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Moment Of Truth For African Democracy

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Zimbabwe on Tuesday:


I WOULD like to thank council members for this opportunity to brief you on the situation in Zimbabwe. I have just returned from the African Union summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, where I conveyed to the leaders the secretary-general’s message that the crisis in Zimbabwe represents a “moment of truth” for democracy in the continent.

Today I would like to convey to this council that the Zimbabwe issue also poses a challenge to the world. When an election is conducted in an atmosphere of fear and violence, its outcome cannot have a legitimacy that is built on the will of the people. Consequently, the principle of democracy is at stake.

Zimbabwe’s flawed elections produced illegitimate results. The seriousness of the situation and its possible consequences has the potential to affect regional peace and security in profound ways.

Since the last briefing to the Security Council by Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe, Zimbabwe held a presidential election with only one contender: incumbent President Robert Mugabe, who sought his sixth term in office. You will recall Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai was declared the winner (of the first round) with 47,9% of the vote. As you are aware, this result was not enough to avoid a run-off. Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off, arguing that state-sponsored violence, intimidation and the killing of over 80 of his supporters made free and fair elections impossible.

Despite calls for the election to be postponed until proper conditions were in place, including by Secretary-General Ban (Ki Moon), second round elections were held on June 27. Unlike in the first round, this time there were no national observers on the ground as both the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (Zesn), which had covered the first round in a very efficient manner, and the NGO, Lawyers for Human Rights withdrew, citing the lack of minimum conditions to operate.

The lack of national observation stripped the elections of a critical measure of transparency and credibility. However, missions from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament were present on the ground. Anticipating increased tensions in the second round, regional groups had substantially augmented the number of observers for the second round.

Sadc more than doubled its contingent, deploying over 400 observers, compared to 163 in the first round; the African Union deployed over 60 observers, compared to just under 20 in the first round; and the Pan-African Parliament deployed 30. The United Nations provided logistical and technical support to Sadc efforts to increase observation in the second round.

The observers included parliamentarians of both ruling and opposition parties, members of civil society and civil servants. I would like to say a word of appreciation for the work of these observers, many of whom were themselves intimidated and harassed in the conduct of their duties and showed commendable courage.

On election day, observers reported many irregularities. A serious example is that voters were required to report the serial numbers of their ballots to Zanu PF officials, rendering the concept of anonymous voting utterly meaningless. Some people spoiled their ballots in protest — spoilt ballots accounted for 5,1% of the total votes.

Voting took place on June 27 and official results stated that President Mugabe won with 85,5% of the votes. He was inaugurated on June 29 and subsequently travelled to Egypt to participate in the African Union Summit.

It is of note that the three African observer missions issued unequivocal condemnations of the electoral process and its results. The Pan-African Parliament observer mission said the “elections were not free and fair” and “conditions should be put in place for the holding of free, fair and credible elections as soon as possible, in line with the African Union declaration on the principles governing democratic elections”.

The Sadc mission said the process leading up to the presidential run-off election did not conform to its principles and guidelines governing democratic elections. In addition, it stated that the elections did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

Finally, the African Union observer mission also concluded that the election process fell short of the accepted African Union standards, citing the violence in the run-up to the elections and the lack of access to the media.

These observations clearly indicate that the electoral process leading to the declared re-election of President Mugabe was seriously flawed. This profound crisis of legitimacy is further compounded by the paralysis of state institutions. There is currently no functioning parliament. Civil society has been silenced and intimidated. The economy is crippled, with annual inflation reaching 10 500 000% by the end of June, unemployment being over 80% and severe shortages of food and basic services exist. There is an urgent need to restore the rule of law and to start building public institutions.

It is clear Zimbabwe will have to go through a political transition bringing together its people around a common project. It will also need a process of national healing and reconciliation that should include wide-ranging and participatory national consultations.

Recognising the country is deeply divided and that the political future of Zimbabwe depends on a transitional arrangement promoting national unity, both Zanu PF and MDC have accepted a dialogue towards a negotiated settlement. Talks are ongoing, under South African mediation, to press for an urgent solution to the current political impasse. President Thabo Mbeki has been actively consulting with the concerned parties and is reported to be working towards a direct meeting between President Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

In my meetings with the African Union Commission Chairperson, Jean Ping, and other African leaders, some of whom expressed fear of seeing the situation deteriorate further, I expressed my appreciation for their efforts so far and my hope that they would remain fully engaged in helping the people of Zimbabwe.

The creation of a government of national unity, as a way forward, enjoys broad support in the region. In their declaration, the African Union called on Sadc’s efforts to be continued and strengthened by the establishment of a mechanism on the ground to support the mediation efforts.

The secretary-general strongly supports this recommendation and calls for a speedy establishment of such a mechanism. I also reiterate the secretary-general’s offer to put all the means at the UN’s disposal at the service of Sadc and the African Union to strengthen the mediation process.

While the willingness of the parties to talk is encouraging, the secretary-general remains gravely concerned that the situation could deteriorate further, with violence spreading across the country and its effects spilling over to the region.

Secretary-general Ban also remains very concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country. If unattended, the food shortage could leave 5,1 million people at grave risk. The secretary-general therefore calls on the authorities in Zimbabwe to immediately lift restrictions on humanitarian activities. He also urges them to offer immediate protection to people currently located at the Ruwa transit centre, who were relocated from the South African embassy where they had taken refuge.

As the world mobilises to support a peaceful solution to the crisis and to help Zimbabwe back on a path to democracy, stability and development, it is the urgent responsibility of the government of Zimbabwe to protect its citizens and to cease immediately all forms of violence. The victims of the violence experienced in the past weeks deserve justice. Those who perpetrate crimes must be held to account. The United Nations stands ready to play its part in supporting such a process.

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