|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
© The Telegraph, London
Two South African corporate giants are under fire for allegedly handling
large consignments of produce stolen from Zimbabwe's white farmers by
supporters of President Robert Mugabe.
The mining group Anglo American, a London-listed FTSE 100 company, and sugar
company Tongaat Hulett are accused of processing sugar cane stolen from
white farmers under threat of dispossession under Zimbabwe's chaotic "land
Farmers in southeastern Zimbabwe say
Mugabe's "settlers" routinely steal
their crop and send it to mills owned by an Anglo American subsidiary, Hippo
Valley Estates, and Triangle Ltd, owned by Tongaat Hulett.
The farmers claim they have repeatedly reported
the theft to the two
companies and to police in Chiredzi, 480km southeast of Harare who, they
claim, refuse to take action.
"We are victims of
the government's madness over land, and now British and
South African companies are processing cane stolen from us," says Peter
Henning, 63, whose land has been "listed" for nationalisation.
In their defence, the
companies say it is pointless to let the cane just rot
and add that they are bound by Zimbabwean law to process the produce.
When farms are
"listed" for government takeover, a lengthy legal process is
triggered before the government can claim the deeds. The government says
only 300 white-owned farms - out of 6 000 listed - have been processed to
None of the 50-odd white-owned, 240-acre sugar cane
farms adjacent to Hippo
Valley Estates has been taken over legally, but white farmers say they
cannot harvest their crop because their workers are kept away by the threat
of physical violence.
Anglo American says it is
caught in the middle of the land tug-of-war and
denies it is using the legal tussle for its own profit. "We're stuck in the
middle of a difficult legal dispute," says external relations director
Edward Bickham. "We're obliged to accept cane under Zimbabwean law, because
it goes off if you don't."
Anglo American says it does not pay for cane if ownership is
in dispute. It
has asked the courts to determine who should receive payment. It also says
the sums involved are not millions of rands. Hippo Valley has provided
sanctuary to 10 evicted commercial farmers and their families and fuel to
others, it says, although farmers say they were charged commercial rates in
Triangle's managing director, Simon Cleasby,
says it is against the law to
refuse cane delivered by a "licensed grower".
But Zimbabwean barrister Adrian de Bourbon says the
"licensed growers" are
the white farmers, not the settlers, and that the law allows mills to
decline cane if they have "reasonable cause". He adds: "The disputed
ownership of the cane is a reasonable cause."
group Justice for Agriculture says the sugar cane saga is the first
in which corporates are accused of handling stolen produce.
Worsley-Worswick said: "Farmers and their workers in Chiredzi
have been beaten, arrested, lost their homes and livelihoods and their
Sunday Times (SA)
Stage set for Mugabe, Tsvangirai meeting
Sunday Times Foreign Desk
Talks between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change on Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis are set to resume in the
next two weeks.
And President Robert Mugabe and the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would
meet "soon", said the go-between, Father Fidelis Mukonori.
A formal announcement would
be made soon to resuscitate the dialogue between
Zanu-PF and the MDC, which collapsed in May last year.
The talks broke down after Zanu-PF pulled
out in protest against the MDC's
decision to file a court petition challenging Mugabe's disputed re-election.
"The talks are most likely
to start in two weeks," a source in Harare said.
"There has been direct contact between South Africa, Zanu-PF and the MDC
senior South African official said President Thabo Mbeki had been in
with Zimbabwe's political leaders, and talks would start before long. "We
have remained engaged with both parties and an announcement on the
resumption of talks will be made soon," the source said.
"Things are moving forward and we hope a solution will be found soon."
Father Mukonori, who has been involved in shuttle diplomacy
and Tsvangirai, confirmed that the two leaders would meet for talks.
Mukonori met Tsvangirai on July 7 to discuss the issue.
February Mukonori, who helped to stop Mugabe's military crackdown
Matabeleland, in which 20 000 civilians were killed in the 1980s, was at the
centre of reported overtures between Zanu-PF and MDC officials.
Zimbabwe's talks first got under way last year after Mbeki
and his Nigerian
counterpart, President Olusegun Obasanjo, visited the country on March 18 to
kickstart the dialogue.
The talks started
in April, but failed to resume as scheduled on May 13 2002
although an agenda had been agreed.
Mbeki and Obasanjo, with Malawian President Bakili
Muluzi, were in the
country again in May this year to talk about resuming talks. Since then,
Mbeki has put pressure on Mugabe and Tsvangirai to restart dialogue.
