International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

June 12, 2003

June 12, 2003





**  Zimbabwe and DROC have deteriorated enough to warrant outside attention.


**  The failure of the MDC's final push to move Mugabe reveals the opposition's "inherent weakness"; Tsvangirai judged a "fool" for abandoning dialogue; "not fit" to be president.


** Regional politicians must "crank up the pressure" on Mugabe, quiet diplomacy is not working.


** Outside intervention is required in the Congo to stop "genocide"; EU to play pivotal role.




Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are contributing to Zim's 'meltdown'-- Last week's strike hardened the independent vs. pro-government polarization of the Zimbabwean press.  Demanding that Mugabe "admit he is finished," the independent Daily News, the weekly Standard and Zimbabwe Independent depicted Mugabe's "belligerency" as a sign of weakness, exposing a "desperately insecure regime" dependent on "brute force" to survive.  Emboldened, pro-government dailies accused the opposition of "treacherous naiveté," gloating that Tsvangirai had lost his legitimacy and that his "Western handlers" had overestimated his popularity.  South African papers denounced Mugabe and Tsvangirai for being equally "myopic" in their ambitions, with Johannesburg's Sunday Times advising both sides "to go back to talking to each other, instead of past each other."


African leaders must stop 'shielding' Mugabe-- Observers judged the "quiet diplomacy" of Presidents Mbeki, Obasanjo and Muluzi a "considerable failure," equal to "showing solidarity with the oppressor."  Independent Zimbabwean papers urged the African "troika" to ask Mugabe to "step down."  Others shared the view of Johannesburg's Afro-centric City Press that even with international intervention, "the Zimbabwean people will continue to languish until the internal leadership vacuum is filled."  The centrist Afrikaans Beeld preferred Zimbabwe to be "rescued by Africa itself," with the U.S. staying in the "background."  Western papers considered Zimbabwe a test of Africa's democratic credentials, echoing the centrist Winnipeg Free Press's bluntness that "until Africa as a whole decides to choose democracy and isolate and overthrow its dictators...the news from that continent will continue to be, always, bad."


Western, UN intervention required in Congo, a 'litmus test' for EU-- Recognizing the "impotence" of the UN monitoring force, editorials in Africa and Europe backed a more robust mandate allowing the UN to act decisively "by force if necessary" to prevent the DROC's civil war from "plunging" into genocide.  Aware of the "immense risks," European analysts viewed the EU's lead in the Congo mission as an opportunity to grow into a new role, to be conducted, as left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau stressed, "not according to the U.S. model in Iraq, but by strictly complying with international law."  After the loss of compatriots in Afghanistan, however, German papers questioned Germany's interest in being part of a peacekeeping force in the "heart of Africa," where the situation appears "more confusing" than in Afghanistan.

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 55 reports from 13 countries, May 8-June 12.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




ZIMBABWE:  "ZANU-PF Digging Its Own Grave"


The independent Daily News commented (6/9):  “Faced with glaring evidence of the people of Zimbabwe’s dissatisfaction with the government, President Robert Mugabe is maintaining a belligerent attitude, threatening the opposition and participants in last week’s mass action with retribution....  It must be clear even to the ruling ZANU-PF that such heavy-handedness...would again send the wrong signals to local and foreign investors.... We fully appreciate the government’s need to show that it is still in charge following a mass action that humiliatingly demonstrated that force alone is keeping the ruling party in power.  But we would urge prudence in the aftermath of last week’s protests, for the good of the nation and indeed for the government’s own good....  The government’s iron-fisted response to the mass action and a violent campaign of retribution in the next few weeks will only harden the people’s hearts against the ruling party, which is clearly playing into the hands of the opposition’s hands.  If ZANU-PF continues to display its lack of maturity, it will ultimately dig its own grave.”


"Tsvangira’s Fate: No One Above The Law"


The government-controlled Herald argued (6/9):  “The arrest of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for making treasonous statements will reassure Zimbabweans that the justice system is alive and well in the country and the police will not be intimidated by anyone from carrying out its constitutional mandate....  The AG (Attorney-General) and police should be commended for their boldness in holding Tsvangirai accountable for his actions.  Let the courts decide whether his actions have been lawful or not....  The arrest of a sobering development and a stark reminder that the law in Zimbabwe is not like a cobweb, which may catch small flies but will let wasps and hornets break through.  No one is above the law.”


"Admit You Are Finished"


The independent weekly Daily News remarked (6/9):  “Still, from the intensity of the panic with which the government reacted to the mass thing is clear: Mugabe must admit that politically he is finished.  No longer can he stand up and brazenly claim that the people are behind him.  No.  The people are not behind him any more.  They are not even frightened of him or his savage security machinery any more.  They are thoroughly fed up with his misrule and are praying the he will exit the scene while he can still do it with a modicum of dignity and self-respect.  If Mugabe and ZANU-PF dismiss the mass action as a flash in the pan and hope that people will start to sing Mugabe’s and ZANU-PF’s praises this week, then the country is headed for a very long period of instability.  If Mugabe does not acknowledge that only through a sincere dialogue with the MDC can the country return to a semblance of the political and economic normalcy before 2000, then he is throwing down the gauntlet and daring the people: what else can you do to me?  The answer to that defiance may be to ghastly to contemplate:”


"Confront The Real Issues Mr. Mugabe"


Under the sub-head, "The real threat to your power base Mr. President is not Tsvangirai but the people of Zimbabwe," the independent weekly Standard stressed (6/8):  “As long as the country’s economy remains in intensive care, your own position will remain vulnerable.  This is the crux of the matter.  You can delude yourself by dismissing the protests as a flop but is this the real issue?  The real issue, Mr. President, is that the people of Zimbabwe are completely dissatisfied and disillusioned with the state of affairs in the country.  Tsvangirai has won the hearts and minds of the Zimbabweans because of this dissatisfaction and disillusionment - pure and simple....  President Mugabe and the ruling party must neither underrate the mood of the people or their power to change things.  As long as Zimbabweans continue to suffer the way they are doing, the challenge and threat to the President’s power base remains.  And it will be arrogant and naïve in the extreme for the government and its media to gloat that they have scored an immense propaganda victory over Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC.”


