Amid a brutal campaign of violence by the entrenched ruling party in
Zimbabwe, opposition leaders have withdrawn from the upcoming
presidential runoff on June 27. Morgan Tsvangirai made the difficult
decision that it isn’t right to ask his countrymen to risk their lives
to vote at this time. If the balloting proceeds without him, the
international community must unite to hold Zimbabwe’s president, Robert
Mugabe, accountable for both the violence and a stolen election.
As the violence grew in recent weeks, it was clear the government and its supporters would stop at nothing to claim victory. As many as eighty-five people may have died in the wave of shootings, beatings, torture and arson since Mr. Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in first-round voting March 29, but was alleged to have fallen short of the majority needed to take office. Following the balloting, ruling party supporters launched a bloody campaign of harassment and intimidation to prevail in the runoff. Mr. Mugabe fed the flames, declaring that a vote for Mr. Tsvangarai would be a vote for war.
One solution being floated to settle the crisis is for the two men to join together to form a national unity government. A similar approach was used in Kenya following that nation’s disputed presidential election in December. But Zimbabwe isn’t Kenya, and the government-orchestrated pre-election rampage shows that any power-sharing agreement that involves Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle should be subject to close scrutiny. Likewise, his hard line supporters would make such an arrangement impossible. “There is no room for compromise,” said Jabulani Sibanda, head of so-called War Veterans militia. “People who are opposing each other will never work together.”
Government officials say that despite Mr. Tsvangarai’s decision, the runoff will go ahead in accordance with the country’s constitution. That will mean an all but certain paper victory for Mr. Mugabe and continued misery for his people.
Zimbabwe’s African neighbors and indeed nations around the world must know this is no longer an internal matter. International pressure should – no, must – be brought to bear.