[R-G] West Has Little Leverage on Zimbabwe
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Fri Jul 18 07:53:37 MDT 2008
West has little leverage on Zimbabwe
Fri 11 Jul 2008, 15:07 GMT
By Barry Moody
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The West has a limited arsenal in trying to
bring change in Zimbabwe despite unprecedented international outrage
over bloody elections last month that returned President Robert Mugabe
In fact, pressure by former colonial power Britain and the United
States to impose sanctions on the Zimbabwean leadership could be
counterproductive as well as ineffective, analysts say.
"For people in the West to think the United States or the U.K. in
particular could throw a switch and all of a sudden Zimbabwe is going
to change, that is just not going to happen," said Mark Schroeder,
sub-Sahara director of risk analysis firm Stratfor.
Mugabe, 84, stood unchallenged in the June 27 election after the
opposition pulled out a week before, saying a brutal campaign by
pro-government militias made a fair vote impossible.
The veteran leader's decision to press ahead and extend his
28-year-rule provoked a wave of condemnation that included several
outspoken African countries--extremely rare in the continent's
But translating that wave of condemnation into practical action to
force change looks like being a difficult process.
Disagreements in the 15-member U.N. Security Council have already this
week delayed a vote on a U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose an
arms embargo and financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and his
Washington had wanted a vote by Wednesday and Western backers are now
hoping for one on Friday, but veto-holding powers China and Russia are
sceptical about sanctions.
Mugabe and his inner circle have been subjected to targeted Western
sanctions for years without budging and experts say they have already
adjusted their travel and the way they move their money accordingly.
At the same time, lingering resentment of former colonial powers makes
many African nations prickle when Britain or other Western countries
raise the rhetoric against Mugabe, a former liberation hero.
"There is a sense of frustration in the African Union that elements
within the West are obsessed with Zimbabwe given the other problems
and crises in Africa, " said Tim Cargill of Britain's Chatham House
"That makes it harder to agree on U.N. resolutions," he said.
Schroeder agrees. "It is almost obligatory for the United States, U.K.
Europe...to apply sanctions but it is largely for their own
consumption...those sanctions by themselves are not likely to bring a
change in Zimbabwe."
Fierce attacks by Britain in particular are exploited by Mugabe, whose
use of London and white farmers as universal scapegoats still
resonates in Africa.
"Especially when Britain is going to lead the charge, that is
fantastic for propaganda purposes," Schroeder said.
At the same time, the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy and the plunging
of much of the population into poverty and hunger make broader
sanctions unlikely without risking an even bigger humanitarian
The key to bringing change in Zimbabwe is South Africa and a small
group of countries that seem highly unlikely to take the draconian
action that would be needed to speed change.
Zimbabwe is landlocked and dependent on South Africa and to a lesser
extent Mozambique not only to export its vital minerals, including
platinum, but to import mining machinery and to move money through
Despite a crisis that has flooded South Africa and other neighbours
with millions of economic migrants -- contributing to an upsurge of
bloody xenophobia earlier this year -- President Thabo Mbeki has stuck
steadfastly to a policy of discreet negotiations that critics say
There seems scant chance that Mbeki will change his tactics to apply
tougher pressure, despite increasingly vocal criticism even from his
own ruling African National Congress party.
"They are not going, as far as one can tell, to muscle the way towards
that...it is not clear to me that the situation is going to change in
a hurry," said Paul Graham, director of the Institute for Democracy in
Leaders from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and
Mugabe's ZANU-PF held their first talks since the election in Pretoria
But the MDC says there can be no substantive negotiations until
several conditions are met, including the end of attacks it says have
killed 113 of its supporters.
Schroeder says that in addition to South Africa, Mugabe's survival
depends on support from Angola and Equatorial Guinea -- who supply oil
-- and Mozambique, which provides another outlet to the sea through
the port of Beira.
He said that tough recent criticism from neighbouring Botswana, Kenya
and a group of Anglophone West African countries including Nigeria and
Liberia would make little real difference.
Mozambique, South Africa and Angola would find it difficult
politically to cut off Mugabe because of powerful links forged during
the struggle against colonial and apartheid rule.
"It is one thing for the up and coming leadership in Botswana and
Kenya to criticise. They did not grow with the support that Mugabe and
the region provided. It is another thing for countries in the region
to sanction the regime," Schroeder said.
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