"Dialogue Must Resume"


The pro-government weekly Sunday Mirror observed (6/8):  “While the nation is evidently politically polarized, it is an understatement to say the Zimbabweans are united in their hope for a swift improvement in the political and economic condition they find their country in....  These facts in themselves create an adequate basis for engagement between the two parties (ZANU-PF and MDC).  Any further procrastination on this fundamental issue is definitely not in the national interest.  For, the damage to the already tottering economy and the increasingly violent political culture that is emerging in this country do not bode well for the nation.”


"Corporates Supping With The Devil"


The government-controlled weekly Sunday Mail judged (6/8):  “It is clear that the week-long stayaway was successful in terms of business shutdown and not mass action or demonstrations.  The question that then comes to mind is why business chose to become so partisan in an environment where there are two contesting political forces.  What they did amounted to advocating a violent overthrow of a government that they tomorrow will be expecting to work with and calling on to create an environment in which they can prosper.  This is a sign of treacherous naiveté that will only result in a souring of relations with the very political force that controls their destiny.”


"Tsvangirai Loses Legitimacy To Lead Party"


Government-controlled Herald commented (6/7): “MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has lost all legitimacy to lead the opposition party, having failed to deliver on all political promises he made to his supporters over the past three years....  Tsvangirai can give all the explanation he wants to justify why no one seriously observed his call for mass marches, but the bottom line is that he failed to unseat the government of President Mugabe.”


"Regime Clinging To Power By Force"


The independent weekly Zimbabwe Independent (6/6):  "If the MDC is unable to assemble its supporters in town centers, its leadership is at least able to call a successful strike whenever it likes.  No amount of threats by ministers...could get people to work....  At the end of the week the impression that remained was one of a desperately insecure regime using every means at its get the country back to work....The reality, which the world was able to observe this week, was of a regime that is only able to survive by brute force.... We are all agreed that by its campaign this week the MDC has drawn the attention of the country and the world to the connection between brutal misrule and economic collapse.  That is the issue successfully dramatized by its followers in the teeth of repression and which can no longer be ignored, not even by the delusionist in State House.”  


“Politicians Playing Into West’s Hands”


The pro-government weekly Business Tribune held (6/5): “In the end, both ZANU-PF and the MDC are playing into the hands of the West.  On the other hand, ZANU-PF believes it will eventually subdue what they label the West’s surrogate (the MDC) by using the state machinery while on the other the MDC looks up to the West’s economic and military muscle to effect a regime change.... They are both bound to fail.  Meanwhile the West will be the victor.  As the destruction of the economy continues until total collapse...whoever is going to preside over the ashes will have to appeal for Western assistance and the West will only be too happy to give it - with strings attached....  The mass action must have been quite embarrassing to both Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo....  Uppermost in their minds could be how Zimbabwe has continued to display to the world its political immaturity.  Zimbabweans should now rise above their bovine intelligence and begin to behave like people who appreciate the extent of the Zimbabwean crisis.”  


 "Crushing Protests Not The Solution"


The independent Daily News observed (6/4):  “In forcefully crushing the street protests of the opposition MDC this week, President Robert Mugabe’s government also unwittingly tied a burdensome and tricky knot around its neck.  By authorizing the deployment of thousands of army troops and police to snuff out the protests just as they were being launched, the government could find itself facing a dilemma of when to pull out these forces from the streets, if at all....  Indeed, can the use of military might alone buy the government more time in power, in the face of overwhelming public discontent with its rule...?  Unfortunately, the hardening positions of both the government and the MDC, let alone the poisoned timing, do not favor meaningful inter-party talks that must necessarily focus on governance issues that have triggered Zimbabwe’s collapse....  A harsh military clampdown on protests by concerned citizens certainly does not offer a lasting solution.”


"Tsvangirai Overestimating Popularity"


The government-controlled Herald (6/4) commented: “Monday marked the beginning of what MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Western handlers hoped would be a week of mass demonstrations tailored to topple the democratically elected government of President Robert Mugabe.  Well, that did not happen and once again Tsvangirai was left with egg in the face.  His Western handlers, who we understand poured billions of dollars into the futile exercise, must be particularly red in the face....  No, Tsvangirai, Zimbabweans don’t need your sacrifice....  We think Tsvangirai is overestimating his popularity and fear that he will get a nasty jolt come presidential polls in 2008.  We join other peace-loving Zimbabweans in congratulating our security forces for rising to the occasion and ensuring that misguided elements do not rampage through our cities, destroying property and looting, as is their wont.”   


“The People’s Loud And Clear Voice”


The independent Daily News judged (6/3): “But the stunning shutdown of the entire nation, with the capital Harare eerily deserted and resembling a ghost town, dramatically and graphically underlined who now calls the shots in the power stakes in Zimbabwe.  The overwhelming response of Zimbabweans to stay put at home after dire threats from the government that it would crush the protests showed that, while the administration had possibly won this phase of the battle, it had significantly lost the war.  The nationwide shutdown dramatized in no uncertain terms...that the people will no longer be cowed and that people power is now on the ascendancy....  All signals point to one certainty: freedom is coming tomorrow.”  


“Do Or Die”


The independent weekly Standard commented (6/1):  “It is a sad indictment those who have enjoyed the privilege of leading this country over the past 23 years that today, a once prosperous beacon of hope in Africa, has been reduced to another basket case in a much maligned continent....  As Zimbabweans either march in their cities and towns or simply stay at home, it will not necessarily be about the removing the de facto President and the government from power but to say ‘Enough is Enough.’  The tide of feeling about the tragedy that has gripped the country is running very high and this could be the opportunity for Zimbabweans to shake off a label now being bandied around - that we are a docile people.”


