WESTERN countries are lobbying for the imposition of comprehensive sanctions on Zimbabwe in a move which could result in the countryâ€™s further isolation and decimate the crumbling economy.
This comes as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the international community was considering sending peacekeepers to Zimbabwe, an action likely to be stiffly opposed by President Robert Mugabe and his regime, including his allies in Africa.
The United States and European Union states â€” including Britain â€” are pushing hard for United Nations Security Council (UN) sanctions to deal with Mugabeâ€™s government after he claimed victory in a controversial one-man presidential election runoff last week.
Russia and China are opposed to the move. The measures would wreck whatever remains of the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors of the economy, in decline for almost 10 straight years.
Mugabe won the runoff after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the race, citing escalating state-sponsored violence.
The run-off was condemned worldwide, with the US, Britain and EU urging the imposition of UN sanctions on Zimbabwe and recognition of Tsvangirai as the legitimate president.
Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round on March 29, but failed to win a majority of votes to clinch the presidency.
Diplomatic sources said the lobby, being spearheaded by the US, Britain and France, three powerful permanent UN Security Council members, if successful would also see Zimbabweâ€™s neighbours in Sadc, South Africa included, being forced to cut or curtail diplomatic and trade ties. This would worsen shortages of fuel, electricity and other critical imports to Zimbabwe.
Diplomatic sources said the US, Britain and France want to persuade Russia and China to support the sanctions, arguing that Mugabe is refusing to stop repression, halt economic meltdown or accept a genuine negotiating process to end the crisis. The Western powers are said to be promising to support Russian and Chinese interests elsewhere in exchange for a resolution at the UN on Zimbabwe sanctions. This is said to have increased chances of a common position, although Russia and China remain reluctant to back the move.
Western powers recently failed twice at the UN to secure resolutions against Zimbabwe. They only managed to get statements deploring the violence which could not be used as a basis for action.
Zimbabweâ€™s ambassador to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku said yesterday the US, UK and France would fail in their bid. This has raised the stakes on the issue which had divided the UN, AU and Sadc.
However, Zimbabwe is facing pressure from its neighbours, especially Botswana and Zambia, on how it handled the run-off. Mozambique has remained aloof, while Angola is gradually shifting its stance on Zimbabwe due to pressure from Western countries which have considerable investments in the country.
Zambia and Mozambique were key allies of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle.Â
The US this week came up with a UN Security Council draft resolution to slap an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel sanctions on Mugabe and 11 of his senior officials.
The US, in the draft resolution to be tabled in the Security Council next week, said the UN should impose a worldwide travel ban and an assets freeze on Mugabe, his spokesperson George Charamba, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, and Rural Housing minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Also included were service chiefs, Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force Commander Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe National Army Commander Philip Sibanda, Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation Happyton Bonyongwe, Prisons Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri.
Mugabe was named in the draft resolution as the head of a â€œgovernment responsible for activities that seriously undermine democracy, repress human rights and disrespect the rule of lawâ€.
The US also wanted the UN to demand that Mugabeâ€™s government should â€œbegin without delay a substantive dialogue between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed by the March 29 elections.â€
The US draft would also require all UN member states to take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Zimbabwe…â€of arms or related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare partsâ€.