Democracy in Zimbabwe demands urgent international support

Africa Action Releases New Analysis Emphasizing Civil Society's Role in Resolving Crisis

Monday, June 9, 2008 (Washington, DC) - As Zimbabwe's political and social climate grows increasingly violent, Africa Action today released a new set of policy recommendations on how the U.S. and the international community can support a peaceful and just democratic transition for Zimbabwe. The ZANU-PF government's clampdown on the operations of nongovernmental organization such as the international humanitarian group CARE threatens millions of Zimbabweans with starvation. Already, more than one-third of the population survives on food aid. As the presidential runoff election scheduled for June 27 approaches, the imperfect option of a transitional governing arrangement has emerged as the only feasible way forward. International support for Zimbabwean civil society and regional actors will be critical to the conception of a transitional authority that creates an environment not just for free and fair future elections, but also for unhindered transfer of power to the winning party.

Police continue to ban and interfere with opposition rallies and detain opposition activists. Thousands of villagers have been displaced by recent political violence, and at least 60 are estimated to have died. Recent explosions of violence in South Africa point to the regional implications of Zimbabwe's political and economic crises, which have caused millions to flee the country.

"The government of Zimbabwe must stop interfering with the functions of aid groups and the flow of humanitarian aid and ensure that the June 27 runoff election is free and fair if it goes ahead," said Africa Action's Briggs Bomba, who was part of a joint Africa Action/TransAfrica Forum Observer Mission to Zimbabwe this March. "The international community can play a key role in helping open up political space for democratic participation by all Zimbabweans. Particularly important is support for the efforts of regional actors and local civil society to develop a time-limited transitional authority oriented toward constitutional reform, the democratization and professionalization of state institutions and future free and fair elections."