SOUTH AFRICA:  "Africa's Challenges"


Balanced Business Day commented (6/12):  "It is a busy time for Africa and its leaders....  Next month, they are off to the African Union (AU) summit in Maputo....  It is easy to be cynical and charge these politicians with spending too much time gabbing...rather than doing concrete things to improve the lives of less glamorous Africans.  But the meetings are important--particularly given the challenges Africa faces....  The continent's leaders have...put much store on the mooted organs of the AU, which are supposed to be the beacons and pillars of what the continental body will do, the hope is that these organs will now be put into place without delay....  But the continent will have to be careful about how and where these bodies operate from....  Africa is moving towards the vision Mbeki entertains at very different speeds.  Perhaps the laggards should simply be forgotten while a more virtuous core is constructed."


"Africa's Uphill Battle"


The liberal Star editorialized (6/12):  "It has not been a good week for Africa.  Our continent--desperately seeking to free itself from oppression--has witnessed major turmoil in both Liberia and Mauritania, and then Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to fester....  Mugabe continues to cling to power.  He is not only ruining that country economically, but is brutalizing his own people as he does so.  This is very bad news for the whole of the Southern Africa.  The message is clear.  Africa's century of revival has got off to a very shaky start.  But that should not deter the continent's leaders, it merely means they must redouble their efforts to establish peace and good governance."


"Africa's Rulers Follow In Footsteps Of Bush's Robber-Barons"


Executive director of the "Steve Biko Foundation" and political analyst Xolela Mangcu opined in balanced Business Day  (6/12):  "In the past week I have been thinking about how best to characterize the nature of international relations...and the implications of those relations for democracy in Africa and South Africa.  The only image that comes to mind is that of a gung-ho cowboy U.S .imperialism that is being abetted by Africa's ruling elite.  This would not be the first time in history that global imperialism finds partners from the continent....  George Bush and Co have started us on a slippery slope to a global cynicism that will take decades to reverse, not least because African rulers...see personal fortunes for themselves in this new world order....  The Africans have already rented their countries to the U.S. oil companies....  And it is precisely because they earn so much from the royalties...that these leaders disregard the African Union and Nepad....  This, then, is the ultimate paradox of the African Renaissance--the coexistence of a rent-seeking African oligarchy and the extension of formal democracy for the rest of us....  Is SA headed in the same direction?"


"Why Zimbabwe 'Final Push' Was A Failure"


Ibbo Mandaza of the Zimbabwe Mirror remarked in Johannesburg's independent, largest black circulation Sowetan (6/10):  "The apparent vacillation--and even panic--on the part of Tsvangarai does, of course, betray the inherent weakness of an opposition party which, were it not for an external factor that seeks to use it as a weapon to wear down Mugabe and his government, might have paled into insignificance following two defeats (the general election of 2000 and the presidential one of 2002) at the polls....


"[T]he MDC has done well to imbibe and pander to the language of the new 'democratic movements that have been so naturally and obviously patronised by the northern hemisphere, from Yugoslavia to Iraq; and, predictably and inevitably, across Africa and the Third World generally. But, so far, the opposition movement in Zimbabwe has failed to contextualise all this to the historical and political realities of the country nor to the regional and international imperatives over Zimbabwe.  Instead, the MDC, or at least that faction of it that sought to embark on the 'final push,' has become self-indulgent in the misplaced and vain belief that the opposition party, and it alone, is central and indispensable to whatever happens and will happen in Zimbabwe.  What matters now is whether the failed 'final push' will be an occasion for positive self-reflection across the political divide in the realisation that only national dialogue and constitutional reform, and not political confrontation can get Zimbabwe on the "road map" to the general elections in 2005. "


"Wrong Side At A Bad Time"


Johannesburg's the privately-owned, conservative Citizen (6/10): "With security forces putting down popular protest in Zimbabwe, and the opposition leader in jail, what does South Africa do?  We send a fawning SABC flunkey to conduct a grovelling interview with 'his excellency' Robert Mugabe, and we invite a Zim Minister here in breach of Commonwealth sanctions. What a pathetic response by a neighbour who should be helping the people of Zimbabwe in their hour of need. Instead our authorities seek to show solidarity with the oppressor. 'Quiet diplomacy' has one aim: to bolster Mugabe.... By flouting the Commonwealth ban on Zim, the gesture mocks SA's supposed adherence to 'multilateralism,' which means abiding by the decisions of umbrella organisations....  There are people who need moral support in the face of a jackboot crackdown. South Africa has chosen the wrong side."


"Mugabe Won One Battle, Not The War"


Bill Saidi contributed the following in the independent, largest black circulation Sowetan (Internet version 6/9):  "The mass action called by the MDC last week is part of their campaign to drag Mugabe, kicking and screaming if need be, to the negotiating table without any preconditions....  At the end of the MDC's final push, the government and the MDC leadership will have to make a few hard choices.  If they agree to resume the dialogue, then the ground rules must include Mugabe's recognition that the MDC is neither a puppet of the West, nor determined to ruin the country's economy to gain political ascendancy over Zanu PR....


"If Mugabe insists that they recognise him as president before any talks get under way, then their quid pro quo might be a guarantee from Mugabe that he will step down and launch a transitional arrangement leading to early presidential elections....  For Tsvangirai, long criticised by his supporters for lacking the guts to confront Mugabe's violence with his own, a call to go into combat against Mugabe under the president's own rules of engagement could provide a litmus test for his leadership.  Although he can now be assured of massive support from people who believe Mugabe has failed to drag the country out of its economic quagmire, he may still lack the charisma to persuade the doubting Thomases in Zanu PF itself to throw in their lot with him.  But Tsvangirai has little to lose; he is not in power and cannot be judged on the same basis as Mugabe, who has made so many errors of judgment even his most loyal supporters now wish he would leave the scene with whatever dignity and grace he can muster, even at this late hour."


"Crunch Time "


The conservative Citizen commented (6/9):  "It's crunch time for Zimbabwe and for...Nepad.  This week's planned demonstrations, and the threats of suppression...will put that country in the limelight while the world's richest nations sort out their priorities at the G8 meeting....   As Mugabe bashes his opponents, the message ...will be that Africa is not serious about good governance.  As long as President Mbeki soft-pedals on Zim, Nepad will struggle to gain the G-8 support it desperately needs.  This week we need to hear a different Mbeki."


