The Mugabe regime’s on-going widespread massacres may not be on the same scale as the wholesale slaughter of Tutsis by Hutu militias in Rwanda in 1994 but the atrocities are similar in that in both cases, timely intervention, which could have saved lives and ended human suffering, was blocked.
In a report issued in 1999, an international panel of experts led by former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson censured the United Nations and the world body’s leading member countries, particularly the United States, for failing to prevent and end the Rwandan genocide in which almost a million people were butchered and more than two million others were displaced.
The report, commissioned by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who at the time of the atrocities headed the UN peacekeeping department, was critical of him and his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali for making “weak and equivocal decisions in the face of mounting disaster.”
The report was equally critical of the United States government, then headed by Bill Clinton and represented at the UN by Madeline Albright, for persistently playing down the problem, thus sending the wrong signal to the Security Council, which as a result failed to demonstrate the political will that was called for to avert the catastrophe that shocked the world.
Both Annan and Clinton acknowledged and apologized for their roles in setting the tone for international inertia during one of the darkest periods in the history of modern Africa.
“On behalf of the United Nations I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse”, said Annan, who described events in Rwanda as “genocide in its purest and most evil form”.
He accepted the damning report as thorough and objective and was obliged to visit Rwanda to apologize in person in response to demands from the Rwandan government.
Likewise, Clinton expressed regret during a tour of Africa, for the international community’s failure to heed the Rwandan people’s desperate calls for help.
But despite the vows that were made following this betrayal of the people of Rwanda that “never again” would genocide be allowed to take place and continue because of foot-dragging on the part of those with the moral obligation and capacity to intervene, history has repeated itself in situations such as the one raging in the Darfur region of Western Sudan, mainly because of the Khartoum regime’s intransigence.
A similar resort to one-upmanship for the sake of self-preservation has been seen over a longer period in Zimbabwe where the lives of innocent people have been sacrificed since the advent of the state-instigated farm invasions spearheaded by war veterans in 2000.
Politically motivated violence, perpetrated mainly by state agents and ruling party militias, which continued in the run-up to the parliamentary elections held the same year and the disputed presidential poll in 2002 is now firmly entrenched.
The Mugabe regime’s governance has become openly murderous with unexplained murders and abductions of innocent Zimbabweans being regularly perpetrated with impunity.
This insane killing spree culminated recently in the retributive massacres that the government resorted to in the aftermath of Robert Mugabe’s defeat in the March 29 presidential election.
And despite Mugabe’s demented claims to have won in the June 27 debacle when he contested the election against himself after the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the race, state-sponsored violence continues to this day.
The privately owned Sunday newspaper, The Standard, quotes the MDC in its latest issue as reporting 12 of its supporters to have been killed since the roundly condemned run-off, which Mugabe was reported by state media to have won by a landslide of 85 percent of the vote.
The question that begs an answer, however, is if Mugabe won the one-horse race so convincingly, why is the violence continuing?
The one person from whom Zimbabweans feel most justified to demand an answer must be South Africa’s President, Thabo Mbeki, who for almost a decade now has masqueraded as a peace broker with all the answers when in reality he has only been effective as a stumbling block.
Through his ineffectual “quiet diplomacy”, denial of realities and downright collusion with the Mugabe regime, Mbeki has played the same role of drowning the urgent SOS from the people of Zimbabwe that the UN and the US were slammed for with respect to Rwanda.
I submit here that Mbeki’s complicity is more inexcusable because his persistence in downplaying the tragic situation in Zimbabwe and sending out the wrong message about the perpetrators of the atrocities to the rest of Africa and the world at large, has allowed a less complex problem that would have been resolved a long time ago, to steadily escalate under his watch.
If I were a prosecutor in the trial of the perpetrators of the mass murders in Zimbabwe, I would regard Mbeki as an accessory to the crimes through his blatant aiding and abetting of the Mugabe regime.
A thread running through the unnecessary loss of lives and the untold suffering of the people of Zimbabwe over the last eight years is Mbeki’s collusion with the government, which he has displayed each time different stakeholders have been determined to take the bull by the horns so as to end the crisis.
The South African president’s theatrics have included throwing tantrums at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja in 2004 when he fought like a lioness defending its cubs to oppose Zimbabwe’s continued suspension from the club and at the United Nations, African Union and Southern African Development Community summits where he has persistently thwarted any attempts to place the Zimbabwean problem on the agenda.
To enable his friends in Harare to buy more time, Mbeki has fended off fellow African and world leaders with endless claims of “imminent” breakthroughs resulting from his mediation efforts, which have never materialized.
The South African leader has never cared about the human dimensions of the Mugabe regime’s tyranny and has sought to view the situation purely at an academic level as though it were a mathematical problem or laboratory experiment.
He has never felt outraged by the fact that opposition supporters, small babies and women being randomly killed and maimed are defenceless flesh and blood people being pitted against the might of the state.
The more than 100 Zimbabweans killed so far in the retributive violence unleashed by the Mugabe regime in the aftermath of the March 29 presidential election and the June 27 run -off need not have lost their lives if Mbeki had not misled the world with his declaration that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe.
But even now that the crisis can no longer be concealed following the AU summit in Egypt, Mbeki is still doing his utmost to prolong human suffering in Zimbabwe by opposing moves by the UN and the G8 to take tougher measures against the Mugabe regime, which is openly waging a genocidal war against the populace.