YESTERDAY a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and a number of his key allies was vetoed at the UN Security Council.
China and Russia openly rejected the proposed measures, which included among other things freeze on financial assets and a travel ban.
There has been growing international criticism of Zimbabwe since the re-election of Mugabe in a run-off boycotted by the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The opposition won the first round of Zimbabwe’s presidential elections on 29 March, but official results gave him less than the 50 per cent share needed to avoid a run-off.
Russia and China position on Mugabe stunned many. The UK foreign secretary called China and Russia’s stance “incomprehensible”.
David Miliband said Russia used its veto despite a promise by President Dmitry Medvedev to support the resolution, when it was discussed at this week’s summit of the G-8 group of industrialised nations.
The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Russia’s veto raised “questions about its reliability as a G8 partner”.
The UK ambassador said after the vote that the UN had failed in its duty. “The people of Zimbabwe need to be given hope that there is an end in sight to their suffering,” said Sir John Sawers. “The Security Council today has failed to offer them that hope.”
However, Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said sanctions would have taken the UN beyond its mandate because Zimbabwe did not threaten international stability.
Ordinarily, the resolution has the support of nine council members, the minimum required to pass in the 15-member council.
But the veto of any of the five permanent members is enough to defeat a resolution, and both China and Russia voted against.
After the vote, Zimbabwe’s ambassador said Russia and China move showed that “reason has prevailed.”
“People have been able to see the machinations of Washington, London and France,” said Boniface Chidyausiku.
Since March, human rights groups say about 113 of opposition supporters have been killed, some 5,000 are missing and more than 200,000 have been forced out from their homes.
Voting against Zimbabwe’s proposed sanctions is shocking but not surprising. A lot of despicable things in the world have happened but UN Security Council continues to turn deaf ear.
In 1994 Genocide struck Rwanda and one million people perished in a space of 100 days. At the time, UN Security Council continued debating whether to intervene and save the lives of Rwandans.
As usual, UN Security Council member states failed to come up with one position.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has in the past appealed to UN Security Council to force countries where Genocidaires are hiding to extradite them and face justice but the body has remained quiet on the matter.
The UN Security Council is like that. The body only acts when the issue affects the interests of all member states.