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Zimbabwe is not Liberia
Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008

By Nomagugu M'simang
July 18, 2008
The Herald

I write as a Zimbabwean woman and mother of four who has lived in Zimbabwe all her life.

I also write as a woman and mother who has been a victim of the devastating effects of the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States, Britain and their European Union allies.

I also write as a Zimbabwean who wonders at the moral decency of why her country is being punished for repossessing its land and reasserting its national independence and sovereignty.

I am also writing as a Zimbabwean who is witnessing through leaps and bounds, the growth and development of our democratic systems since 1980 when Zimbabwe attained political independence.

And, I am also writing as an observer who has seen political spaces opened up by the Zanu-PF Government despite what may be said to the contrary.

I am also writing as someone who saw the present Government sitting down with their arch-rivals, the Rhodesian government, in 1979 at Lancaster House.

I also write as a woman and mother who also saw the hand of reconciliation being extended by President Mugabe to Ian Smith and Rhodesia.

I further write as someone who realised the importance of forgiveness and embracing one's foes regardless of how they might have hurt you.

I also write as someone who saw yet again the magnanimity in the Zimbabwean people and their leadership when in 1987, they buried the hatchet and chose peace and not war, through the Unity Accord. This is an accord that has now become the raison d'Ítre (rupawo) of our nation. For as a nation we have since realised that unity breeds success and prosperity.

I am also writing as a Zimbabwean sick of outside interference in our internal affairs, aware that Zimbabweans can bridge their differences and come to a common understanding about their vision, and adequately plan for the realisation of that vision.

For, it is a fallacy that Western standards and value systems artificially imposed on Zimbabwe will work for the common good of our nation.

And now, I write as a woman, full of sadness as I see a fellow woman who holds a very powerful leadership position deciding to do the West's bidding against Zimbabwe.

Last week, on the eve of the United Nations Security Council vote on the US-sponsored draft resolution for sanctions against Zimbabwe, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson became one of the few lone voices outside of the UNSC membership to vocally support the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

President Johnson-Sirleaf as a woman, mother and grandmother, should know the serious consequences that sanctions have on the most vulnerable groups in society.

For through experience, she knows that the sanctions imposed on Liberia resulted in the suffering of the most vulnerable groups in that country.

The Liberian leader said she supported a Western push for sanctions as a way of illegally effecting regime change against President Mugabe's Government.

Sirleaf-Johnson said sanctions against Zimbabwe would be appropriate since they would send a "strong message" to the Zimbabwean Government. She has also denounced Zimbabwe's electoral system.

Sirleaf-Johnson also argued that her support for sanctions against Zimbabwe could be equated to the Liberian experience where she maintained that sanctions had assisted in bringing about "a satisfactory resolution" to Liberia's 14-year civil war that ended in 2003.

Since she made the comments while on South African soil, the Liberian leader should probably be reminded that another notable leader and a woman, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, opposed sanctions against the evil apartheid system as she argued that the most vulnerable groups – the black people – would suffer immensely.

The Liberian leader's comments also contrasted with those of other members of the African Union who opposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had told the leaders at the G8 summit on July 8 that Africa would not back sanctions against Zimbabwe.

And, as such, the draft resolution did not pass, with the full support of South Africa, Libya and the vetoes of two of the UNSC's permanent members, China and Russia. And no one forgets Vitenam's sterling role in the whole matter.

So, are Liberia and Burkina Faso – which supported sanctions against Zimbabwe in the Security Council – not part of the African Union?

Or, they were simply doing the US's bidding? For it is now quite apparent that a few individuals in both the AU and Sadc are foot soldiers for the West in its quest to transform the geo-political sphere into a single entity governed by Western principles of democracy and governance.

The agenda that Sirleaf-Johnson appears to be pushing on behalf of the US could be one of the reasons why she occupies the highest office in Liberia at the expense of George Weah after the November 2005 presidential run-off election in that country.

Weah's heroism during the civil war was relegated to the dustbin of history as the "international community" preferred a Harvard-trained financier to the less "educated" football star and icon.

Many might wonder why Africa's first elected female head of state has been very vociferous about Zimbabwe. When Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, Sirleaf-Johnson was a minister when William Tolbert's government sought exile in Kenya. How has the post-election Kenyan scenario to date, and the formation of the "grand coalition" influenced the Liberian leader?

Sirleaf-Johnson feels confident talking about Zimbabwe's presidential poll and its electoral system because she knows that there are a number of similarities in Zimbabwe and Liberia's electoral laws.

Her voice is also meant to add weight to the issue of the so-called transitional government, which was also in place in Liberia for three years before elections were eventually held in 2005.

However, it is a view that disregards the wishes of the Zimbabwean people, and a view that disregards that Liberia and Zimbabwe are shaped by different value systems.

Liberia's presidential and parliamentary elections of 2005 were only held after a two-year transitional period after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by representatives of the warring factions, political parties and civil society in 2003 in Ghana.

From October 2003 to 2005, the National Transitional Government of Liberia, a brainchild of the CPA, governed Liberia.

Liberia, like Zimbabwe, has the "50 percent plus one" clause in its electoral law, which means that unless a presidential candidate wins outrightly during the first round, then there would be a run-off poll between the top two candidates.

In the first round, Weah beat Sirleaf-Johnson by a wide margin despite the fact that there were 22 presidential hopefuls (28,3 and 19,8 percent of the votes, respectively).

Neither Sirleaf-Johnson nor Weah had garnered the absolute majority of "50 percent plus one" of valid votes required.

However, just like the Zimbabwe case, Weah initially refused to go for the second round maintaining that he had won convincingly.

The very tune that MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been dancing to, failing to realise that "outrightly" and "convincingly" mean different things.

However, the Liberian case was "well managed" because there was an easy formula, and land was not the central issue in the former American slave colony.

The Liberian leader also makes it look like Liberia ran the best election after the brutal civil war. According to a report by the Carter Centre and the National Democratic Institute, "One of the most significant complaints was brought by the Liberty Party, on behalf of presidential aspirant Charles Brumskine, who came in third place in the presidential race.

"In a statement issued on October 18, 2005, the Liberty Party alleged that 'at least three aspects of the electoral process, namely ballot marking by illiterate voters, the counting of the votes, and the reporting of the votes counted, have been marred by serious irregularities, bordering on fraud'.

"The Liberty Party contended that many illiterate voters who requested help from poll workers were guided to mark areas on the ballot that did not reflect the voters' choice."

Today, the "international community" toasts the Liberian leader and berates Zimbabwe. But I would like to say to Zimbabweans: Keep on keeping on. After all, prescriptions are easier to make than clinical diagnoses.

Zimbabwe is not Liberia, just like it is not Kenya. And it is the will of Zimbabweans, not Sirleaf-Johnson's, that shall carry the day.

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