In the March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change won a parliamentary majority for the first time in the country’s history. Since then, President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has conducted a systematic campaign of violence, intimidation, and manipulation. The delayed release of election results showed a victory by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but not enough to prevent a run-off election held on June 27. In reaction, Mugabe and his hard-line supporters lashed out against civilians and opposition supporters.
In this crackdown, MDC rallies were banned, the media was used as a tool for the state, western observers and aid groups were expelled from the country and supporters of the opposition MDC were killed and beaten.
Less than one week before the run-off vote, Tsvangirai pulled out of the election, citing widespread violence against his supporters. At least 103 were killed and 25,000 were forced to flee their homes since the initial release of the election results. Despite calls for the postponement of the run-off election by the South African Development Community, African Union, Nelson Mandela, the UN, and nearly the entire international community, Mugabe vowed to go ahead with the election, where he won his sixth term as president of Zimbabwe on June 27th.
The illegitimate regime in power in Zimbabwe is a clear violation of R2P, the Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which the international community agreed upon in 2005. However, the UN Security Council would have to unanimously agree on any action, which seems unlikely. African leaders and institutions, in particular South Africa and it’s president Thabo Mbeki are seen as having the most sway and capability to end the crisis.
Despite ongoing calls for a unity government and negotiations between Mugabe and his ZANU-PF with Tsvangirai and the MDC, Tsvangirai announced recently he would not enter into negotiations unless they were based on the March 29th election. He wants free and fair elections under a new constitution, not a unity government with an illegitimate dictator. In response, Mugabe has recently announced that in order for any negotiations to happen Tsvangirai would have to recognize him as the president of Zimbabwe. Most recently, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was in Harare Saturday where he met with Mugabe, but Tsvangirai refused to meet with him.
— Will Cragin, Emerging Conflicts Education Coordinator