Friday, October 30, 2009

(TALKZIMBABWE) UN Special Rapporteur's partiality questionable

UN Special Rapporteur's partiality questionable
Comment by the editor and *Mhofeti
Thu, 29 Oct 2009 23:30:00 +0000

THE diplomatic farce that was created by the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture could have been avoided had he heeded the call to reschedule his visit to Zimbabwe.

It was, afterall the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs Minister, who had invited him to the country in the first place.

Mr Manfred Nowak got some communication from the Zimbabwean Government that the date that had been proposed was no longer convenient as the Sadc Troika; the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security, was coming to the country to assess the progress made by the inclusive Government.

On Tuesday, it was public knowledge that Mr Nowak was in South Africa and that he was adamant he would be visiting Zimbabwe; despite the cancellation by the Government.

Given the fact that the MDC-T party had "disengaged" from the inclusive Government, it was important that the Troika meet urgently, so that sticking issues could be resolved.

Mr Nowak was informed in time by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the cancellation of his visit; but he decided to circumvent that communication by accepting an invitation from the Prime Minister; who has "disengaged" from the inclusive Government.

In what capacity was the Special Rapporteur coming then if the Justice and Legal Affairs Ministry that had initially invited him was too busy to meet him?

Why was the Special Rapporteur dealing with a "disengaged" party rather than a "member State"?

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa would have been busy with the Troika. He is one of the negotiators from Zanu PF. He also sits on the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee that was meeting with the Sadc Troika at the same time the Special Rapporteur was proposing to be in the country.

Mr Nowak told the BBC that Zanu PF was trying to cover-up allegations of torture by not allowing him leave to enter. This is ill-advised coming from a top envoy of an organisation that is supposed to take an impartial diplomatic approach to member state issues.

Mr Nowak should appreciate that the relationship between the UN and member states thrives on mutual respect. It is not only for Zimbabwe to respect the UN, but the reverse is also true.

By-passing the Government to accept an invitation from a member of that inclusive Government, who a few weeks before, had "disengaged" from that Government, smacks of partiality, and mischief in the worst case scenario.

The UN, of all organisations, must be the last to be caught up in incidents that unnecessarily add fuel to a simmering conflict in a member state. Needless to say that on our part, it is a diplomatic mess that we can do without especially at this critical moment.

Understandably, Mr Nowak was disappointed by the cancellation, but his handling of the conflicting signals from Zimbabwe leaves a lot to be desired.

The UN failed get into the Zimbabwean conflict as an impartial, disinterested party.

Whether the UN can be trusted to mediate between the warring parties in Zimbabwe is now a matter of debate given Mr Nowak's obvious bias towards one of them.

Mr Nowak's shocking expectation that, in spite of all the challenges currently bedevelling the inclusive Goernment, judgments be made on the basis of PM Tsvangirai’s standards, leaves the UN complicit in employing divisive tactics on a member state.

Supposing Tsvangirai successfully overrode the other party, does Mr Nowak care what kind of relations he would have left amongst the political partners of this inclusive Government?

Whilst Zimbabwe is the biggest loser in all this, the UN's reputation will also take its share of blame in this diplomatic circus.

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*A Zimbabwe Guardian reader, Mhofeti, contributed to this commentary. Our thanks go to him. Please send all feedback to: info@talkzimbabwe.com

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