Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Zimbabwe; the case for military intervention

It has been revealed that long before the Southern African Development Community (SADC) appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in the Zimbabwean political dilemma, Mbeki had already commenced discussions with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

It is reported that Mbeki had offered his sincere advice to Mugabe and warned him that the land redistribution programme was likely to cause political and economic strife in Zimbabwe. What this means is that this process of finding a lasting peaceful solution to the Zimbabwean crisis is as old as the crisis itself. SADC’s decision to appoint a mediator only formalized the process of mediation. In fact, had President Mbeki been candid enough, he would have informed SADC that he has tried quiet diplomacy for the last few years but it has not yielded any positive results and it never will.
It is my view that the Southern African region and Africa at large has failed the people of Zimbabwe.

Certainly, it is not easy to accept failure hence the mediation process will have no end in sight. The crises in Zimbabwe do not cause hardship for the people of Zimbabwe alone. The situation has telling effects in the region and the entire world. Lawlessness, state sponsored violence against citizens, state organized torture against defenseless civilians and instances where the regime runs an election campaign as a military exercise are signs of a desperate situation that requires desperate interventions.

Militarization of public life in Zimbabwe could fester terrorist activities which could destabilize the region and beyond. Already there are reports that some countries bordering Zimbabwe are deploying heavily armed military personnel in anticipation of military action by Zimbabwe. Thus, the political situation in Zimbabwe has bred fear, suspicion and uncertainty in the region.
Since the first elections in March this year, the Zimbabwean state has sponsored the killing of close to 100 people and the displacement of close to half a million others.

These atrocities by the state require international intervention because the region and Africa appear either hopeless or helpless. Mugabe and his hatchet men are on record stating that the opposition would never rule Zimbabwe, irrespective of the people’s will. They have vowed to use the military if necessary to keep hold on power. The Presidential elections were, therefore, a bloody farce. Thus, Mugabe has declared war on his people who desire political change. Increasing civil casualties through organized force against opponents is a case in point. Might makes right and admittedly, Mugabe has opted for might to get a new term as president. The people of Zimbabwe have tried a regime change through a peaceful though life-threatening ballot but Mugabe has steadfastly refused to depart. Zimbabweans now have very few options to force him to quit while Mugabe boast of weapons of mass destruction to quell dissent.

Zimbabweans’ last hope is with the international community. Zimbabwe is now in the league of rouge states and qualifies for military invasion without the authority of the United Nations Security Council.

The United Nations prohibits nations from engaging in offensive military action against sovereign members without sanction from the UN Security Council.

Yet, on many occasions, members of the Security Council veto proposals presented before them seeking coalitional support for military intervention to restore order in troubled states. Already, it has been revealed that Russia and China had backed South Africa to block any discussions on Zimbabwe by the Security Council. China and Russia have a long history of being suspicious of any Western intervention even on humanitarian grounds and so their stance, while disappointing, was expected.

As a result of this veto power, countries wishing to use even a small measure of military force in Zimbabwe would not have authority from the UN Security Council and, therefore, the murder and torture of innocent Zimbabweans will go on unabated.

By the same token, The UN Security Council permits unilateral military intervention on humanitarian grounds as in the case of Zimbabwe where scores of people have been murdered, raped, mutilated and thousands displaced. Add these numbers to the more than 5 million Zimbabweans who have long unwillingly deserted their home country as economic refugees. The economy is in a sustained free fall leading to widespread starvation while inflation rates beats even the imagination of university professors of economics.

I distaste war for its obvious consequences. I abhor acts of aggression but I equally resent politically motivated terror campaigns, torture and the systematic murder of innocent people who are persecuted for desiring a new political order.

Negotiations with Mugabe have failed and seem endless. The purging of political opponents has escalated and regional cooperation and peace is in jeopardy. The region has an ugly history of guerilla wars, geo-political rivalry and immediate intervention is needed before history repeats itself. The Zimbabwean situation comes out as a difficult and dangerous situation which has been allowed to fester on for more than a decade. It started with African Heads of State giving Mugabe a standing ovation on arrival at every gathering for tea and photo opportunity.

Further negotiations will only allow Mugabe to mutilate and kill his people as he silences all dissent. Quiet diplomacy will only allow Mugabe to print more money and acquire more weapons of mass destruction from China. Remember the ‘ship of shame’ carrying an arms shipment from China for Zimbabwe? Cocktail diplomacy will allow Mugabe to cause the region to militarize and the world to re-polarize and create global instability of frightening proportions.

Diplomacy is wise but it takes ages before it could bear fruits. Already Mugabe has perfected an adventuristic and militaristic foreign policy.
It is assumed that presently, Zimbabwe has a negligible capacity to engage in military action with any state with a very large arsenal of precise long-range conventional weapons like the USA. It is also assumed that Zimbabwe may have a large army but that it may be under-resourced and that many of its army personnel are disgruntled with Mugabe and, therefore, waiting for the smallest opportunity to stage a mutiny. While still working out the fine details of a military strike, the international community could use sabotage groups consisting of mercenaries and trained Matebele brigade to destabilize Mugabe’s regime. The strategy would include massive propaganda barrage against Mugabe with extreme negative reports on Zimbabwe, predicting doom and gloom of unknown proportions so that even Mugabe’s close supporters and his Shona tribesmen could desert him.

It is, therefore, believed that a small to medium sized military action against Mugabe will suffice with less harm since it will have massive support both internally and externally. Faced with this dilemma, it is believed that military action against Mugabe is the lesser of the evils. Economic and political sanctions would lead to isolation which will hurt innocent Zimbabweans most. After all, Mugabe can still use state funds to easily procure food stuffs for his family from China, Russia or South Africa and Angola.
Since African countries, especially those with the military might, are not prepared to take higher level responsibility to stop the murder of people by Mugabe, the USA must assume moral responsibility and disregard exclusive authority of the UN Security Council and take it upon itself to intervene in the Zimbabwe crisis before it develops into the next genocidal killing field of the Sudanese sort. The USA does not have direct or immediate interests in Zimbabwe and may, therefore, garner the necessary support from known allies and, to some extent, its rivals like Russia and China.

If my own Botswana had the military might to match Mugabe’s rusty and un-serviced artillery, I would suggest that Botswana acts unilaterally to save Zimbabwe from total collapse. As a small contribution, Botswana, as a highly prized ally of the political and socio-economic progressive international community, should allow herself to be used as a springboard for military strikes in Zimbabwe. This would have serious consequences for the people of Botswana but regional peace comes with costs. Certainly, some people will accuse the USA of playing power politics but the situation in Zimbabwe is so bad that it now needs a difficult solution to stop it from getting worse. The mainstay of Mugabe’s political life, South Africa, would have to be mobilized to support military intervention.

It is my belief that the USA has the capacity to deal with Mugabe and his hatchet men with such precision as will lead to less harm on national and regional interests. An international peacekeeping force will thereafter be deployed to ensure transition to a democratic dispensation. Talk of a government of national unity is utter rubbish and those who proffer it know full well that it is not in the interest of Zimbabweans and the international community. It is simply is sugar-coated scheme to give Mugabe many more years to finish off the already stigmatized and profusely bleeding Zimbabwe.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.