Send in the UN peacekeepers now

By Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe (THE GUARDIAN, 25/06/08):

In the course of the last few tumultuous months, I have often had cause to consider what it is that makes a country. I believe a country is the sum of its many parts, and that this is embodied in one thing: its people. The people of my country, Zimbabwe, have borne more than any people should bear. They have been burdened by the world’s highest inflation rates, denied the basics of democracy, and are now suffering the worst form of intimidation and violence at the hand of a government purporting to be of and for the people. Zimbabwe will break if the world does not come to our aid.

Africa has seen this all before, of course. The scenario in Zimbabwe is numbingly familiar. A power-crazed despot holding his people hostage to his delusions, crushing the spirit of his country and casting the international community as fools. As we enter the final days of what has been a taxing period for all Zimbabweans, it is likely that Robert Mugabe will claim the presidency of our country and will seek to further deny its people a space to breath and feel the breeze of freedom.

I can no longer allow Zimbabwe’s people to suffer this torture, for I believe they can bear no more crushing force. This is why I decided not to run in the presidential run-off. This is not a political decision. The vote need not occur at all of course, as the Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in the previous election, held in March. This is undisputed even by the pro-Mugabe Zimbabwe electoral commission.

Our call now for intervention seeks to challenge standard procedure in international diplomacy. The quiet diplomacy of South African President Thabo Mbeki has been characteristic of this worn approach, as it sought to massage a defeated dictator rather than show him the door and prod him towards it.

We envision a more energetic and, indeed, activist strategy. Our proposal is one that aims to remove the often debilitating barriers of state sovereignty, which rests on a centuries-old foundation of the sanctity of governments, even those which have proven themselves illegitimate and decrepit. We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe.

For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force. Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.

The next stage should be a new presidential election. This does indeed burden Zimbabwe and create an atmosphere of limbo. Yet there is hardly a scenario that does not carry an element of pain. The reality is that a new election, devoid of violence and intimidation, is the only way to put Zimbabwe right.

Part of this process would be the introduction of election monitors, from the African Union and the UN. This would also require a recognition of myself as a legitimate candidate. It would be the best chance the people of Zimbabwe would get to see their views recorded fairly and justly.

Intervention is a loaded concept in today’s world, of course. Yet, despite the difficulties inherent in certain high-profile interventions, decisions not to intervene have created similarly dire consequences. The battle in Zimbabwe today is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, justice and injustice, right and wrong. It is one in which the international community must become more than a moral participant. It must become mobilised.