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  Zimbabwe: International division plays into Mugabe’s hands
Media focus on white farmers feeds ZANU-PF propaganda

Harare/Brussels, 17 October 2002: Deep divisions in the international community about the response to Zimbabwe’s crisis are playing into President Robert Mugabe’s hands. Foreign media emphasis on the plight of white farmers also helps the regime’s ‘liberation’ rhetoric – reinforcing the erroneous but widespread belief in Africa that the West is concerned about Zimbabwe only because white property interests have been harmed.

A new report from the International Crisis Group, Zimbabwe: The Politics of National Liberation and International Division, says that the split between – broadly – Africa and the West has paralysed international efforts to help break the political impasse in Zimbabwe before it results in widespread deadly violence or possible state collapse. This has damaged perceptions of Africa and weakens the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU).

The report seeks to emphasise the very real problems in Zimbabwe – including the risks to southern African stability and rising humanitarian costs of the crisis. Zimbabwean human rights groups are now reporting torture rates that are among the highest in the world while government policies have turned a drought into a food emergency, and the regime is blatantly using food as a political weapon against opposition supporters. One ZANU-PF official is quoted in the report, saying "We would be better off with only six million people, with our own people….We don’t want all these extra people". Malnutrition rates are rising sharply and more than 6.7 million Zimbabweans are expected to need food aid by the end of the year.

John Prendergast, Co-Director of ICG’s Africa Program, said: "The policy division between the West and Africa has emboldened the ruling party and undermined the international response to the crisis in Zimbabwe. The skewed emphasis by much of the international media on the plight of the white farmers has also given Mugabe's revolutionary rhetoric greater resonance in many African quarters, rather than putting a spotlight on the egregious human rights abuses, the dismantling of democratic institutions, the use of food as a weapon, the destruction of the rule of law and the lack of security for private investment".

Among the measures recommended by ICG are targeted sanctions that are better enforced and extended beyond ZANU-PF’s leadership to include the regime’s commercial supporters and bankers and family members, particularly those studying in the West.

The report also details a much more nuanced two-track diplomatic strategy for the United States and the European Union of strong and public actions to isolate the regime while quietly engaging with and applying back-stage pressure on key African states and SADC to encourage more resolute action.

Katy Cronin (London) + – email: [email protected]

Ana Caprile (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536.00.70
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
This report and all ICG reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org


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