Pretoria had been in touch with Zanu-PF through Patrick
Chinamasa and the
MDC through Welshman Ncube.
Due to pressure from
Mbeki, Mugabe and Tsvangirai took giant steps to break
the ice this week by extending an olive branch to each other during the
opening of Parliament.
In a conciliatory tone, Mugabe urged the MDC to work with
while Tsvangirai and his MPs attended Mugabe's address to Parliament for the
Soon afterwards, the MDC announced
it was upgrading its delegation to the
talks with the Zimbabwe government. It demanded that Zanu-PF improve its
team by excluding die-hards like Jonathan Moyo and including more credible
The MDC also wanted a
clear formula and time frames for peace and
Tsvangirai, who recently clashed with Pretoria after accusing Mbeki
a liar, has been particularly under pressure to avoid being sidelined.
Although he has already apologised through diplomatic channels, he also
wants to write a letter of apology to Mbeki.
Sunday Times (SA)
Tsvangirai plays into Zanu-PF's ethnic hand
Rulers are sowing division within the opposition, writes Ranjeni Munusamy
When Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai attacked President Thabo
Mbeki during US President George W Bush's visit to South Africa, few people
were more bewildered than senior members of his own Movement for Democratic
Some privately cursed Tsvangirai for dismissing as "false and mischievous"
Mbeki's statement that dialogue was taking place between the MDC and the
ruling Zanu-PF. Others battled to explain why the party's leaders were
making such divergent public pronouncements on the talks.
On the day Tsvangirai denied that dialogue was in progress,
Paul Themba-Nyathi confirmed it. And when one compares some of Tsvangirai's
statements with those by the MDC secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, you have
to wonder whether the two men even talk to each other.
Ncube, who has been leading the behind-the-scenes negotiations
heavyweights Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, has - probably due to his
legal and academic grooming - been level-headed about the dialogue and how
it should be directed.
He is also keen to have
South Africa as an ally and is said to be irritated
by Tsvangirai's histrionics.
This week, Zanu-PF and the MDC conceded that preliminary
talks had indeed
been in progress for some time and that they were ready for formal dialogue.
Not only have they worked out an agenda but also
reports on each of the
issues up for discussion. These include possible constitutional changes, the
electoral framework, and proposals for transitional government.
What this means is that things have now
progressed too far for the two
parties to turn back.
extraordinary verbal offensive on an influential neighbouring
head of state therefore suggests that he is a hothead who blurts out things
But the dichotomy is also symptomatic of a deliberate and
experiment by Zanu-PF to sow division within the ranks of the opposition.
A wild card in Zimbabwe's political theatre is the ethnic
question - the
juggling act between the Shona and Ndebele groups.
Part of Zimbabwe's bloody history is defined by the battle of
the Ndebele to
assert their citizenship in a Shona-dominated country.
The Mata beleland massacres of the 1980s, which resulted in
up to 20 000
people being killed, was a political dispute which manifested itself in
When Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
and the then opposition PF-Zapu
leader, Dr Joshua Nkomo, signed a unity accord in 1987, they went to great
lengths to strike an ethnic balance.
Had the covenant not been signed, a civil war, and even
could have ensued between the Shona Zanu supporters and Zapu's Ndebele
Zanu-PF, the resultant political party,
is structured to preserve that
balance: the two most senior leaders are from Zanu (Shona) and the
third-ranking and chairman of the party come from Zapu (Ndebele).
Zanu-PF has been locked in this paradigm ever since.
In 1999, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament, Emmerson
Shona, tried to defy the agreement by bidding for the position of national
chairman. He failed.
The tribal undercurrent is still
prevalent in Zimbabwe . In vernacular radio
and television news bulletins, the first five minutes are in Shona, followed
by five minutes of Ndebele.
The MDC would wither into insignificance if it had an
Ndebele leader, and
for this reason Tsvangirai remains the only real leader.
Hardcore politics would be set aside and the MDC would be
Zimbabwe's mass Shona rural population, particularly in Mashonaland, as well
as by the Shona elite.
Ncube and MDC
vice-president Gibson Sibanda, while being the strategists and
intellectual gurus in the party, are fated to play subservient roles by
virtue of the fact that they are both Ndebeles.
Zanu-PF has used the tribal factor to
sow suspicion and division in the
opposition's leadership ranks by planting conspiracies of a simmering coup
in the MDC. Tsvangirai is deliberately undermined and humiliated publicly,
while Ncube is projected as a worthy contender for leadership. The strategy
first kicked off after Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections in 2000, when
Zanu-PF-aligned newspapers ran stories of a brewing tribal confrontation
within the MDC, instigated by its Ndebele leaders.