"Time For Mugabe To Face Reality"


The privately-owned Sunday Times of Johannesburg explained (Internet version 6/8): "The MDC and Zanu-PF both need to learn their lessons from this latest conflict and concentrate their energies on building a future that will get the country out of the morass it is stuck in.  Simply, they need to go back to talking to each other, instead of past each other, urgently.  The onus is on Mugabe, as the more powerful player, to get these talks under way....  So far, he has demonstrated a powerful reluctance about such talks, as he has continued to set unrealistic preconditions.  He should just go into the talks and be open to whatever they may reveal about what a significant number of Zimbabweans think should happen.  Of course it's no big secret that what they want is for him to step down, sooner rather than later.... [I]t's time Mugabe dealt with that reality....  Zanu can either provide that leadership or accept that people will look elsewhere for it.  Once a people has decided to throw off the yoke of oppression, not the police, not the army--nor even bands of young thugs disguised as war veterans--can stop the urge to be free.  Don't take our word for that. Just ask Ian Smith or P W Botha."


"Teamwork Can Rescue Zimbabwe "


 Political editor for liberal Star, Khathu Mamaila commented (6/2):   'Last week Tsvangirai dashed the hopes of the people of Zimbabwe for any solution soon, saying that he would never be party to any coalition or transitional government between Zanu-PF and the MDC.  Instead he opted for what his party termed the 'final push' to get rid of Mugabe.  This is an unfortunate path; Tsvangirai is contributing to the destruction of his country and the suffering of his people.  There may be very little left to rule over if he achieves his ambition of becoming president.  The MDC...cannot rule Zimbabwe without the co-operation of Zanu-PF that has firmly entrenched itself in the defense force, the police and the civil service.  Equally, there cannot be any real political solution by Zanu-PF without the MDC.  But for now, they both seem to be myopic and incapable of fulfilling their historic mission of rescuing Zimbabwe from the brink of total meltdown.  Betraying this mission will not only affect Zimbabweans but the entire Southern African region."


 "UN Congo Force Has Mission Impossible"


Businesswoman and political commentator Dianna Games stated in balanced Business Day  (6/2):  "The UN force in Congo...does not have the capacity to deal effectively with the complex situation....   A senior Monuc official described the force's mandate to me as being  'mission impossible.'...   The UN emergency force is vital to contain the situation....   But its role, and that of a longer-term beefed up Monuc force, needs to be far wider than finding a military solution.  It needs to fill the governance gap.  It must put in place sustainable structures for maintaining peace and security and must be backed by thorough regional, international and multilateral support measures.  Space must be created for the fledgling central government to prove it can be effective.  As long as military issues continue to sideline economic growth and investment in the Congo, and as long as the country is awash with arms and people ready to act as proxies for all comes, nothing much will change.  The long-term solution lies, as usual, in development."


"Zim: A Disaster In The Offing"


Assistant editor Wally Mbhele judged in the pro-government,  Afro-centric City Press (6/1):  "Only fools are prepared to use their people as cannon fodder for political gain.  And his is exactly what Tsvangirai wants to do....   Only fools abandon negotiations in pursuit of confrontation, as Tsvangirai appears to be doing....  I don't think Zimbabwe ' s new leader should be Tsvangirai.  Judging by the manner in which he's begun to manage opposition politics in Zimbabwe, I think he is not fit for the presidency....   It is not necessary for people to die for Tsvangirai's cause to attract international attention - if indeed this is what he seeks....   While all along we believed that Mugabe was the most unreasonable, Tsvangirai has suddenly emerged as equally blind to reality.  His attitude to negotiations is sickening....   Tsvangirai must take a lead out of Mandela's book and desist from using those who yearn for freedom in Zimbabwe as cannon fodder.  There is indeed no honor among thieves.  Tsanvgirai must begin to negotiate if he wants to be taken seriously. "


"Zimbabwe On The Brink"


Balanced Business Day commented (5/28):  "Hope that Zimbabwe could be saved from total implosion, following the a troika of African presidents, is fading fast....   The continued weakness in Africa's response to the Zimbabwean crisis is our leaders '  selective amnesia about who has brought Zimbabwe to where it is today, and their tendency to portray Mugabe as the victim rather than what he is; a vicious dictator who refuses to accept the fact that it is time to go."


"Zimbabwe: A Classical Case Of Leadership Vacuum"


Political analyst Prince Mashele, judged in pro-government,  Afro-centric City Press (5/18):  "Clearly, the Zimbabwean crisis cannot be resolved without the readiness of the country's rise above narrow political zigzagging.  The recent intervention of Mbeki, Obasanjo and Muluzi proved that no matter how much international intervention takes place in Zimbabwe, the  Zimbabwean people will continue to languish until the internal leadership vacuum is filled.  Whether this will emerge with Mugabe's departure from the political stage, or when another leader succeeds Tasvangirai in the MDC, remains to be seen."  


"Don't Talk Of Zim 'Regime Change'"


 Academic Chris Landsberg stated in liberal Star (5/12):  "Regime change á la hawkish Bush administration in America cannot work  in the African context.  The stakes are too high the political terrain   too complex, and the actors and interests far too many and interwoven   for a simplistic notion like replacing one leader and one regime with   another to work.  It is instead to the idea of negotiated transitions  and bargained outcomes that we have to look to in Africa.  Both might  have the same result - the removal of a despotic leader, but the two   differ in crucial respects...  Even Walter Kansteiner...felt the need  to make a U-turn and describe how diplomacy and working for a   transition in Zimbabwe...was a rational and prudent response to the   Zimbabwe crisis....  Mugabe and his party...appear to be living in  denial about the consequences of their political egotism and bravado.   So, Mbeki and his African counterparts are right in striving for a negotiated transition in Zimbabwe. "


"UN Needs To Act On DRC "


The liberal Star commented (5/13):  "Mbeki's plea to the United Nations to use its peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo to engage hostile elements is not only to prevent further loss of civilian life, but also to help rescue a flawed, fragile peace....   The complex conflicts in the Great Lakes region have often been exacerbated by meddling from neighbors, whose interventions and support of rebel movements have meant instability....   Very much at risk at this knife-edge juncture is the shaky peace process, and the transitional government taking shape under.... Kabila.  An integrated defense force is still in the making, leaving the country awfully vulnerable.  Bold action is therefore necessary.  The UN must act decisively and urgently in maintaining peace - by force if needs be....   It should therefore agree to the Mbeki request on behalf of Africa."


