Zimbabweans willingness to reconcile and reorganize to rebuild. Fortuitously, the country has a wealth of capable people who can contribute.
South Africa has a strong interest in encouraging a revival. South Africa and other regional players such as the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Nigeria should be urged by the international community to more vigorously pursue diplomatic engagement. The major international donors-the World Bank, the IMF, UN agencies, the British and American governments, and other key players-will need to play an active role in shepherding and supporting the locally-owned recovery strategy.
Recent post-conflict experiences in poor countries provide important lessons about the priority tasks for promoting peace, stability and economic reconstruction in Zimbabwe:
• Establishing security and the rule of law;
• Fostering political reconciliation and legitimate institutions of government;
• Rebuilding the institutional capacities of the state;
• Encouraging a comprehensive and inclusive economic recovery, including
timely normalization of relations with the international community and rapid
support comprised of aid, debt relief, and private finance.
Crucial Political Support
The key interventions where the international community can support Zimbabwean efforts to improve governance include:
1. Providing assistance to smooth the political transition. The international community must be prepared to help provide a politically neutral transitional arrangement, including the facilitation of either a government of national unity or temporary third-party management. The leading international donors might need to create a “Contact Group,” as was successfully employed in Bosnia, to help nurture the internal political process and focus international attention. This arrangement would manage the inflow of assistance, lay the groundwork for credible elections, and possibly a new constitution-writing effort. If security deteriorates, there might also be scope for an international observer-mission, perhaps led by South Africa but under the auspices of SADC or the African Union (AU) and backed by the major powers.
2. Help to reform the security sector and end the politicization of the police, military, intelligence services, and judiciary – especially the Zimbabwe National Army, the Central Intelligence Organization, and the Zimbabwe Republic Police – vetting officials for past abuses, training officials in civilian policing and criminal justice and disbanding paramilitaries.
The abrupt demise of the Mugabe regime could trigger serious disorder. This possibility means that the international community, probably led by South Africa, should make contingency plans for temporary military intervention to ensure physical safety and public order if necessary.
3. Promote justice and reconciliation. Recovering from crisis means seeking accountability for past crimes and abuses. The people of Zimbabwe will need to decide for themselves between pursuing a truth and reconciliation commission or a more punitive approach like a war crimes tribunal. Whichever option they choose, the donor community should provide legal and technical assistance.
The international community should focus on the following areas, derived from lessons learned in other ‘post-conflict’ situations:
1. Meet essential humanitarian needs. Many people will continue to depend on relief during the political transition. Relief must ensure protection, food and shelter for internally displaces people, while seeking durable solutions that provide livelihoods and permit their orderly return and reintegration into communities. One challenge for international donors will be to continue meeting immediate food requirements without undercutting the revival of local agricultural markets. Donors must also continue to support efforts to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, which is slowly showing improvements through declining infection rates.
2. Facilitate an orderly return of migrants from the diaspora. Perhaps a third of Zimbabweans currently live abroad. Donors can start thinking ahead for plans to help smoothly reintegrate exiles and refugees in the region. Many exiles will have means to manage their own return. But particular attention should be paid to the poorest unskilled workers without the means to resettle and rebuild. Many professional Zimbabweans émigrés may want to support recovery by either returning or investing. The donor community should ensure that its own immigration and asylum laws are not creating disincentives to potential returnees or Diaspora investors.
The transitional authorities and international donors should assist the Zimbabwean transitional authorities in setting out the priorities for reconstruction in the first five years: stabilizing the macro-economy, restoring basic public services, and generating jobs. Reviving the agricultural sector and the country’s HIV/AIDS control program will also be priority areas. Private investment in banking, mining, industry, and telecommunications is likely to revive once the business environment improves bu public-private cooperation could boost much-needed infrastructure investment.
– Reproduced with permission from Africa Policy Journal at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Please let us have your views on what needs to be planned and put into place NOW to make the transition to a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe more effective when the time comes.