Zimbabwe's campaign of violence escalates
The international community seeks to influence the Mugabe government as Army leaders orchestrate political attacks.
Johannesburg, South Africa; and Harare, Zimbabwe
The options for resolving Zimbabwe's crisis are dwindling as political violence rises ahead of the June 27 presidential elections.Skip to next paragraph
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International analysts now have little faith in the credibility of the vote – or their ability to improve the process. They suggest that any resolution is likely to come through mediation.
Zimbabwean authorities detained and harassed US and British diplomats last week while they were on a fact-finding mission over political violence.
Normally, harassment of diplomats is the sort of thing that brings on sanctions and sternly worded statements in the United Nations. But for Zimbabwe – which has rolled out a series of strong-armed measures against opposition party activists, international aid agencies, and tens of thousands of its own people – harassment is now commonplace.
On June 9, a call for African leaders to intervene was issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in London. The 14-nation Southern African Development Community appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition, but those efforts have "not borne any fruit," HRW researcher Tiseke Kasambala told the Associated Press.
A new HRW report says it has documented 36 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries at the hands of party militants backed by the police and army. Opposition party officials say more than 65 of their supporters have been killed.
Mr. Mugabe is unlikely to respond to outside pressure, say analysts, particularly when it comes from the US and Britain.
"Mr. Mugabe, in my view, is pretty impenetrable, and his henchmen are simply impervious to this sort of pressure," says Tom Wheeler, a research fellow at the South African Institute for International Affairs in Johannesburg. "Zimbabwe today is rather like apartheid South Africa, actually," Mr. Wheeler adds. "Apartheid South Africa would invade small neighboring countries, they would bomb ANC headquarters in Lusaka, and they didn't care about international consequences."
Critics of the Mugabe regime say that the president and his inner circle – particularly those in the military and intelligence agencies – are pulling out all stops to make sure that opposition supporters are too intimidated to show up to vote on June 27. Morgan Tsvangirai, the trade unionist and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), defeated Mugabe during the first-round election on March 29, but not by a sufficient margin to avoid a runoff.