|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5929th Meeting (AM)
briefing Security Council, Deputy Secretary-General calls zimbabwe crisis
‘a moment of truth for democracy’ in africa, ‘a challenge to the world’
The crisis in Zimbabwe represented not only a moment of truth for democracy in Africa, it also posed a challenge to the world, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Security Council this morning.
“When an election is conducted in an atmosphere of fear and violence, its outcome cannot have a legitimacy that is built on the will of the people. Consequently, the principle of democracy is at stake,” Ms. Migiro said in a briefing to the 15-member body after having attended the African Union Summit in Egypt. The situation could affect regional peace and security “in profound ways”.
Recalling that Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had been declared the winner of the 29 March presidential elections -- albeit with only 47.9 per cent of the vote, thus failing to avoid a run-off election -- she said he had withdrawn from the run-off because of State-sponsored violence resulting in the killing of more than 80 of his supporters. Despite calls for a postponement of the run-off election, including by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it had been held on 27 June. Unlike the first round, there were no national observers on the ground as they had withdrawn, citing the lack of minimum conditions to operate. That had stripped the election of a critical measure of transparency and credibility.
However, regional groups had substantially augmented the number of observers, she said. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had deployed more than 400 observers, the African Union over 60 and the Pan-African Parliament 30, while the United Nations had provided logistical and technical support to SADC. While the observers, including parliamentarians, members of civil society and civil servants, had been harassed and intimidated, they had reported many irregularities, including a requirement that voters report the serial numbers of their ballots to officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. Some voters had deliberately spoiled their ballots in protest, which had resulted in spoiled ballots accounting for 5.1 per cent of the vote.
It was notable that the three African observer missions had unequivocally condemned the electoral process and its results, she said, adding that African Union observers had concluded that the process had fallen short of the accepted African Union standards. The Pan-African Parliament mission had said the elections were not free and fair, while the SADC mission had said they “did not represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe”. Those observations indicated serious flaws in the electoral process leading to the declared re-election of President Robert Mugabe.
“This profound crisis of legitimacy is further compounded by the paralysis of State institutions,” she continued. There was no functioning Parliament and civil society had been silenced. The economy was crippled, with inflation reaching 10.5 million per cent, and there were severe shortages of food and basic services. There was also an urgent need to restore the rule of law and to start building public institutions. It was clear that Zimbabwe would have to go through a political transition and needed a process of national healing and reconciliation.
She said that ZANU-PF and MDC, recognizing that Zimbabwe was deeply divided and that its political future would depend on a transitional arrangement promoting national unity, had both accepted the need for a dialogue towards a negotiated settlement, and talks under South African mediation were ongoing. President Thabo Mbeki was reportedly working towards a direct meeting between President Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai.
The creation of a Government of National Unity enjoyed broad support in the region, she said. The African Union had called for a strengthening of SADC’s efforts by the establishment of a mechanism on the ground to support mediation efforts. The Secretary-General strongly supported that recommendation and called for the speedy establishment of such a mechanism. He had offered to put all the means at the disposal of the United Nations at the service of SADC and the African Union to strengthen the mediation process.
She stressed that, while the willingness of the parties to talk was encouraging, the Secretary-General remained gravely concerned that the situation could deteriorate further with violence spreading across the country and its effects spilling over into the wider subregion. He also remained very concerned that the humanitarian situation, if unattended, could leave 5.1 million people at grave risk. He had called on the Zimbabwean authorities immediately to lift restrictions on humanitarian activities and urged them to offer immediate protection to people currently located at the Ruwa transit centre.
“As the world mobilizes to support a peaceful solution to the crisis and to help Zimbabwe back on a path to democracy, stability and development, it is the urgent responsibility of the Government of Zimbabwe to protect its citizens and to cease immediately all forms of violence,” she said in conclusion, stressing that perpetrators of crimes must be held to account.
The meeting started at 10:38 a.m. and adjourned at 10:50 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record