Ending Zimbabwe's nightmare: A possible way forward

from International Crisis Group
Published on 16 Dec 2008 View Original
Pretoria/Brussels, 16 December 2008: A possible route to end Zimbabwe's nightmare is to quickly establish a non-partisan transitional administration to prepare for new presidential elections in eighteen months and address the disastrous humanitarian and economic conditions now facing the country.

Ending Zimbabwe's Nightmare: A Possible Way Forward, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, argues that the inter-party negotiations to implement a power-sharing government under the Global Political Agreement are hopelessly deadlocked. The ZANU-PF regime has repeatedly violated the agreement's premises by resuming a campaign of violence against Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters and making pre-emptive appointments. The MDC considers, reasonably, that without control of key ministries such as home affairs and treasury and a major share of senior civil service and security posts, it would be reduced to legitimising the status quo. A new approach is required.

"With the meltdown of vital social services, a cholera epidemic that has claimed 1,000 lives, the flight of a third of the population and a third of its remaining citizens facing starvation, Zimbabwe urgently needs a credible and competent government able to inspire confidence at home and abroad", says Francois Grignon, Director of Crisis Group's African Program. "A non-partisan transitional administration directed by a neutral Chief Administrator could achieve this".

Zimbabwe's parliament - the only legally elected national institution - would prepare a constitutional amendment to establish the transitional administration and would select its head. Robert Mugabe would stand down, and the positions of president and prime minister would be left empty throughout the life of the transitional administration. Mugabe would be given constitutional guarantees against domestic prosecution and extradition. The notorious Joint Operations Command would be disbanded, and its current members would also benefit from these guarantees as long as they did not participate in activities threatening the country's stability.

The international community should provide substantial assistance to support the transitional administration as it adopts sound and equitable economic policies and demonstrates that it is exercising executive authority.

"It will take patriotism for Robert Mugabe to step aside and Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC to put their leadership aspirations on hold until new elections, but the crisis demands selfless statesmanship", says Donald Steinberg, Crisis Group Deputy President for Policy. "The reported shooting attack on Air Marshal Shiri on 13 December should be thoroughly investigated, but not used to justify further repression or a state of emergency".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635, Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601