While Zanu 's campaign petered out then, it is now gaining momentum.
The MDC's leadership structure is faltering under the
pressure of having to
demonstrate its political muscle and maturity in the way it responds to the
country's political and economic crisis.
Resolving the ailments in its high command while maintaining
balance could prove to be just as big a challenge.
Constitutional reform top priority, says
Innocent Chofamba-Sithole-Deputy Editor
AS the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition MDC move inexorably towards
dialogue and a possible negotiated settlement to the current political
impasse, constitutional reform should be accorded top priority, with a new
constitution being used to lay the basis for the country’s next elections,
veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere has said.
In a follow-up interview with the Sunday Mirror after his presentation at a
public meeting held in Harare last Thursday, Tekere said it was absurd that
talk of a transitional government or a government of national unity should
be allowed to cloud the imperative for a new constitution, which should
facilitate the emergence of a new political dispensation in the country.
“My view is that we must not go into elections before we have a new
constitution. In fact, it is the number one priority now,” Tekere said. He
took a swipe at the MDC for its deafening silence on the urgent need to
reform the country’s discredited Lancaster House constitution before new
elections were held, saying the opposition party appeared to harbour a
desire to assume power under the potentially repressive legal status quo.
“Tiri kuzwe zvematalks netransition, asi andisati ndambozwe kuti Tsvangirai
ari kudaidzire new constitution kana kuti akambotaurirawo Obasanjo izvozvo
(We hear talk of a transitional government but, surprisingly, I have not
heard that (MDC leader Morgan) Tsvangirai has advocated for a new
constitution or has brought the issue up with (Nigerian president, Olusegun)
Obasanjo,” Tekere said. Obasanjo and South African president, Thabo Mbeki
have held talks with both Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe before as
part of their African initiative to resolve Zimbabwe’s political impasse.
Earlier on Thursady, Tekere addressed a commemorative public meeting in
Harare organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. At the meeting, which
was intended to discuss the repressive Public Order (Security) Act in
comparison with the equally obnoxious Law and Order Maintenance Act of the
Ian Smith regime, Tekere said there would not be any need to address the
issue of draconian laws if all efforts were invested in the creation of a
new, democratic constitution. He refused to be drawn into a debate on LOMA
“The MDC must engage the government on an new constitution and all this talk
about POSA will not be an issue, this is why I support the work of the NCA,”
he told the gathering, which also included Tsvangirai and MDC spokesman,
Paul Themba Nyathi.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) is a group of non-governmental
organisations, opposition political parties (including the MDC), churches
and students which is campaigning for a new constitution.
NCA chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, who counts Tekere as one of the strong
champions for a new constitution, said it was naïve for the Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition to isolate certain laws for public attention without
addressing comprehensive constitutional reform.
“This is the second time in the past few weeks that our colleagues in the
Crisis Coalition have had a rude awakening. First, they called a convention
in June where the organisers’ intentions were to sideline objectives of
constitutional reform and were told by the delegates that the first thing
must be constitutional reform. Now they have been told by no less than a
leading star of the country’s liberation struggle that a new constitution is
a priority,” Madhuku said.
Responding to Tekere’s accusation that the MDC had forgotten about the
urgent need for a new constitution, Nyathi said it was incorrect to suggest
that his party was not seized with the issue.
“We haven’t taken a quiet approach to constitutional reform,” he said, “Our
position now is that we are talking of a transitional arrangement which
deals with the issue of a new constitution.” Nyathi said as a party that
bore a lot of responsibilities, the MDC could not talk about a new
constitution “with the reckless abandon others take”.
While the government emphatically declared after the rejection of the 2000
Draft constitution that for it, constitutional reform was “not a priority”,
expectations were high among the majority who voted “NO” in the February
referendum that the MDC would continue to give top priority to
constitutional reform. But after the party lost the 2002 presidential
elections to Zanu PF, it pushed for a re-run of the elections, only
insisting that certain laws it perceived as giving undue advantage to the
ruling party be amended in order to “even out” the playing field.
