Every day more world leaders join the chorus of criticism over the on-going political turmoil in Zimbabwe. They are rejecting as a fraud President Robert Mugabe’s June 27 re-election following a campaign of violent voter intimidation, and they are increasing pressure to resolve a crisis causing untold suffering for the Zimbabwean people.
A move to turn this angst into action, however, stalled last week in the United Nations Security Council. Representatives from Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and a select number of other government officials, saying that the situation in Zimbabwe is an internal matter and doesn’t threaten international security. So at least for now other ways must be found to turn up the heat on Mr. Mugabe for his crimes. In the meantime, the United States and others in the international community will continue to reach out to the Zimbabwean people and look for ways to be helpful to them.
Critics argue that political pressure alone will be enough to force Mr. Mugabe to negotiate a settlement with the opposition party. But political pressure failed to end the beatings and killings that led up to the election, and there is little in Mr. Mugabe’s record to suggest he would share power.
The U.N. draft resolution would have banned arms sales to Zimbabwe and impose a travel ban and financial freeze against Mr. Mugabe and thirteen senior government ministers, army officers and others believed responsible for election-related violence. Some see this as punitive and likely to hurt efforts by Zimbabwe’s African neighbors to mediate the crisis. But again, mediation didn’t stop the pre-election violence. In fact, the attacks continue in sporadic revenge beatings by ruling party supporters against opposition activists and their families.
Sanctions opponents need look only to South Africa where similar action helped bring down the former apartheid government. Any delay in putting pressure on Mr. Mugabe and his government compounds a tragedy playing out not only in Zimbabwe, but in the neighboring countries where thousands of Zimbabweans are fleeing, seeking refuge from the violence and the economic and political insecurity that the Mugabe regime has created.