THE British parliament last week categorically rejected calls for military intervention in Zimbabwe to restore democratic governance. Foreign secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons that Lo
ndon was doing everything it reasonably could to put pressure on President Robert Mugabe’s regime to abandon its authoritarian rule.
Dismissing protests by Conservative MPs that the Labour government was not doing enough to ensure change in Zimbabwe, Straw said it was hypocritical for the Tories to complain now when “20 000 people were slaughtered in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, which went largely unremarked by the British government of the day”.
This comes after Zanu PF MPs last week moved a parliamentary motion calling on government to probe assertions by British prime minister Tony Blair that his government was working with the opposition MDC for a regime change in Zimbabwe.
Conservative MPs were agitating for the use of force to resolve the situation in the country. Tory MP Nick Gibb, responding to Straw, told parliament that Blair had “effectively announced a new doctrine of intervention where states oppress and brutalise their people”. This was in reference to British intervention in Iraq.
Straw, however, said there was no possibility of a military operation to remove Mugabe. He also ruled out approaching the United Nations Security Council.
“Our judgement is that taking it to the Security Council and failing would undermine what we all want, which is a democratic and free Zimbabwe,” he said.
Straw said it had taken a great deal of hard work by the government to convince the international community to impose sanctions on the Zanu PF leadership.
“We have hit Mugabe where it hurts, freezing his assets and restricting his movements and those of his henchmen,” said Straw. He said the idea that “we as a former colonial power could take action beyond that is pie in the sky and would feed the Mugabe propaganda that we are still after a colonial presence”.
Straw said the situation was “a test for Africa” rather than for Britain. He reminded the House that the British government had given £67 million in humanitarian and food aid to Zimbabwe since 2001, with £26,5 million targeting Aids. He said the UK was actively involved in supporting those working for peaceful change.
Straw indicated that this was realistically all the government could do. He added that the Conservatives, while criticising the government for its inaction, had failed to produce alternative plans.
Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram slammed the “inertia” of the international community but said he was not advocating military intervention.