Three years ago in Zimbabwe, following a disputed election and a wave of violence that threatened the nation with collapse, leaders worked to resolve their differences and chart a new course that was enshrined in the Global Political Agreement, or GPA.
In negotiations mediated by the Southern African Development Community, the country’s leading political figures entered into a transitional government, pledging to share power and move the country toward greater democracy and stability.
Zimbabwe’s colonial legacy and violent struggle for independence left significant challenges. Partisan national institutions and widespread human rights abuses by the state date back to the colonial period. The continuation of these practices has prevented Zimbabwe from achieving its potential and has complicated the U.S. relationship with Zimbabwe for decades.
The GPA represented a realization by Zimbabwe’s leaders and the world that a new paradigm was needed for the Southern African nation to avoid becoming a failed state. For that reason, it remains a model to be followed.
But while there have been some improvements in Zimbabwe’s economy, little political change has occurred and the reforms hoped for in the GPA remain a work in progress.
Zimbabweans’ lives have improved under the GPA. Important public services such as health care, education and sanitation have begun to recover. With dollarization, the chronic hyper-inflation has ended. Senior leaders of the ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change parties now meet to discuss national policies aimed at serving the interests of Zimbabwe’s people.
SADC has been instrumental in promoting progress, and the United States commends its efforts. The leaders of ZANU-PF and the MDC factions should be commended as well for embarking on this difficult path, which has challenged each party in different ways. The SADC-mediated electoral roadmap provides a viable framework to help Zimbabwe move toward free, fair elections. But more work needs to be done to turn the roadmap into a reality.
Certain state institutions continue to favor one political party rather than the State. Political activists are still harassed, and in some circles political violence condoned, continuing a culture of impunity. The international community cannot end this simply by imposing its will. It is up to Zimbabwe’s leaders to end the country’s legacy of political intimidation and violence.
The United States will support the people of Zimbabwe in shaping their own future, one that we hope will be more prosperous, democratic, tolerant and peaceful.