Monday, June 23, 2008

Zimbabwe and the Death of Responsibility to Protect

So now we get word that Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of the runoff due to the violence and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy. This is a low moment for Zimbabwe.

And it naturally means another fight for the Security Council's soul is in order. On one side, you've got the US, UK, and France, who are quite rightly condemning Mugabe's actions and are somewhat more questionably calling for a Council statement on the matter. On the other side are South Africa and China, who are playing the sovereignty card, as always.

The French are proceeding more cautiously this time after their chastening on the Burma issue. In addition to letting the United Kingdom write the proposed press statement (a questionable move, given that Zimbabwe used to be a British colony, a factor which has been somewhat relevant in the country's history and campaign rhetoric), the French demurred on the applicability of Responsibility to Protect. Sort of.

"Every time we talk about that [Responsibility to Protect] there is some academic and theological discussions," said Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, who once claimed his Foreign Minister "invented" R2P, "but I must say that this morning one delegation raised the issue, saying that it was denied in the case of Burma by everybody else than France because it was a case of natural disaster, and not a case of manmade disaster. There we are. But that's not the point. The point is not for theological discussions. We can do whatever we wish. What is important is to help the people of Zimbabwe today, now."

So basically, the French think R2P applies, they just don't want to say so in so many words.

Meanwhile, the text the UK brought currently calls on Zimbabwe to "take account of the 29 March 2008 parliamentary election," or, in other words, let Tsvangirai be president. We'll see if that stands.

Two other points on Zimbambwe. First, there's this Christian Science Monitor story that says Mugabe is more isolated, before concluding that basically he doesn't care.

Second, two pro-Mugabe Zimbabweans were outside the UN Secretariat today, handing out pamphlets titled "Zimbabwe: Land, Independence, & Sovereignty." The pamphlets charged that the whole thing is a Tsvangirai-Western conspiracy to recolonize Zimbabwe. When the redhead in front of me refused to take the pamphlets, the nearest Mugabe supporter started grumbling menacingly how "of course you don't want it, you redneck" or something like that.

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