Five easy steps to avoid a Libya

Reflecting on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s bloody end I am amazed at the number of missed opportunities to reform and warnings of impending doom that the Libyan regime ignored with an exaggerated sense of bravado. This pattern is the same with several dictators including Idi Amin, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and now Gaddafi.

Gaddafi was hiding in a drain
Gaddafi was hiding in a drain

First they claim to be all-powerful but in the end they are dragged from holes and sewers kicking and screaming – to meet a fate hitherto reserved for their victims. What lessons, if any, can our political leaders and ordinary Zimbabweans draw from Libya?

The foremost lesson for us all is perhaps that no amount of brutality or subjugation of a people can be sustained in perpetuity. All things come to an end. Gaddafi, in his 42 years as Libyan leader, was viewed as a demi-god – a far cry from the scenes from his final moments. Our political leaders must abandon the use of force and violence. Instead, they must embrace non-violence and free and fair play in elections in order to avoid the bloodshed that characterized the Libyan revolution.

Dictators the world over must know that the days of committing human rights violations against their people with impunity are over. State sovereignty is not about absolute power to abuse citizens with impunity. It is about obligations to protect citizens and ensure their basic rights and human security. It is the sacred duty of any state to protect all its citizens. But in the case of Libya, and also of Zimbabwe, state institutions have been transformed into instruments of terror.

For Zimbabwe to move in a different political direction from that of Libya I propose the implementation of the following five easy steps drawn from a close observation of the events in Libya:

1. Embrace Civil Society

The political leadership, particularly within the former ruling party – Zanu (PF), should urgently enter into constructive partnership with civil society organizations in order to openly address their valid concerns about ways to improve the socio-economic and other living conditions of Zimbabweans through genuine implementation of reforms and respect for basic rights.

The prevailing situation at is untenable, where government officials, especially from Zanu (PF), view civil society organizations with a mix of contempt, suspicion and fear. It is high time we had a unity of purpose in genuinely championing the development of all Zimbabweans and condemning in the strongest terms possible the political elite patronage system currently being presented as a project for the people.

Recently justice minister Patrick Chinamasa blasted human rights organizations while addressing the United Nations in Geneva, falsely and maliciously claiming that they are agents of western imperialism. This is a good example of government’s bad attitude, which does not help anyone.

2. Heed the warnings

Political leaders must acquire the ability to read and interpret the writing on the wall. And the writing on Zimbabwe’s wall is that nothing short of a genuinely free and fair election will deliver government legitimacy, peace and stability. Interestingly, Zimbabwe’s neighbors, including South Africa and other States in Southern African Development Community and within the African Union, are now fully aware – and have said as much – that Zimbabwe needs free and fair elections that are without violence and that they will not support going for elections under conditions that prevailed in 2008 where Zimbabweans witnessed widespread and horrific violence.

Recommendations for reform presented by SADC and the AU must not be ignored. Following Gaddafi’s demise the AU did say that it had warned Gaddafi to step down – but the warning had fallen on deaf ears.

3. Reform institutions

All Zimbabweans must fully support efforts by the Inclusive Government to implement reforms necessary under the agreed roadmap to free and fair elections. Such reforms, preceded by constitutional reform, include establishing and strengthening independent institutions necessary for the effective functioning of a multi-party democratic state.

Such efforts should include a revamp of institutions responsible for service delivery. Today, issues like the gross incompetence of Air Zimbabwe , which is short-changing passengers largely due to political meddling,- are received with indifference by most Zimbabweans. It is high time we all take a keen interest in matters of efficient service delivery and socio-economic conditions – linking them to prevailing bad governance. After all, the Tunisian revolution which triggered the Arab Spring was precipitated by dire socio-economic conditions.

4. Welcome scrutiny

The Inclusive Government must welcome scrutiny from SADC and the AU in a demonstration of transparency and accountability. In practical terms this means accepting the SADC Organ Troika representatives that have been appointed to participate in the meetings of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee to monitor the implementation of the Global Political Agreement and the roadmap to free and fair elections.

SADC and the AU are there to help the people of Zimbabwe return to the path of peace, tolerance, non-violence and free political activity. To ensure that Zimbabwe’s political leadership removes all obstacles to holding free and fair elections, particularly through the restoration of the rule of law and the demilitarization of all civilian affairs, the AU and the UN must dispatch technical teams on the ground in Zimbabwe to independently assess human rights conditions and the elections environment and then work alongside the government of Zimbabwe to implement a credible roadmap to elections.

5. Transfer of power

All political parties and the Inclusive Government must ensure that the elections roadmap directly addresses the problem of transfer of power to the eventual winner following a free and fair election. It is the problem of refusal by an incumbent government, backed by the military, to transfer power to a winner that was at issue with the December 2007 elections in Kenya – leading to a violent conflict, and with Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections as well as with Ivory Coast more recently.

The cases of Kenya and Zimbabwe have shown that the so-called power-sharing government compromises are a bad precedent – where there is neither real power-sharing nor a change in political direction.

The Inclusive Government should devote the year 2012 to implementing these steps to pave way for peaceful elections to follow, possibly in 2013 when the nation is fully prepared. Taking any other route would be a recipe for disaster.

Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator

Post published in: Politics

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