Zimbabwe Summit Tests SADC Integrity
April 11, 2008
The stakes are high as the South African Development Community convenes a weekend summit to try to resolve Zimbabwe’s electoral stalemate, which is fueling an increase in violence in the country.
"The very integrity and utility of the SADC is at stake at this summit," said Freedom House Deputy Director of Programs Daniel Calingaert. "The SADC’s record of living up to its own stated democratic principles is unimpressive and this is an opportunity to change that."
Freedom House calls on the SADC to use its regional influence to convince the Zimbabwe Election Commission to release results immediately from the March 29 presidential election. The commission has held the results for an unprecedented two weeks, despite releasing official vote counts for all other contested races.
Tallies from independent monitors show opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai winning more votes that long-time President Robert Mugabe. Without an official tally, it is unknown whether the presidential seat has been decided or the candidates are headed for a runoff.
Calingaert said the unusual delay, reports of post-election violence against opposition supporters and increasingly strident rhetoric from the government raises grave concerns that Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe almost three decades, is ready to use force and any other means at his disposal to stay in power, regardless of the election results. Zimbabwe’s election commission should respect the right of its people to know the outcome of the presidential race.
"The time for so-called 'quiet diplomacy' is over," said Calingaert. "Zimbabwe’s ruling party is orchestrating attacks against anyone who dares to question the brutal reign of President Mugabe. This is just more example of the Zimbabwean’s government flagrant disregard for the will and well-being of its people."
SADC election monitors noted some concerns with Zimbabwe’s election process, but said the process largely was a "peaceful and credible expression of the will of the people in Zimbabwe." That prompted individual members of the SADC delegation to issue their own statement denouncing "clear violations of the majority of SADC guidelines for democratic elections."
Freedom House supports Zimbabwe's human rights and democracy advocates in efforts to monitor and report ongoing violations of political rights and civil liberties. In addition, the organization worked with Zimbabwean civil society groups on a "Get Out the Vote" campaign and in pressing the government to adhere to international standards for free and fair elections.
Zimbabwe is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2007 version of Freedom of the Press.
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Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Zimbabwe since 1980.
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