Wednesday, July 23, 2008



July 23,2008
Daily Nation

The agreement reached on Monday between Dr Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should hopefully deliver the people of Zimbabwe from misery.

But there should be no illusions about the complexity of the problem. The rival Zimbabwean leaders are nowhere close to reaching an agreement. The document they signed before South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki was merely an agreement to start talking.

Perhaps in the context of the Zimbabwean impasse, that was an important first step, and the international community must lend its full support to a negotiated settlement.

The preference seems to be towards a power-sharing deal, but the principle driving any pact must go beyond a deal satisfactory for the contenders and focus on one that is favourable to Zimbabweans.

The negotiated settlement in Kenya that brought the country back from the brink of disaster following a disputed presidential election has been hailed as a model for Zimbabwe and other countries facing similar political problems.

Such a settlement may well be necessary to head off a complete national breakdown, but it should only be as a last resort.

The point here is that negotiated power-sharing deals must never become the fashionable alternative to undiluted democracy; in fact they are a pointer to a failure of democracy.

Citizens of any nation who exercise their right to vote for leaders of their choice do not troop to the polling stations in expectation of an abortive election followed by some arrangement between the contenders. If such deals become the norm then democracy as we know it is not worth the ballot paper.

The trend could also encourage incumbents to defy the will of the people and hang on despite the electoral outcome, confident in the knowledge that they will retain power, or partial power, by other means.

So if the Zimbabwean leaders get to actual negotiations, they must seek to go beyond the Kenyan model and look for a formula that actually tries to address the will of the people.