By Grace Kwinjeh
There is a growing consensus in the diplomatic community, that sanctions as a tool to compel a change of behavior against a leadership of a targeted nation, have not always achieved the intended outcome.
In global political relations there is growing irritation on the use of sanctions to bring to order less powerful nations that can’t reciprocate, sadly, Zimbabwe in all our suffering has become a test case on the effects of intervention versus non-intervention.
In a study that investigated the effectiveness of sanctions imposed on Rhodesia in 1967, Norwegian sociologist, Johan Galtung, concluded; “The collective nature of economic sanctions makes them hit the innocent along with the guilty.”
This is a fact we must come to terms with.
Going down back into history, an assessment of the very first sanctions imposed on Megara by Anthens in 432 B.C, shows that they only helped trigger the Peloponnesian war, achieving the opposite of the intended outcome.
Furthermore, it is only after Gadaffi another target of sanctions, fell in 2011, that we are now being told posthumously, what a great leader he was, building hospitals and schools, delivering a decent quality of life and that the Lybia of today is a pale shadow of its former self, everything has fallen apart.
Need I mention former President Robert Mugabe and the posthumous accolades he is receiving and yet he was the epitome of an African dictator, an unquestionable candidate for targeted sanctions, barred from Europe?
On a reflective note, I wish to point out that the Western viewpoint will always differ with Third World countries, placing us Zimbabweans in an unfavourable position of talking ‘Western’, against the flow of progressive ideas or thinking on our continent and struggles for human and people’s rights and dignity.
We are cornered and unwittingly become PR personnel for Western agendas we have no influence or control over.
Consequently, it should be noted, right here, that Zimbabwe’s targeting relates to a complex entanglement of diverging and converging political, economic and diplomatic interests at the international level.
Furthermore, our ultimate dilemma, notwithstanding the controversy against intervention and apparent Western hypocrisy; if we argue for a laissez faire approach in an environment marked by impunity and weak state institutions to seek redress, we should develop strategies that do not give succour to human rights violators and their nefarious agenda.
My point being that as a friend said in a conversation, Zanu PF has created a ‘boogeyman’ and we are all falling over each other to prove that it does not exist.
Thus, the debate to do with sanctions as a blunt tool for diplomacy is an ongoing and evolving one, interestingly, with Zimbabwe and Syria being the most recent case studies of interest.
The debate on sanctions whose apparent aim is to achieve human security and good governance in nation states, must therefore be dealt with at two levels; the internal and the global contexts.
A case in point is present-day Zimbabwe after almost two decades of Western sponsored sanctions, is run down by massive corruption, looting of state resources, brutal cruelty evidenced by the recent cold-blooded murder, with impunity, of vendor Hilton Tamangani while in police custody.
Democratic space continues to shrink by day. Zimbabweans are hurting and need an urgent way out. A recent call by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, that there be a seven year sabbath, under which there will be no political contestation has further muddied the waters.
One needs to trace the history of sanctions, targeted or comprehensive to be able to assess their efficacy in positively influencing the behavior of rogue regimes, in order to come up with an informed conclusion on whether sanctions have benefited or not benefited the people of Zimbabwe.
Of interest to me sitting in the European Union (EU) is the global context.
What are the problematic areas of implementation of the EU’s CFSP policy that compromise its goodwill in intervening in dire situations in Third World countries?
Colonial power interest.
The EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe under its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), in 2002, in response to, “the escalation of violence and intimidation of political opponents and the harassment of the independent press.”
A context to note, are images in the international media of brutalised white farmers during the violent take over of farms by the Zanu PF regime, which escalated the crisis at a global level, resulting in Britain a former colonial power under pressure from her domestic constituency to do something.
Pressure was then built within the EU to avoid this being an open diplomatic spat between Britain and Zimbabwe over the still unresolved land dispute.
Individual EU member states influence the block’s response to the any situation concerning their former colonies – that is the reality.
The second problematic area is to do with the lack of a uniformed response to the various dire human rights situation on the continent.
We have had and still have terrible situations of human rights violations that the EU continues to overlook, working each day and promoting leaders whose hands are dripping with the blood of their citizens. France and Rwanda relations are only healing now.
In the 90’s Rwanda and Ethiopia both now doing amazing well, suffered under brutal dictatorship with no international intervention.
Not many will know how Ethiopians have had to fight it out on their own leading to the recent election of Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed Ally, who has taken the country on a serious path of political and economic reforms, with positive economic growth projections. But, just in 2016 under a muted international community’s response, a 100 peaceful protestors were shot by direct government gunfire in the Oromo and Amhara regions.
Rwanda suffered the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, after decades of oppression and calls for the international community to intervene, which all fell on deaf ears.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has spoken out against Zimbabwe’s sanctions, raising the issue at the last G7 Summit in France, in what journalists called a major diplomatic coup.
Rwanda has recently made the headlines for all the right reasons, including launching the first Smart phone manufacturer on the continent the influential African #YouthConnektAfrica.
Rwanda under Kagame, is fighting her way out of the Genocide narrative, a game changer and leader on the African continent.
The next point that compromises the EU’s CFSP is its trade and economic interests versus the advancement of human rights and democratic principles.
Being in agreement that the situation in Zimbabwe is more grave than it was in 2000, Zimbabweans being slaughtered mercilessly, another development that should inform our assessment of the EU’s sanctions position, is the current ongoing Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAS) negotiations, with the government of Zimbabwe.
It might have been lost to many when the EU Mission in Zimbabwe took to Twitter to laud Zimbabwe for gazetting the EU market access offer.
This was done as the EU delegation fully participated at a Zimtrade Exporters Conference, that was presided over by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The EU will once again have to choose between its economic and political interests, your guess is as good as mine where we are headed.
In conclusion, we Zimbabweans are not here to prove the boogeyman exists, our challenge just like other African countries is to rise above self-pity and find new ways to rebuild our once great nation.
Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and and women’s rights advocate.