March 04, 2002
In Zimbabwe longtime President Robert Mugabe, facing possible removal from power by the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has undertaken increasingly violent and repressive measures to stifle opposing viewpoints and outlaw any independent press. But there’s great news! Commonwealth leaders meeting in Australia have struck a deal, agreeing on a compromise to deal with the rapidly worsening situation. And that compromise is: forming a committee! To talk about the situation some more!
Under a deal reached at talks in Australia, the leaders agreed to set up a three-member committee to decide possible action, based on the findings of the group's election observers deployed in the country.Despite daily reports chronicling Mugabe’s crushing of even the most basic tenets of democracy, the group has decided to postpone any decision on action until after the March 9-10 vote, guaranteeing that there will be almost no possibility of a fair election. (Recent incidents include the police breaking up a meeting between Tsvangirai and foreign envoys, the repeated detaining of Tsvangira, along with the arrest of dozens of other MDC party members, repeated physical attacks against opposition party members and at party gatherings, and a complete clampdown on independent media.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says it was a painful compromise between countries like Britain and Australia, which had pushed for immediate suspension, and others like Tanzania and Namibia which opposed any discussion at all.
What options will the compromise committee be considering to deal with the situation? Well, first of all it’s almost not worth mentioning, since the committee makeup almost ensures that no action will be taken.
The three-member Commonwealth committee, or troika, is made up of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Analysts say President Robert Mugabe is likely to be pleased with the deal as Nigeria and South Africa have in the past opposed sanctions on Harare.If they do break with tradition and decide to join the European Union in taking action, the options range from "collective disapproval" to a largely symbolic suspension from the Commonwealth, which I’m sure have Mugabe quaking. Especially the collective disapproval, complete with requisite clucking and tsk-tsking.
Last night I heard MDC spokeswoman Sekai Holland talk briefly about the situation. She sounded like somebody who knew she shouldn’t be shocked at yet another injustice, but couldn’t stop herself from becoming infuriated. It was an awful thing to hear.
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