After that, the party’s next preoccupation involved broad consultations with
its structures in preparation for national mass action. And just ahead of
the implementation of its week-long series of job stayaways and street
protests in June - dubbed the “final push” - Tsvangirai addressed a meeting
of G-8 diplomats in Harare, where he said: “The first step in the resolution
of Zimbabwe’s crisis … is the immediate and unconditional exit of Mugabe
from power, followed by fresh elections.” He told the diplomats that the
country’s Lancaster House constitution was very clear on the way forward -
an acting president would take over and prepare for elections within the
stipulated 90 days.
But most Zimbabweans have expressed unease at the prospect of a new
government taking over power under the current constitution, which they
regard as potentially dictatorial.
“That fear is understandable, but any government that comes as a direct
expression of the people’s will would have the moral capacity to deliver a
new constitution to them.
But analysts have warned that, assuming the MDC gets into power, the
prospect that it would retain such laws as POSA to curtail the activities of
a highly militant opposition in Zanu PF is high.
“Zanu PF controls the entire security apparatus of the state and it has
highly militarised structures - the war veterans and the youth militia. Its
supporters would not fear to invade the streets in mass demonstrations
against an MDC government, unlike what the MDC itself failed to do during
its “final push”. Now, do you think Tsvangirai would sit idly by and watch
them attempt to march to State House?” queried one University of Zimbabwe
lecturer on condition of anonymity.
He said an MDC government, especially in the early days of its incumbency,
would obviously be seized with considerations of self-preservation and
therefore maintain the current security laws. Fearing destabilisation by
security elements of the ousted Rhodesian Front regime, the government
retained the Smith-era State of Emeregency 10 years into the country’s
Zimbabwe court defers treason ruling
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's High Court has deferred a ruling set for
Monday on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's request that treason charges
against him be dismissed, a defence lawyer says.
Tsvangirai and two senior colleagues in the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) could face death sentences if convicted of plotting to assassinate
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 2001.
Tsvangirai and his colleagues have pleaded not guilty to treason and their
lawyers have asked the High Court to dismiss the charges, saying the state
has failed to present a solid case since the trial began in February.
High Court Judge President Paddington Garwe said ten days ago he would
deliver his ruling on the discharge application on July 28.
"We have been advised that the court is not yet ready with a ruling, and so
the case remains deferred until the judge is ready with a ruling," defence
lawyer Innocent Chagonda told Reuters.
The state's case hinges on a videotape of a meeting in Montreal between
Tsvangirai and political consultant Ari Ben-Menashe which it says captured
Tsvangirai discussing Mugabe's "elimination."
The defence says the video was doctored to discredit the MDC, the biggest
political threat to Mugabe since he led the country to independence from
Britain in 1980.
In his application for discharge, chief defence lawyer George Bizos said
Menashe was "a notorious and demonstrable liar" and the court could not rely
on his evidence.
The prosecution said Tsvangirai and his colleagues should answer the charges
against them because the state had shown sufficient evidence that the MDC
defendants discussed seeking the support of the army for a post-Mugabe
transitional government. It said that on its own amounted to treason.
The MDC and several Western countries accuse Mugabe of rigging his
re-election in 2002 and blame his government for chronic food and fuel
shortages and inflation running at 365 percent -- one of the highest rates
in the world.
Mail and Guardian
Mugabe holds talks with churches
27 July 2003 11:10
Zimbabwe's main alliance of civic organisations expressed cautious optimism
after a meeting between President Robert Mugabe and leaders of the country's
major churches on Friday.
Mugabe held two hours of talks at his official residence with senior
representatives of the Zimbabwe Christian Council. The council represents
the country's mainstream protestant and catholic churches as well as the
evangelical Christian churches.
Bishop Sebastian Bakare, of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe, said after the
meeting he and bishops Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga had called on
Mugabe to register their concern over what was happening in the country and
to try to facilitate dialogue between Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"Our strong desire is to bring them together in the interests of Zimbabwe,"
the independent Daily News quoted Bakare as saying. Mugabe had been "fairly
responsive" to their approach. "We would like to carry on with our
discussion with the two parties so they can come up with a home-grown
solution, without having to get some outsiders to tell us what to do."
Zimbabwean churches have been involved in exploratory shuttles for the last
three months to try and bring the country's two main political antagonists
to negotiate an end to the political and economic crises in the country.
The impetus for dialogue received a sharp boost on July 9 when United States
president George Bush and South African president Thabo Mbeki discussed the
issue, and agreed on the need for urgent action.
Because of the political turmoil of the last couple of years,
Zimbabwe's once robust economy is in collapse. Inflation is forecast to hit
1 000% at the end of 2003, while the gross domestic product has slumped 30%
in just three years and a famine looms.
