Memorandum from Mr Peter Oborne
"If Rwanda happened again today . .
. we would have a moral duty to act there"Tony
Blair, 2 October 2001.
Rwanda is starting to happen again, this time
in Zimbabwe. So far the British Government is doing nothing to
prevent it. It is ignoring its moral duty.
There are many signs of this, including:
the procrastination in imposing targeted
sanctions and getting Zimbabwe thrown out of the councils of the
the defeatist government briefing
to political editors that the Prime Minister's "mission to
Africa" should not be judged on Zimbabwe;
the failure of the Government to
call a debate in Parliament as the crisis has deepened;
British readiness to undermine the
integrity of the sanctions regime. A notable recent example was
British connivance with the EU decision last November to move
the location of the Southern African Development Community Foreign
Ministers' summit from Copenhagen to Mozambique, so that Zimbabwean
Ministers could attend; and,
the decision to hand control of policy
to an Under-Secretary of State based in the House of Lords.
There is no doubt that the makers of British
foreign policy are men and women of decency and good will. And
it is true that finding a solution is hard. But Mugabe is destroying
Zimbabwe, and killing her people. The country is on the verge
of catastrophe. Britain and the international community are washing
our hands of the whole dirty business.
It is true that targeted sanctions have been
appliedalthough they have been applied too late and with
too little vigour. And it is true that Zimbabwe has been suspended
from the councils of the Commonwealth. But these are little more
than gestures. They have eased the conscience of the West, but
have done no more than irritate Mugabe.
A more active and urgent approach is needed.
Britain and the international community must show conviction.
That would entail:
1. In November 2001, the Prime Minister
stated that he would "make Africa a major personal priority
and a priority for the Labour Government." His policy towards
Zimbabwe should reflect that commitment. He should not pretend,
as his advisers seem to, that Zimbabwe is a special case where
nothing can be done. That is unacceptable.
2. Day-to-day policy for Zimbabwe should be
the responsibility of a senior minister, not an inexperienced
Under-Secretary of State. A special government committee should
be set up to monitor the evolving crisis, ensure sanctions are
enforced and hasten more serious action. The Defence, Foreign
and Overseas Development Secretaries should sit on the committee
and it should report to the Prime Minister.
3. Sanctions must be remorselessly pursued.
They should also be extended to include two new categories. Firstly,
the children of Zanu-PF ministers and allies of the regime who
are being educated in private schools in the west should be sent
home. Secondly, the powerful business backers of Mugabe who help
keep him in power by providing foreign currency should be identified.
The feeling of impunity that is prevalent among Mugabe's supporters
must be undermined.
4. Fuel supplies in Zimbabwe are close to zero.
There is barely any petrol in Harare. The country has little foreign
currency to pay for new deliveries; recently, money intended for
new supplies was instead used to pay debtors who had refused to
send further supplies until arrears were paid. Every effort must
be made to restrict any re-supply of oil.
5. Britain should be ready to use the International
Convention Against Torture to arrest Mugabe's henchmen who travel
outside the country.
6. South Africa could solve the problem. If
President Mbeki understands that socio-economic collapse in Zimbabwe
will destabilise South Africa, he would be more likely to cut
off all support to Mugabe. The Prime Minister and other world
leaders must therefore engage directly with President Mbeki.
7. In December 2002, the Prime Minister showed
that he was ready to take the lead in the Middle East by calling
for an international conference on Palestine. He should take a
similar lead over Zimbabwe.
8. There is nothing racist about standing up
for human rights and against torture, starvation and mass murder.
Britain must ignore President Mugabe's anti-British rhetoric.
9. If Mugabe is determined to prevent food reaching
sections of his own population, other ways must be found of feeding
them. In November 2002, Mark Bellamy, a senior adviser at the
US State Department, said that America was ready to take "very
intrusive interventionist measures" to ensure that food aid
was delivered. By speaking out, the State Department official
has set an example that others should follow.
10. If, in the coming months, Mugabe continues
to deliberately starve his own people, then the United Nations
must give urgent consideration to intervening on the ground to
prevent another African genocide. Failure to act would do irreparable
damage to the UN's already battered reputation in Africa.