By Luke Tamborinyoka
Today is Africa Day. This is the day we ought to revel with pride in our Africanness, notwithstanding last week’s continental shame when Africa saw some of her States either voting against or abstaining in a key resolution that is in keeping with the cardinal African values of solidarity and intervention.
Through the Constitutive Act of the African Union, Africa as a regional body has already domesticated the principle of R2P or the Responsibility to Protect, which is very much consistent with the African value of solidarity.
Yet Zimbabwe last week was part of the roll of shame when it opposed a United Nations General Assembly resolution that seeks to protect vulnerable groups against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this African contingent of shame, Zimbabwe was joined by fellow African nations Burundi, Eritrea and Egypt while Angola, Algeria, Cameron, Kenya, Namibia, Mali and Ethiopia abstained In a key vote supported by our neighbours Botswana and South Africa.
The guilty are afraid.
It is reprehensible that on the eve of Africa Day, Zimbabwe would join rogue nations in opposing intervention in circumstances of heinous crimes that offend the very precept of humanity.
On 4 October 2019, I wrote the follow piece for nehandaradio. com which remains pertinent especially against the background of uninformed African nations who are unaware that by being signatories to the AU Charter, they have in fact acceded to the chastity of R2P or the Responsibility to Protect, the largely noble principle under which some are today calling on the rest of Africa to intervene and save Zimbabwe from the precipice.
My brother George Charamba, for all his frothing fulminations about sovereignty, is certainly unaware that the AU Charter, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, in fact to a large extent domesticates the doctrine of R2p under Article 4 (h) which empowers member States to intervene on respect of “grave circumstances.” And by any definition, genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are grave circumstances.
Africa must bring ED’s murderous regime to account
By Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
The African Union must, for the sake of its reputation if not for anything else, urgently intervene in Zimbabwe to save the lives of innocent citizens that are at serious risk from the murderous, vampire regime of Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The AU charter provides the continental body with adequate provisions that deal with dire situations such as the one in Harare where innocent citizens, including doctors, teachers, civic and political activists have been murdered, abducted and brutalized by their own government.
Notwithstanding the controversies of the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the excesses of the powerful nations after the invocation of the principle in Libya in 2011, the R2P principle remains relevant in today’s World especially in Africa.
R2P remains a laudable promise to brutalized citizens that the world will not fold its hands while innocent citizens are being brutalized, even by their own governments.It is commendable that with the advent of the AU in 2000, the continental body came up with its own version of R2P that is steeped in the founding charter of the African Union. Article 4(h) of the constitutive Act of the AU unequivocally grants the continental body with the right to intervene in a member State in respect of “grave circumstances.”
Indeed, “grave circumstances” are an apt summation of the situation in Zimbabwe where some 25 people have been callously murdered by the Mnangagwa regime. I will posit that these callous murders constitute a crime against humanity and the world, particularly Africa, cannot afford to fold their hands while an African government metes out such heinous brutality against its own citizens.
The blood-soaked legacy of Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa since the pilfered election of July 2018 is a matter of public record. The Motlanthe Commission, appointed by none other than Mnangagwa himself, concluded that Sylvia Maposa, Ishmael Kumire, Gavin Dean Charles, Challenge Tauro, Brian Zhuwawo and Jealous Chikandira were murdered by the police and the military to whom Mr Mnangagwa is the Commander-in-Chief. At a personal level, I am particularly pained by one of the six slain innocent Zimbabweans, Ishmael Kumire who hailed from Matope village in my hallowed rural hood of Domboshava.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, an independent constitutional commission, similarly concluded that the State was culpable for the murders of 19 more people in January 2019. This means that in a mere 180 days, the State had killed 25 people. And what is more worrying is the deafening silence from Africa when the AU has adequate legal provisions that cover such brutal and callous acts!
When a State begins to endanger the lives of its own citizens as confirmed by the above independent bodies that have nothing to do with the MDC, it is high time Africa takes the situation seriously.
Even the abduction of comedians such as Gonyeti is no laughing matter in Zimbabwe!