Brian Kagoro, senior coordinator in the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said
the organisation supported the churches' initiative.
"It's encouraging that they have met, but it's the extent to which they are
able to agree on a commitment to unconditional dialogue that is important."
The country's established churches have turned against Mugabe in recent
months, with the ZCC last week apologising for its inaction during years of
"state-driven lawlessness and impoverishment".
There were Nigerian and South African-brokered dialogue initiatives
immediately after Mugabe's victory in flawed presidential elections in March
2002, but these collapsed after three weeks when Mugabe broke off formal
talks because of the MDC's challenge to the election result.
The MDC, backed by independent international election observers, said Mugabe
had won by means of fraud, intimidation, repressive laws that stopped
Tsvangirai from campaigning, and the mass disenfranchisement of MDC
Mugabe has refused to talk to the MDC until it dropped its court challenge
to the election results.
Remarks in the state press on Saturday indicated Mugabe was sticking to this
condition. The Herald, the ruling party's main mouthpiece, quoted unnamed
sources as saying that Mugabe told the bishops he was "concerned about the
impediments (to talks) cause by the MDC". This included the MDC's refusal to
recognise his re-election.
However, Mugabe was also quoted as welcoming the olive branch the MDC put
out to the government this week when it decided to drop a planned walkout of
Parliament during Mugabe's annual address at the opening of the legislature.
Mugabe told the church leaders he hoped this was the beginning of new
thinking in the MDC ranks and that he looked forward to brighter things to
come. – Sapa
Nigeria's Obasanjo to meet Blair in Britain
LAGOS, July 27 — Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will meet British
Prime Minister Tony Blair in London to push for increased aid and support
for Nigeria's role as a regional peacekeeper, Obasanjo's office said on
Obasanjo, a former military ruler who won re-election in the former
British colony in April polls disputed by the opposition, also plans to hold
talks with World Bank President James Wolfensohn during his two-day visit.
''President Obasanjo, departing on Monday, July 28, will use the
meetings to seek increased financial assistance, especially official
development assistance to fund planned reforms,'' said a statement issued by
Obasanjo has faced strident criticism at home for failing to end
prolonged economic stagnation in Africa's most populous country and top oil
producer since he first won elections in 1999 that ended 15 years of
But he has also helped spearhead African efforts to foster good
governance in return for greater private western investment under the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), working with South African
President Thabo Mbeki and others.
Blair, who pledged last year to heal the ''scar'' of African poverty,
has actively lobbied for NEPAD, billed as an economic rescue plan for the
world's poorest continent.
The two leaders are also likely to touch on Liberia's worsening
conflict and the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
The top official from West Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS has said
Nigeria will deploy peacekeeping troops in Liberia this week, where a fresh
bout of fighting between rebels and Liberian President Charles Taylor's
forces has terrorised the capital.
Zimbabwe's political crisis is likely to feature in talks between the
54-nation Commonwealth of mainly former British colonies, when it meets in
Nigeria's capital Abuja in December.
South Africa and Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa's most influential
nations, are widely regarded as more sympathetic to Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe than Britain.
Cash shortage deepens in crisis-ridden Zimbabwe
July 27, 2003, 11:30
Zimbabwe's list of endangered species has a new entry - money.
Harare has become a maze of queues as thousands line up at banks in an
attempt to get their hands on this vanishing entity, which is following fuel
and common food goods down the wretched path of scarcity.
Winding queues outside banks is one of the most visible signs of
a deepening crisis widely blamed on President Robert Mugabe's government. "I
have been coming here every day this week and told there is no money, or I
can only get Z$5 000 (US $6,06) at the official rate. What can I do with
that amount of money? It can only buy me five loaves of bread," one angry
woman from Chiweshe, some 60km northeast of Harare, said last week.
With transport costs soaring in recent months, the woman said
she had skipped work for several days after resolving to take up temporary
residence in Harare, and would only return to Chiweshe when she had amassed
enough cash to last the month. Thousands of workers attempted to access
their monthly salaries on Friday, only to be told in most cases that banks
either did not have cash or could only dispense limited amounts.
The money squeeze, now in its second month, has worsened the
plight of Zimbabweans grappling with soaring unemployment and the country's
worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980.
Money came too late
The government says it has injected Z$24 billion into the
banking system over the past month but analysts say the money came too late
and was quickly drained out by panicked consumers.
