OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A letter from the diaspora

zanu_mdcDear Friends.
I had already decided what I was going to write about this week when The Zimbabwean popped through my letterbox. The Editorial was commenting on the numerous reports his newspaper is receiving from around the country of continuing violence and the police failure to deal with the culprits.

The ongoing violence and theft on the farms is but one example of the total failure by the ZRP to abide by their constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law. Gangs of Zanu PF youths assisted by war veterans and soldiers are roaming the countryside, claims the Editorial, intent on harassing and intimidating the population. Teachers in rural schools are in the frontline of this onslaught and rural communities are being told that the GNUs rule has no mandate outside Harare. I had personal confirmation of this when a friend from Murehwa phoned me this week to tell me that Zanu PF officials in the area were saying just that; Zanu PF is still in control in the rural areas and the GNU is powerless outside Harare; this despite the fact that MDC meetings are now being held openly in the area! What this apparent contradiction tells us is that Zanu PF is in election mode in the rural areas and, as always, their election strategy is to soften up the electorate through violence and intimidation. Morgan Tsvangirais promise of free and fair elections in 2011 based on a new people driven constitution means very little to the lunatic fringe of Zanu PF fanatics who continue to undermine the GNU in every way possible.

Where will it all end and how will ordinary Zimbabweans recover from the violence and hatred that has characterised their lives for the past three decades of Robert Mugabes rule? It is surely relevant to examine how other countries have survived after periods of violence and genocide to see what lessons can be learned. Following the arrest in Uganda of another named genocidaire, a question-and-answer piece in the UK Independent by Paul Vallely looked at how Rwanda was coping with the aftermath of the genocide of 1994. In a period of 100 days 800.000 Rwandans were massacred while the world looked on and did little or nothing to prevent the slaughter. I am not suggesting that Zimbabwe has experienced anything on that scale, though the 20-30 thousand Ndebele killed in the Gukuruhundi certainly qualifies as a massacre. After the Rwandan genocide some 120.000 people were arrested, they filled the prisons to overflowing. In 2003 President Kagame realised that it would take 100 years to clear the backlog of trials. In place of western-style courts Kagame set up gacaca courts where suspects were taken back to the scene of their crimes to be confronted by their victims. There were no legally qualified judges and no lawyers. Instead, respected village elders were present to ensure that justice was done. One central requirement was that the accused persons were required to ask forgiveness of their victims.

Sadly, fifteen years after the genocide, the Rwandan Minister of Education reports that there are ominous signs that inter-ethnic hatred has bubbled away under the surface with Hutu students harassing their fellows with insults written on walls and various other forms of abuse. In Zimbabwe too, we see that state inspired hatred of people of different political or ethnic origins, disseminated by a state controlled media is not easily erased even by a Unity Government preaching tolerance and forgiveness. Justice must be seen to be done, that is the message of Rwanda. The gacaca system dealt with almost a million cases and is credited by Human Rights Watch with being a reasonably fair way of dealing with a seemingly insuperable problem.

Is there a lesson in all this for Zimbabwe? As Zanu PF inspired violence continues in the country with no sign the police will do anything to stop it until they are instructed by someone higher up, there is a post-genocide message from Rwanda that is directly relevant to the rule of Robert Mugabe. President Kagame of Rwanda is an authoritarian ruler; no doubt he has needed to be in a country torn apart by ethnic divisions. His critics accuse him of suppressing internal opposition and dissent more ruthlessly than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe. But, says Paul Vallely, the difference between the two men is that Kagame with western help has brought economic stability to his country. Rwanda, he claims is one of the safest and most orderly countries in Africa, its GDP has tripled, tourism is booming and foreign investment is being attracted. And for the Rwandan people, that means jobs, There are new schools too and hospitals,clinics and roads are being built.

While Robert Mugabe in Switzerland this week once again rants against independent radio stations and the use of the internet to bring about regime change Rwanda by contrast has, according to Vallely, an efficient mobile phone and broadband internet service in the cities which is moving rapidly into the countryside.

Perhaps the message of all this is that there is hope for Zimbabweans, even after thirty years of brutal repression, racism and intolerance. There is hope of a new dispensation for Zimbabwe, providing of course, we have a people-driven constitution, a completely new electoral register, minus dead voters, duplicate identities and centenarian voters, followed by free and fair elections. Not so much to ask, is it? If Rwanda can survive the horrors of genocide there must surely be hope for Zimbabwe?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of Case Closed published in Zimbabwe by Mambo Press, Going Home and Countdown detective stories set in Zimbabwe and available from Lulu.com

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