Despite popular opinion—including that of the NY Times and George Bush—the United States should butt out of Zimbabwe. There are numerous reasons, but the most important one is that Africans can and should settle their own affairs.
Perfectly and quickly? Of course not. To our satisfaction? Highly unlikely. But, given time and support instead of demands and threats, the nations of Africa are finding their own solutions to most of the difficult problems posed by independence in other parts of the continent. Zimbabwe is no different.
Russia and China had their own reasons for vetoing the U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Robert Mugabe and his government, but there are several other points that should be kept in mind as we decry their actions:
1. U.S. coercion does more harm than good by confirming in Mugabe’s supporters’ minds (and others) that the opposition party, MDC, and especially its presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai are tools of white colonialists. Whether they are or not is not relevant. Quite frankly, when Tsvangirai pleaded for help after withdrawing from the election—all but asking for whites to invade Zimbabwe to put him in office—he lost his street cred.
2. The fact that the U.S. has nothing to say about equally-tyrannical leaders like Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos belies our statements that Mugabe must go because he rules without the consent of the voters.
3. U.S. interference polarizes the regional governments that are most likely able to broker a deal. Governments that align themselves with the U.S. position look weak in the eyes of their own people. They also are pulled farther away from regional powers who openly resent U.S. intrusion, making it more difficult for them to form a united front to pressure Mugabe to step down or form a unity government. It’s hard to overstate the amount of resentment toward white powers that exists in many quarters.
The biggest single reason for the U.S. to back off is that the continent’s nations have overwhelmingly told us to. The African Union and Southern African Development Community denounced the U.N. resolution before it was vetoed. South Africa, the regional leader and country most affected by the crisis, is particularly vehement in telling the U.S. to mind its own business.
There is plenty of strong opposition to Mugabe among the nations of Africa. Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone have all denounced the sham election and spoken out for the rule of law to be established in Zimbabwe. Botswana has even increased its troop positions along the border. If George Bush and his unlikely partner the NY Times would stop treating them like children, the Africans will solve their own problems.