"The ordinary person on the street no longer has confidence and
even if you pump in a lot of money people will merely take it outside the
banking system and keep it at home," said Witness Chinyama, an economist at
Kingdom Financial Holdings. Bank officials said cash had joined a rising
number of basic commodities like fuel, sugar and maize meal in short supply
on the mainstream market but more readily available on a thriving black
market at a steep premium.
Chinyama said the situation had been worsened by inflation,
which has roared to 365%, one of the highest rates in the world. Interest
rates offered by commercial banks that are negative after adjusting for
inflation were also a deterrent for depositors.
Mugabe (79) and in power since independence, denies he has
mismanaged the economy and charges that it has been sabotaged by local and
international opponents over his controversial seizure of white-owned farms
for redistribution to landless blacks. - Reuters
Liberia Is No Place for US to Go Alone to Enforce Peace
Manthia Diawara LA Times
LOS ANGELES, 27 July 2003 — Among the consequences of the invasion of Iraq
by the United States and its small coalition of “the willing” is the
undermining of the authority of the United Nations and its Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, as well as the spread of mistrust around the world.
Given that the United Nations could not prevent the invasion, it is now
difficult for the world assembly to muster the authority needed to put
together an impartial peacekeeping force to curtail the humanitarian
disaster Liberia is suffering at the hands of its president, Charles Taylor.
In fact, the Taylors of the world can go on butchering their own people,
running guns, drugging and arming child-soldiers and smuggling “blood
diamonds” without fear of the world’s moral authority.
Like Saddam Hussein, Taylor is considered a megalomaniac by many nations, a
monstrous killer who sometimes sees himself as a prophet in direct
communication with God. He has backed rebel forces in neighboring countries,
contributing to the destabilization of the entire West African region. A UN
tribunal has indicted him for supplying guns to the Revolutionary United
Front in Sierra Leone, fueling a war that killed more than 500,000 and
mutilated many more. In Liberia, the rebel group Liberians United for
Reconciliation and Democracy is in Monrovia, the capital city, ready to
attack the presidential palace and kick Taylor out.
The problem now is how to get rid of Taylor without further bloodshed and
without a repeat of his horrific crimes. Should a UN coalition force of
African peacekeepers establish order and arrest Taylor to put him on trial?
Or should Washington alone act as peacekeeper until a peaceful solution is
Ironically, even though Annan has been among those objecting to US
unilateral actions, he is now suggesting that because of historical ties
between the United States and Liberia, the Bush administration should be
solely responsible for sending in troops to secure the peace. Taylor and the
rebels have also called on Washington for help, and even the other West
African leaders believe that the United States must step in to solve the
problem in Liberia. Nigeria has offered asylum to Taylor, hoping to make the
job easier for the Bush administration.
Only Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, seems reluctant to endorse
such US intervention in Liberia. (He may be worried about setting a
precedent that would allow Britain to send troops to invade Zimbabwe, South
Africa’s next-door neighbor, to forcibly remove dictator Robert Mugabe from
power. Zimbabwe is a former British colony.)
There is no doubt that Taylor’s regime, like Saddam’s in Iraq, is a threat
to world peace and democracy. A continuing crisis in Liberia only adds to
the troubles of all of West Africa, which is already grappling with anarchy,
tribalism and corruption in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia
and with weak democracies in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Benin. A failed state
in Liberia would allow for money laundering by terrorists there and would
force more African flight from Africa to Europe and the United States.
Despite such a catastrophic scenario and despite the various pleas for US
action, the country should not intervene unilaterally in Liberia. Sending
American troops alone to Liberia will only temporarily solve the problem.
Further, even with Annan’s blessing, relying on the United States to rescue
Liberia, as France and Britain have done in the past in their old colonies
of Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, only affirms neocolonial intervention in
Africa. It points to the failure of Africans to resolve their own problems
and to the ineffectiveness of the United Nations in conflict resolutions.
Ultimately, it heightens the chances that any major power will intervene
where it deems another country is a failed or rogue state.
Instead, the United States should move into the background, taking a role in
an impartial UN-led coalition of African peacekeepers in Liberia, which
should be formed in conjunction with the newly organized African Union. It
should send arms and aid to the effort, but not soldiers.
This is not only the best course of action for a lasting solution in Liberia
and for the future of Africa, it is the best way for the United States to
defend its own interests. By working within a UN-led effort, the United
States would position itself to gain the broad coalition it now says it
needs to reconstruct Iraq and create an opportunity for the United Nations
to regain its moral legitimacy in the eyes of Americans and the world.
— Diawara is a professor of comparative literature and African studies at
New York University.