AU credibility questioned as Zim set to chair peace organ

african_union_logoThe credibility of the African Union (AU) is being questioned, after news that Zimbabwe will assume the chairmanship of the blocs Peace and Security Council. The rotational chairmanship passes from South Africa to Zimbabwe in June.

The Peace and Security Council, in theory, is meant to promote peace, security and stability across Africa, while promoting democracy, good governance and the rule of the law. It is also meant to uphold the protection of human rights. Zimbabwes eligibility for the chairmanship of such an important body, despite rampant human rights abuses and the ongoing disregard for the rule of law by ZANU PF, is now casting doubt on the AU.

A commentary in the Zimbabwe Standard over the weekend said; There is every reason for the AU to change the rules so that countries such as Zimbabwe cannot assume the chairmanship of this important body. It is therefore difficult to understand how Zimbabwe, a country that is notorious for violence, blatant disregard for the rule of law and election rigging can be asked to lead it. Is this any different from making a village criminal the local sheriff?

The development comes amid growing calls for the United Nations to intervene in Zimbabwe, where ongoing human rights abuses and ZANU PFs continued refusal to reform has left the country in crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is in the midst of trying to mediate the ongoing political stalemate between the MDC and ZANU PF, but Robert Mugabes party has gone to great lengths to snub the regional bloc.

Most recently the party has said that it will not abide by an election roadmap, stated by SADC as key to democratic change in Zimbabwe. The party has also said that there will be no security sector reforms, clearly showing how it plans on retaining power in the country.

The most worrying development however has been ZANU PFs celebration over the suspension of the SADC human rights court for at least another year. The SADC leadership has decided to dissolve the Tribunal instead of force Zimbabwe to honour its rulings on unlawful land reform, leaving the entire region without a human rights court. ZANU PF has openly welcomed this development, showing its contempt for human rights.

Political analyst Professor John Makumbe told SW Radio Africa that it is ironic that Zimbabwe, still under ZANU PFs control, will be chairing a peace organ. It says a lot about the AUs perspective of the Zimbabwe crisis, and that they belittle it and treat it like it is not serious at all, Makumbe said. He added; The AU is increasingly becoming intransigent when it comes to human rights abuses and dictatorial leadership. This negates all democratic development in African member states.

International rights group, Human Rights Watch, has meanwhile said that UN Society Council intervention in Zimbabwe is critical. The groups UN Director Philippe Bollopion, said in an interview with The Zimbabwean newspaper that the Security Council should not only act when a civil war breaks out in a country, but ensure that human rights situations are addressed before they worsen.

We believe that human rights violations in Zimbabwe are so widespread and pervasive that they deserve the Councils intervention, said Bollopion. HRW researcher for Africa, Tiseke Kasambala, told SW Radio Africa that UN intervention would be unlikely, because of the AUs ongoing lukewarm efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. She said that allowing Zim to assume the chairmanship of the AUs peace organ indicates that perhaps the AU doesnt take issues of peace and security very seriously.

Zimbabwe hasnt been the greatest supporter of human rights and the ZANU PF wing of the unity government is still bent on preventing any protection of human rights, Kasambala added.

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