"Congo Anomalies"


The liberal Mercury editorialized (5/13):  "The request...highlights at least two anomalies of that conflict.  One is that the UN troops are supposed to be peacekeepers....   Yet quite clearly conditions in the eastern Congo are nowhere near settled enough for a purely monitoring role....   Another is that the UN presence is clearly inadequate in terms of numbers....   If UN troops are stretched too thin on the ground, they can neither monitor properly nor serve as a stabilizing factor simply by being there.  If...Kofi Annan were to accede to Mbeki's request...there would have to be every safeguard that the UN force does not get sucked into the conflict virtually as another belligerent...   The Congo's size and complexity of its conflicts tend to make a mockery of agreements that look good on paper. "




Afrikaans language, centrist Beeld commented (5/13): "It's important for Zimbabwe and its neighbors that...Mugabe retires and a government of national unity is quickly established in the country for credible elections [to take place].  It's also important for Africa that the Zimbabwe situation is rescued by Africa itself....   If the situation...can be rescued by'll be a great advantage to the continent and Nepad.  It's heartwarming that Britain and the United States are seen to be involved in resolving a situation in Africa, but their role should be in the background - provided that the Africa-troika's diplomacy works and they are able to remove Mugabe." 


BOTSWANA:  "Shamuyarira's Utterances Cause For Concern"


The independent weekly Gaborone Sunday Tribune warned (6/8):  "Comments made by Comrade Nathan Shamuyarira, the spokesperson for the ruling ZANU PF in Zimbabwe are a cause for great concern.... For Shamuyarira to tell his supporters that Botswana is playing dirty tricks on his country is mischievous. It in fact does not augur well for good neighbourliness and it reverses all the gains the two states have made.... Of course we do understand that Shamuyarira is a politician and being that he is bound to utter any rubbish that comes to his mind to keep his political stripes but this time he has just gone too far. We do also acknowledge that Zimbabwe is going through a hard time and that tempers are always flaring but he should be able to guard both his tongue and mind....  It even boggles that mind that an intellectual like him should sink so slow. Botswana has done so much to help Zimbabwe and Shamuyarira would be the first one to admit that Botswana has always supported the cause of the Zimbabwean people....  President Mugabe should discipline Shamuyarira because his utterances have the potential to alienate the people of the two countries. Shamuyarira and his ilk must know that Zimbabwe has everything to gain by working with Botswana and everything to lose by upsetting people who are prepared to sacrifice their overstretched resources to bail out a neighbour whose house is on fire.  Botswana leaders must, once again, be commended for always maintaining their cool even under extreme and unjustified provocation."


DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: "Peace Process In Great Lakes Region"


Commentary by Le Potentiel correspondent Freddy Monsa Iyaka Duku in privately-owned independent Kinshasa Digitalcongo (Internet version, 6/5): "In the Great Lakes region, the language of arms has been replaced by dialogue....  After observing the turbulence in Ituri that would undermine the peace process in the DRC, the West promptly reacted at the level of the UN Security Council to send a rapid intervention force to Ituri.   Contrary to the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Congo [MONUC], the force will use arms to impose peace.   Sixty-five countries have expressed their readiness to support this force placed under French command.   The most outstanding thing is that Ituri reconciled France and Great Britain on the one hand, and France and the United States on the other.   Thus, the Western troika was reconstituted to send an unequivocal signal: the effective end of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Another sign that the United States is still imperial and that the 'Western powers' are imposing themselves in the Great Lakes sub-region, is undoubtedly the arrival of Ambassador Swing at the head of MONUC....  Washington does not want Mr. Swing's mandate to end with a failure....   It may not be the Rambouillet scheme concerning Kosovo, or that of Berlin in 1885 to redistribute cards in the Great Lakes region.   But, it is a kind of blending of the two; that it to say, Congo to the Congolese, Rwanda to Rwandans, Burundi to Burundians, and Uganda to Ugandans -- under the watchful eye of the West, now omnipresent in the region.   Yet, the positive implementation of the West is bearing fruit.   It will be a great mistake to show proof of political blindness and deafness.   It is rather necessary to adequately manage the new situation that will undoubtedly impact on the peace process in the Great Lakes region."


TANZANIA:  "Stop This Carnage In DRC Congo"


The English-language IPP-owned weekly Family Mirror (5/13):  "The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is causing great concern in Africa, if not in the whole world.  Fighting among tribal militias and external forces from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, is robbing this continent of human and material resources....  The situation in the DRC at present is deadly.  And the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has been rendered ineffective....  The people of the DRC should not be made refugees in their own country neither in neighboring countries.... And those who finally find refuge have reportedly caused havoc to the host nation.  Tanzania has experienced land degradation and deforestation as refugees indiscriminately felled trees to get poles for making shelters as well as getting fuel wood.


"Africa has suffered too many problems to encourage internal conflicts that bring nothing more than poverty, diseases, famine and brutal death.  It's time Africa had a break for building the respective countries' economies in order to form as strong, united, healthy and prospective Africa.  The United Nations, the African Union and the international community in general, should help Africa and its internal conflicts and focus on socio-economic development.  To achieve this goal, the fighting and looting in the DRC should be stopped now." 




BRITAIN: "Mugabe Buys Time In Grim Endgame"


Filing from Harare Rory Carroll commented in the center-left Observer (6/8):  "Resorting to a surreal mix of charm, bluff and terror, President Robert Mugabe is fighting this weekend to buy himself time to save his regime.... Charm is not something the aloof 79-year-old is known for, but a propaganda drive is attempting to shore up support among loyalists in the country and sympathisers in South Africa.... 


"Harare's second prong is an emergency fix for an economy in freefall. The government needs cash to pay salaries - not least for the police, soldiers and militia - and fuel....  Mugabe wants the time and leverage for a smooth transfer of power which will protect him in retirement from the sort of travails visited on the likes of Pinochet, Honecker and Milosevic.... The gravest danger is that the successor will turn out to be Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who has not accepted losing last year's rigged presidential election.After a series of one-day general strikes the MDC called last week for a 'final push', a five-day set of strikes and street protests to topple the president....  For analysts the cliche of choice is endgame, and this must surely be the regime's final phase, but it could last weeks, months, years.  Zimbabwe is locked in a grim stalemate: the opposition has widespread support but cannot muster the sort of protests which toppled Slobodan Milosevic. The president can crush dissent but not control events, so he plays for time, a game he does well.


"Into Eastern Congo"


The independent Financial Times presented this editorial view (5/28): "The task of an international force in trying to stop a bloodbath in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo is unlikely to be easy.  But the need is urgent for decisive action to protect civilians and bring humanitarian assistance into the region....The UN monitoring force has proved impotent.  Up to now the US - and Britain - have favored handing the job to peacekeepers from other African countries rather than reinforcing an already large and costly UN presence.  But the situation now demands the rapid dispatch of properly trained, well equipped soldiers, under a new, robust mandate allowing the use of force where necessary.   A signal of international resolve could prevent wider destabilization and help Congo's emerging power-sharing government to establish some measure of authority over a country where upwards of 3 million people are thought to have died in the past years as a direct or indirect result of the conflict.   A failed UN operation now in Congo would be damaging both to the organization and to prospects of containing such conflicts in the future.  Getting this right is as important as doing it at all."


FRANCE: "France Steps Up Interventions In Africa"


Thierry Oberle judged in right-of-center Le Figaro (Internet version, 6/11):  "Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Congo, the former Zaire: the pace of French movements on the Black Continent is accelerating.   In English-speaking Liberia, the French military have emerged from their traditional private domain to come to the aid of the foreign community trapped by the fighting in Monrovia.   At the same time, an air lift is bringing in from Entebbe, Uganda, to Bunia, in the northern Congo, over thousand French troops under UN mandate for an international action to restore the peace.  Dominique de Villepin, the brains behind this new interest in neglected countries, plans to define France's new policy in a speech that he is due to deliver on Friday to the Higher National Defense Studies Institute (IHEDN.)   It coincides with Paris' return to the Great Lakes region, nine years after the tragedy in Rwanda....   Despite these initiatives, France refuses to be Africa's new gendarme.   Paris stresses the multilateral character of its interventions.   The dispatch of troops to Ituri is portrayed as the 'first large-scale autonomous European initiative.'   Conducted jointly with Britain, Operation Mamba sets the seal on the improvement of ties with London, following the disagreements over Iraq.   Of course, in Africa, it enjoys the support of Congo, one of the largest French-speaking countries, but also Uganda, the logistical rear base of the deployment, and also, thanks to a historical change of course, the at least tacit consent of Rwanda."


GERMANY: "Heading For The Congo"


Armin Hampel commented on ARD-TV's (national channel one) late evening newscast Tagesthemen (6/10):  "The families, and not only them, have the right to know for what our troops had to die.  I believe the explanation that German interests have to be defended in the Hindu Kush is insufficient.  Who defined these interests, the chancellor, his foreign minister?  They tell us that we have to get ready for global deployment.  But what does that mean?… We made it to East Timor already.  And now we are heading for the Congo.  By the way, the Congo and almost all crisis areas where German troops have been deployed are former colonial territories or their spheres of interest.  The French, the Portuguese, and particularly the British have considerable, particularly economic, interests there.  And now we are supposed to participate in every expedition because of our solidarity with our European partners?  I don't think so....  The federal government must define German interests very clearly: first on a national level and after coordination with our partners, on an international level.  This is the chancellor's and the foreign minister's business.  Without a clear strategy -- which we currently don't have -- global deployment to any place in the world would indeed be possible.  If our partners base their international policy on their national interests, we should, we must do the same.  We have to say clearly where and for what we would be prepared to risk the life of our troops -- and where not.  If German troops become victims in remote crisis areas more often, this will become alarmingly normal.  I am not ready to accept this."


"Playing With Lives"


Richard Wagner remarked in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (Internet version-WWW, 6/8): "The fact that Afghanistan is a powder keg was known long before German soldiers lost their lives as the result of a cowardly suicide attack in Kabul on Saturday [7 June].... In such a lawless milieu, where terrorists can move about inconspicuously, Saturday's attack may just have been harbinger of even more evil.  What is necessary, however, is a debate about Germany's interests and a more precise interpretation of Defense Minister Struck's statement that Germany is also defended at the Hindu Kush.   It must be clear what a mission means -- including the death of soldiers. This must be discussed before the country gets involved in another mission.   Participating in a peacekeeping mission in the Congo may seem inappropriate under the leadership of France, which is trying to gain profile against the United States.   And, even more, one has to ask what a peacekeeping force can achieve in the heart of Africa, where the situation seems to be even more confusing than in Afghanistan.   These questions must be answered if the mission is not supposed to be a game with the soldiers' lives."


"Alone With The Dictator"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin noted (6/6): "The democratic opposition in Zimbabwe shows courage.  Following a general strike that lasted a few days, it called upon the pauperized people in the impoverished country to take to the streets to protests President Mugabe.  But the aging dictator demonstrated several times before that he does not tolerate any resistance.  This means that the situation in Zimbabwe can become dangerous....  But if violence breaks out, the people in the country cannot expect assistance from neighboring countries or from the West.  A peace force for the Congo was set up only when the killing reached the extent of a genocide.  And Robert Mugabe knows this.  The value of the new partnership between Africa and the industrialized nations that was renewed at the G-8 summit in Evian, will come to the fore in Zimbabwe.  The foundation stone of this partnership is the commitment of the Africans to democracy and human rights--and that they want to remind each other of this commitment.  But no African leader has thus far publicly criticized Mugabe.  And the Western leaders did not want to jeopardize this harmony in Evian.  That is why not too much will change in Zimbabwe despite the protests."


"Give Up the Role As Spectator"


Christoph Link had this to say in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (6/6): "For the EU, the mission in the Congo is something new.  For the first time in its history, it will form an armed force without the assistance of NATO and use it outside of Europe.  With this mission, the EU could grow into a new role:  to assume responsibility by organizing a mission under its own authority for the tormented people on a neighboring continent, but not according to the U.S. model in Iraq, but by strictly complying with international law....  The risks for a mission in the Congo are immense, but they should be discussed realistically and soberly....  The greatest risk of a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is that its end is not foreseeablebut the mandate must be clearly defined, since in the long run, the Congolese themselves are responsible for their own state....  The view has now gained the upper hand that Africa cannot be left alone with its wars.  The international community should not watch how another genocide is beginning to develop in the province of Ituri....  Nor can it approve that a continent is disintegrating into anarchic zones like in Somalia, Liberia, and the Congo.  These dissolved nations offer possible bases for terrorists and they are responsible for an continuous stream of refugees to the North."




Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine carried this comment (6/4): "Some 4,700 UN blue-helmets are already in the Congo, a country the size of western Europe, and yet conditions there have not stabilized or improved.   Another force--a number of 1,400 soldiers has been mentioned--endowed with a 'robust' mandate and led by the French should now at least prevent another war of ethnic annihilation in north-eastern Congo.   Germany has approved the motion in the UN Security Council, and Paris has been more or less discretely urging Germany for some time to provide Bundeswehr forces for the mission in what is a traditionally French sphere of influence.   To a certain extent, this is a logical consequence of the development of joint units (what about the Eurocorps?) and the jointly declared ambition to develop a European foreign and security policy.   That is why the Bundeswehr will hardly be able to refuse to participate in this mission, at least by providing logistical support and technical assistance.   Whether this will bring the problems in the heart of Africa closer to a political solution is a different question--and is rather to be doubted."


 "Look To The Poor"


Anita Kecke argued in an editorial in centrist Leipziger Volkszeitung (6/3):  "Since the Evian summit, Africa has the modest advantage of becoming the focus of the G-8 nations once a year.  The promises of the industrialized nations with respect to AIDS and the establishment of an African peace force in Congo are important promises.  The massacres in Congo show how urgent such a force is.  With respect to other important decisions that would help get self-help for Africa, like the reduction of agricultural subsidies in the industrialized nations, the G-8 does not make any progress.  When will they finally realize that help for the poorest in the world is not only a human commandment but is also in our very own interest."


"Greater Courage"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin stated (5/30):  "It is certainly right that the UN Security Council will adopt a resolution today that will provide for the sending of 1,000 additional blue helmets to Congo...but a second Srebrenica can be prevented only if the mandate of the blue helmets is 'robust' enough....  Regardless of whether it is Bosnia or Burnia, a UN force can be effective only if acts on site and prevents violence.  And those who vehemently demand this should also be wiling to take part in such dangerous missions.  But for Defense Minister Struck such a mission is 'out of the question.'  But if not today, when?"


"Test Case For Europe"


Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (5/23) noted: "The international community should not again idly watch a massacre in the Congo.  UN Secretary-General is calling for a 'coalition of the willing' that stops the slaughter.  France and Britain have signaled their willingness to side with the weak blue helmet force by sending interventionist forces.  Belgium is willing to offer military logistics, and Germany offers financial assistance.  It is time; it is a test case for Europe."


"Test Case Congo"


Business  Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (5/22) opined: “UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s request to the EU has exerted pressure on the European Union.  One week after the Congolese call for help, the EU must decide on sending peacekeeping forces to the region.  At issue is preventing a genocide.  In addition, its engagement is a question of credibility.  Only if the EU proves that it is able to resolve conflicts like the one in Congo, can it play a greater role in international politics.  But thus far, the EU reaction only reveals deficiencies in its defense policy.  EU Defense Commissioner Solana signaled the EU’s willingness to take over responsibility, but it is totally unclear where the necessary military capacities should come from....  The Europeans do not have any time.  Over the past weeks, more than 300 people were killed…and 60,000 were displaced….  In the past, European nations and companies accepted political instability in their attempts to gain access to raw material.  It is now up to them to prevent the worst.”


RUSSIA: "A Typical Coup"


Commenting on Mauritania, Igor Tarutin stated in reformist Vremya Novostey (6/10): "It is a typical coup d'etat, whatever the implications.  It is not new to Africa.  The trouble is that there have been too many of them in recent years."


BELGIUM: "The Future Of EU Defense at Stake in Congo"


Wim Van de Velde judged in financial De Financieel-Economische Tijd (6/6): “If the risky Artemis operation fails, it is not only the Congolese peace process that one can forget about, but the construction of European Defense is also likely to be delayed for years....  One of the main drawbacks of this operation lies in the limited mandate that binds the EU troops. They can only secure the city of Bunia. If massacres take place outside of the city walls, they are not allowed to intervene, something that, with TV cameras in the area, can lead to dramatic images. That is the most efficient manner to make the EU force slink, as the 1994 Rwanda genocide demonstrated.”


IRELAND: "France Declines Offer Of Irish Troops For Peacekeeping In Congo"


Lara Marlowe remarked in the center-left Irish Times (Internet version 6/11):  "Had France accepted Ireland's offer, the Chief of Staff would have dispatched a reconnaissance team to Bunia, and the decision would have required endorsement by the Government and the Dail [lower house of the Irish Parliament].   The third requirement, for a UN mandate, was fulfilled when the Security Council voted resolution 1484 at the end of May.  Ireland may be fortunate not to have been included in the force, which is plunging into a conflict considered as intractable as the Hutu genocide against hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in 1994.   The warring militias in the Congo are often high on drugs, exploit child soldiers and engage in cannibalism.... The deployment in the Congo marks the first EU peacekeeping operation outside Europe.   Some have seen the EU's involvement as a sort of consolation prize to Mr Javier Solana, the representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, who has been crowded out of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations by Washington.   "It's very much a French operation with token political and military participation by a few others," an Irish source said.


