4 December 2011
A single empty seat. As multiple diplomats, intellectuals and experts on Africa showered praise and thanks on Brown University and Chinua Achebe for the chance of appearing at the Achebe Colloquium on Africa, Zimbabwean ambassador to the UN, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, was conspicuously absent. We can assume that Chipaziwa had a valid excuse for failing to appear at one of the most prestigious discussions on Africa. However, it is disappointing that there was not a single Zimbabwean representative present to discuss the prospects for democracy in the nation. As Blair Rutherford (Director of the Institute of African Studies Carleton University Ottawa) expressed, it is a shame that such an important discussion was
conducted by “varungu”.
In fact, one cannot help but feel that the absence of the Ambassador is, in itself, a statement about Zimbabwe’s “democracy”. We cannot forget that Chipaziwa came to the ambassadorship under somewhat dubious circumstances- with opposition leader and Prime Minister, Morgan Tsangirai, pleading with the UN not to accept ambassadors that were illegally instated by premier, Robert Mugabe.
The reality is, that the politicians of Zimbabwe’s abusive ruling party, ZANU-PF, do not feel that they have to answer to he international community at all.
President Robert Mugabe has claimed that attempted “re-colonization” by the west is to blame for the economic
collapse of the country- going as far as to say that the sanctions (otherwise
know as travel limitations on high-ranking ZANU-PF “big men”) are causing the
Zimbabwean population to starve, or that poor harvests from a destroyed
agricultural sector are due to “chemical warfare” from Britain.
Mugabe has recently unilaterally declared that elections will take place next year in Zimbabwe, despite the lack
of a constitution. This goes against the demands of SADC (Southern African
Development Community), whose methods of “quiet diplomacy” have gone largely
ignored by Mugabe’s party.
The Zimbabwean reality right now is that the nation is ruled by a party who feels that they are not accountable for
anything. Although many of the wise men on the discussion board asked us to
think “beyond Mugabe” (Rotberg), it is impossible to look to the future when we
can see no possibility of ZANU-PF ever being called on to take responsibility.
When asked about Chipaziwa’s failure to appear at the Colloquium, a Zimbabwean visiting student to Brown said, “What else do you expect of a Zanu-PF guy?” The idea of a Zimbabwean state that is
untouchable has permeated throughout the Zimbabwean mind and into the
international perception, and Zimbabwean politicians do not feel obliged to
give any answers. As John Campbell (Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Senior Fellow for African Policy
Studies, Council on Foreign Relations) said in the discussion panel, there is a
need for accountability, for nations like the United States to ask big
questions about things like elections and violence, and to expect answers.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Former Secretary General of The Commonwealth) by opening the public’s eyes to the role of the West in creating the “land grab” and resulting political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, showed that we
are now in a time where responsibility has to be dished out and accepted. There
is no longer room for an expectation of impunity.