Africa must prove to all and sundry that it can stand up and be counted. Africans have reposed their faith and trust in the continental body and the AU should not let them down and confirm the negative script of detractors who never see anything good coming out of our beloved continent.
The collective African conscience must be pricked when a government becomes a threat to its own people and Zimbabwe is a belated case where provisions of the AU charter must be invoked.
In fact, when a government becomes a threat to its own people, as ED’s government has become, stern action must be taken against it!
For what else is the purpose of government if it not only fails to protect citizens but becomes the biggest danger to their lives? The world, particularly Africa, has an inalienable responsibility to protect when a State on the continent becomes a threat to its own citizens.
The principle of sovereignty has become the perfect cover for rogue regimes. In fact, I will posit that the notion of sovereignty is an alien principle in Africa where the collective has always been regarded as more important than the individual.
On our beloved continent, ‘ we are therefore I am ’ is the underlying dictum as the community as a whole is more important than the individual, whether the individual is a person or a State.
In fact sovereignty is an alien concept in Africa. In a typical African village, there is no sovereign household, just as Mnangagwa should not be allowed to hide under the thin veneer of State sovereignty. In the village, if a man brutalizes even his own children and wife, neighbours and relatives will breach the sovereignty veil. They will march into his sovereign compound at any sight of trouble, barge into the homestead, break windows even, in response to the shrill cry of a troubled soul.
That is the Africa we know and that must have been the logic behind Article 4 (h) of the AU charter—that our neighbours will not fold their hands at the slightest hint of trouble at a neighbour’s house. They will involve themselves.
And indeed, there is trouble in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans are not safe. Citizens are not safe. Civil servants are not safe. Comedians are not safe and the citizens’ democratic right to protest and petition government has been callously proscribed, if not violently quelled. .
Indeed, no scarfed pretense can mask the mammoth humanitarian crisis unfolding in Zimbabwe.
And before we plead with the broader world, Africa must stand up and be counted.
The provisions in the AU charter are not ornamental. They should be invoked when the situation demands. And the situation in Harare is slowly becoming a threat to peace and security, aspects also covered by Article 4 (j) of the AU charter.
Mr Mnangagwa must be held to account. Africa must intervene in Zimbabwe under the novel principle of African solutions to African solutions.
Indeed, humanitarian intervention must always be allowed to tear through the narrow veil of sovereignty, which veil rogue regimes such as the one in Harare often use to hide their murderous acts. In fact, with the advent of international law and the notion of globalisation, the whole mantra of sovereignty is facing a severe threat.
Kofi Annan, an African himself and the then United Nations secretary-general asked a poignant and timeless question at the UN Millennium Summit in 2001: “ If humanitarian intervention is indeed an unacceptable assault on sovereignty , how should we respond to a Rwanda , to a Srebrenica — to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of common humanity ?”
Indeed, how should our brothers and sisters respond to the murderous regime in Harare, if not by doing ANYTHING that it takes to protect the innocent citizens?
I posit that any procrastination in taking decisive action against the regime in Harare may yield another Rwanda. Africa has a responsibility to protect the citizens that are under siege from their own government in Harare, unless the AU wants to wait until rivers of blood are flowing across the planes of our savannah grass.
Africa should not fold its hands while citizens are under threat. After all, when the principle of R2P was sculpted, Africans were heavily involved. The African contingent that was part of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) that came with the principle of R2P included Algerian top diplomat Mohamed Sahnoun and our very own Stanlake Samkange, a lawyer. These Africans were part of the history-making team led by the Australian Gareth Evans that came up with the noble principle of R2P—the responsibility to protect.
Rogue regimes such as the blood-soaked administration in Harare need decisive action taken against them. At a personal level, I feel that the world and Africa cannot watch this disaster unfold. Anything goes against a regime that has become a threat to its own citizens. Decisive action must be taken.
For what is the import of a State, especially for one that has become a threat to its own citizens?
Africa should step up to the plate and show that stern and decisive action will be taken if African citizens are threatened by their own governments, even if that government brazenly stole an election.
It will be none but ourselves as Africans who will have to make the first step!
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa . . He is a multiple award-winning journalist and an ardent political scientist . You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo .