The International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned that violence in Zimbabwe is likely to escalate and could lead to a military coup, unless African and other international leaders help negotiate a government of national unity led by opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
A news release from the ICG Thursday claimed that hardliners in President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, including senior military leaders, were trying to retain power by force.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the 29 March election with a parliamentary majority and probably more than 50 per cent of the presidential vote.
A presidential run-off for the country is scheduled for 27 June but the ICG opined that if the poll will be “free and fair”, Tsvangirai would almost certainly be at Mugabe again, alleging the ZANU-PF sponsored violence against the opposition a nd its supporters was aimed to prevent that from happening.
“Given the level of violence, there seems almost no way to hold a credible second-round vote,” Francois Grignon, ICG’s Africa Program Director said. “All parties should still aim for this in the best conditions possible, but a negotiated solution between ZANU-PF and the MDC should be the higher priority, since it is far likelier to resolve the crisis peacefully,” he added
Mugabe came second in the March 2008 presidential election and the opposition won majority seats in the parliament.
The government withheld the presidential results for five weeks and subsequently launched a country-wide crackdown on opposition and perceived enemies.
The organisation added that mediation should secure an agreement between the MDC and ZANU-PF that would remove the need for a run-off, with its risk of greater v iolence and obtain guarantees for security service loyalty to an MDC-led administration.
“Whether in a negotiated agreement on a transitional government or after winning the run-off and a full presidential term, Tsvangirai should reach out to his foes and form a government that includes ZANU-PF moderates. “The former ruling party will need to accept junior partner status,” said the release from the ICG.
Zimbabwe, ICG observed, will require a transitional justice mechanism at some stage to come to terms with its history, but the present settlement must also provide security guarantees for Mugabe, the military and others.
However unpalatable they are to both sides, these several political compromises are essential if the country is to escape its long nightmare.
“If the hardliners retain their power through violence and/or fraud, African and other states and the security Council will need to treat the regime as illegitimate and take other appropriate measures.
However, with strong African-led mediation, concerted wider international backing and political will from both the MDC and moderate elements of ZANU-PF, a solution can be found to the crisis,” said Andebrhan Giorgis, Crisis Group’s Africa Senior Adviser. Panapress.