May 27, 2011

AU credibility questioned as Zimbabwe set to chair peace organ

The credibility of the African Union (AU) is being questioned after news that Zimbabwe will assume the chairmanship of the bloc's Peace and Security Council. The rotational chairmanship passes from South Africa to Zimbabwe in June. The Peace and Security Council, in theory, is meant to promote peace, security and stability across Africa, while promoting democracy, good governance and the rule of the law. It is also meant to uphold the protection of human rights.

Zimbabwe's eligibility for the chairmanship of such an important body, despite rampant human rights abuses and the ongoing disregard for the rule of law by ZANU PF, is now casting doubt on the AU. A commentary in the Zimbabwe Standard over the weekend said; "There is every reason for the AU to change the rules so that countries such as Zimbabwe cannot assume the chairmanship of this important body. It is therefore difficult to understand how Zimbabwe, a country that is notorious for violence, blatant disregard for the rule of law and election rigging can be asked to lead it. Is this any different from making a village criminal the local sheriff?"

The development comes amid growing calls for the United Nations to intervene in Zimbabwe, where ongoing human rights abuses and ZANU PF's continued refusal to reform has left the country in crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is in the midst of trying to mediate the ongoing political stalemate between the MDC and ZANU PF, but President Mugabe's party has gone to great lengths to snub the regional bloc. Most recently the party has said that it would not abide by an election roadmap, stated by SADC as key to democratic change in Zimbabwe. The party has also said that there would be no security sector reforms, clearly showing how it plans on retaining power in the country.

The most worrying development however has been ZANU PF's celebration over the suspension of the SADC human rights court for at least another year. The SADC leadership has decided to dissolve the Tribunal instead of force Zimbabwe to honour its rulings on unlawful land reform, leaving the entire region without a human rights court. ZANU PF has openly welcomed this development, showing its contempt for human rights.

Political analyst Professor John Makumbe said that it was "ironic" that Zimbabwe, still under ZANU PF's control, would be chairing a peace organ. "It says a lot about the AU's perspective of the Zimbabwe crisis, and that they belittle it and treat it like it is not serious at all," Makumbe said. He added; "The AU is increasingly becoming intransigent when it comes to human rights abuses and dictatorial leadership. This negates all democratic development in African member states." (SW Radio Africa)

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