"Congo's Conflict"


The center-left Irish Times maintained (5/26):  "At long last, more international attention is being paid to the horrendously violent war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).... There have been calls for a United Nations force to separate the antagonists and enforce and verify a ceasefire....  As central authority collapsed each of these armies created proxy forces among Congolese tribes and peoples. The conflict has been deepened by the country's wealth, with gold, diamonds, oil and copper in plentiful supply....  One dire scenario is that, left to itself, the present fighting could indeed deteriorate into another genocide....  The existing UN force has looked on helplessly at much of the latest fighting. It has neither the mandate, troops nor capacity to enforce peace or protect civilians.  A UN request for extra troops made last December has virtually collapsed for lack of international response, fully reflecting central Africa's geopolitical irrelevance for the world's most powerful states embroiled in the Iraq war.  More attention can and must be paid to this conflict. Ireland should be willing to look sympathetically at this latest request for troops, mindful of our involvement there after the country became independent from Belgium in 1960 and of Roger Casement's exposé of Belgian colonial exploitation 40 years earlier."


"Mugabe's Misrule"


An editorial in the center-left Irish Times held (5/21): "Increasing speculation in southern Africa suggests the diplomatic efforts of South Africa, Nigeria, and Malawi, whose leaders have been applying pressure to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, may yet bear fruit.  If they do result in the 'voluntary' retirement...a multinational aid package may then be forthcoming from the international community to help the famine-ravaged country. It could not come a day too soon.  Mr Mugabe's brutal and ill-judged land reform has plunged nearly two-thirds of the country's 11.6 million people into hunger and left a million agricultural workers jobless....  Mr Mugabe's rigged re-election last year--its corruption attested to by the Commonwealth--has been sustained only through the brutal suppression of oppositionists....  Such methods have been accompanied by attempts to muzzle the local and international press....  It is, they say, darkest before the dawn. The authorities' open defiance of the vestiges of the rule of law is a sign of desperation, a final card from a regime whose sell-by date has passed."


POLAND:  "Artemis Is Flying; Will The Mission In The Congo Divide The EU And NATO?"


Robert Soltyk filed from Brussels in leading, center-left Gazeta Wyborcza (6/5):  "In order to stop tribal warfare, as soon as this coming weekend France may send to the Congo its troops, an outpost of an EU mission....  The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on the matter on 30 May.   Yesterday the EU Political-Military Committee approved of the mission, and ambassadors of the EU 15 were to do the same yesterday evening (Poland was an observer).   British Prime Minister Tony Blair voiced doubts whether plans for the mission were at a sufficiently advanced stage....  [This paper's] sources at NATO voiced 'profound surprise' that the alliance, with which the EU had pledged to coordinate peacekeeping missions, had been slightly taken aback on the Congolese mission and put before accomplished facts.   Allegedly, this particularly angered the Americans, who stated off the record at a session of heads of NATO foreign affairs ministries in Madrid that 'the time had not come yet' to hand the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia over to the EU in 2004, which France wants so much.   This is a serious blow to the EU's political ambitions in security affairs as well a warning that the United States will not allow itself to be excluded from them in Europe."




CANADA:  "Bad News From Africa"


The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (6/9): "The UN may have a role to play in solving the Congo's problems, but it is clear that the civil war will not end until other African nations - the Congo's neighbours in particular - make it clear that Africa itself will not tolerate this war. It is perhaps a measure of how cruel the situation in Africa is that, despite the fact that about 3.5 million people have died as a result of the civil war in the Congo in the last four years, it is not today number one on the list of international concerns about Africa. The crisis in Zimbabwe perhaps gets the number one spot, with the civil war in Liberia claiming number two with a bullet. In both those countries, the world is witnessing dictatorial governments in their death throes. The death throes, however, are as different as the dictators.... Canada and other western nations can play only small roles in determining the outcome of events in these countries. It is Africa itself that wields the power to tilt the balance in favour of democracy or to a different dictatorship. But until Africa as a whole decides to choose democracy and isolate and overthrow its dictators, old school or new, then the news from that continent will continue to be, always, bad.”


"Getting Rid Of Mugabe"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (5/8): "The trio of influential African presidents [Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki, joined by Malawi's Bakili Muluzi] vow to continue their quiet diplomacy. But they will get nowhere until Mr. Mugabe recognizes that his only option is voluntary exile. It is vital that this intervention succeed, both to stabilize an explosive situation and to prevent the deepening humanitarian crisis from spilling over Zimbabwe's borders and turning into yet another regional disaster."


"Zimbabwe's Ugly Fin De Régime"


Foreign affairs columnist Gordon Barthos editorialized in the liberal Toronto Star (5/8): "[P]ressure is building for a negotiated resolution to Zimbabwe's worst political and economic crisis since independence in 1980. U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are pushing for 'regime change.' So is the Commonwealth, which suspended Zimbabwe in 2002 after Mugabe's supporters narrowly stole the presidential election from Tsvangirai through murder, intimidation and fraud.... The only way forward is for Mugabe to agree to bow out early, so that some transitional power-sharing arrangement can be struck between Zanu-PF and the MDC leading to early, credible, internationally supervised elections. But that will require regional politicians to crank up the pressure, something they have been reluctant to do.... That Mugabe, at 79, is doing such terrible damage is a tragedy. For the country. For him. Some still hail Comrade President as one of the nation's liberators. But their voices grow fainter with every passing day."


"Zimbabwe Descends Into Total Chaos"


Edmonton Sun columnist Paul Stanway wrote in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (5/8):  "The odious Robert Mugabe, the aging president of Zimbabwe, appears to be yet another despot hoping to benefit from the all-consuming attention paid by media and diplomats to the war in Iraq. Like his pal Fidel Castro, Mugabe used the world's preoccupation with Iraq to launch a blatant attack on political opposition.... If Mugabe's prepared to go (it's a big if), the real carrot would be a promise that he can keep all or most of the estimated $1 billion he has managed to steal from his impoverished country and stash in the U.S. and Europe. It would be a sordid but plausible end to a sordid story."


Commentary from ...
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere

This site is produced and maintained by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Back To Top

blue rule
IIP Home  |  Issue Focus Home