Should Mugabe be denounced?

Why haven’t Nelson Mandela or Thabo Mbeki denounced Zimbabwe’s Mugabe? Many foreign policy types are critical (see Hitchens or FP, for instance).

Well, perhaps it’s because we still need someone who can credibly do this.

The Western foreign policy and human rights types love a righteous denunciation. I’ve yet to see any signs it works.

Should Mandela and Mbeki empty all their ammunition in a flash to please the chattering classes? I say not yet. Let’s leave a little room for real politics–the backroom sort–to play itself out.

8 thoughts on “Should Mugabe be denounced?

  1. Botswana has denounced. I’ll go w/Botswana any day. Chemical weapons, supported by Islamist terrorists, the mayor of Harare’s house burned down, stealing 20 tons of kids food, detaining the opposition, murder and torture all over the place, land and property theft … hell yeah, he needs to be denounced, what’s the matter with you.

  2. “The Western foreign policy and human rights types love a righteous denunciation. I’ve yet to see any signs it works.”

    But we’ve never seen African leaders collectively denounce one of their own. The peer review mechanism of NEPAD was supposed to make this easier, so apparently the architects of NEPAD thought something like denunciation would work. There seems to be a collective action problem for the leaders themselves, though (and a very interesting one!).

    I have a hard time seeing how “back door politics” would work in this case. The issue is that Mugabe needs to step down (or allow a fair election that he knows he would lose). He’s not going to do that unless somebody makes him- what can Mbeki offer? What meaningful concessions would Mugabe be willing to make? Denunciation at least might undermine his legitimacy to those few that are still loyal to him.

    I think a big problem is going to be the recent trend towards bringing (or threatening to bring) former African leaders to the ICC. Mugabe knows that if he steps down he’s likely to wind up in prison sooner or later, so he’s not going to go willingly.

  3. Exactly what has Mbeki’s “real politics” achieved in recent years Chris? What are the signs that it has worked? The man is destroying his country despite Mbeki’s intentions (whatever they may be). You know how bad he is. From SA’s point of view it is not unreasonable to see the influx of Zimbabweans as a contributory factor to the recent outrages there as well.

    Public statements, whether to denounce or praise, are an important aspect of “real politics”. Otherwise we are left with the bizarre sight of Mbeki holding Mugabe’s hand and denying there is a crisis. You seem to be suggesting that one can’t have denunciation along with the necessary diplomatic and political intervention. Really?

    Meanwhile, Tanzania’s Foreign Minister doubts that the run off will be fair and has apparently called on his president (along with the FMs of Swaziland and Angola) to “save Zimbabwe”, according to Reuters today.

  4. Can people at least acknowledge the role that American foreign policy has played in intalling and supporting despicable African leaders? Mugabe was the puppet of the West for years. The Americans and British governments absolutely loved Mugabe. From Amin to Moi to Mobutu to Museveni, western interference in African politics has layed the foundation for what we are seeing today.

    There is no doubt about the fact that Mugabe has to go. Now! He is a megalomaniac that has destroyed Zimbabwe and the lives of innocent people.

    However the International Criminal Court is not the answer. The charges that are being hurled at Mugabe could also be made against George W. Bush. Our country cannot hold other leaders to standards that we do not follow. Another western dominated institution is not the solution in Africa.

    Mr. Blattman raises a valid argument. He has not claimed to have the quick fix that our world is so desperate to always find.

    Here’s a hypothetical situation for eveyone to ponder. Mugabe drops dead from a massive heart attack or loses the election. Then what?

  5. Please Chris, if you put forward a controversial point of view like that, also justify it.

    WHY do you think that continuing the Realpolitik of the past years will achieve more than public denunciation?

  6. I fail to understand why it’s controversial to suggest that a handful of African leaders should maintain a status as honest broker. Political change is not always about antagonism, and one side backing down. In fact, it seldom is. What I’m suggesting is that we should not necessarily take the same anti-diplomatic approach to Zimbabwe that the U.S. has taken to, say, Cuba, Iran and Syria. Denunciation is a momentarily satisfying but ultimately weak tool of opposition.

  7. Chris, in response to your last commment, amen!

    The Cold War ended as a result of talking to ‘those rat bastards’ that we did not like. Ronald Reagan challenged Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’, but also met with him in person and had dialogue with ‘the Great Satan’.

    It seems that in a post 9/11 America we have become a bunch of pouting, spoiled juveniles that throw a hissy-fit whenever we don’t get our way. Is that diplomacy?

  8. In diplomacy it is very difficult to gauge in advance which instrument is the most effective: diplomatic engagement, denunciation, monetary gifts, trade sanctions or UN resolutions. Different counterparts will respond differently to different measures. In dire cases, which Zimbabwe most certainly is, it is best to use every measure at your disposal.

    Mugabe’s political strength depends heavily on his thesis that: “These European villains are out to get us African freedom fighters”. Would a public statement from such a former freedom fighter (with a simultaneous offer to open low-key negotiations) not be worth a shot at this juncture?