that the same thing will happen to them.