Monday, July 08, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Obama pokes nose in Zim affairs
Sunday, 30 June 2013 00:00
Munyaradzi Huni and Lincoln Towindo

US President Barack Obama yesterday blatantly displayed his support for the MDC-T after telling a South African audience that Zimbabwe has to undergo “some reforms’’ if it is to hold a credible election. While clearly singing from the same hymn book as the Western-sponsored party, President Obama also claimed that some Zimbabwean citizens and groups were being harassed during the build-up to the elections set for July 31.

America is believed to be one of the biggest sponsors of the MDC-T with the agenda of effecting regime change in Zimbabwe.

However, analysts have criticised the US leader for “poking his nose” into the affairs of Zimbabwe.

This is not the first time that the Obama administration has shown support for what is believed to be its puppet projects in Africa a few weeks before elections are held.

Just before the Kenyan elections early this year, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, tried to influence voters to support one of the candidates who eventually lost, Mr Raila Odinga.

However, that move backfired spectacularly as Kenyans voted overwhelmingly for the now Kenyan leader Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

In his speech in South Africa yesterday, President Obama showed his country’s support for the out-of-sorts MDC-T leader, Mr Tsvangirai, in the July 31 elections, by repeating calls for reforms ahead of elections and making the harassment claims.

“Harassment of citizens and groups needs to stop and reform needs to move forward so that people can cast their votes in elections that are fair and free and credible,” said President Obama.

During question time, the US President went on to attack the country’s Constitution for not having term limits for Presidents. This however, surprised many as Zimbabwe is not the only country without presidential term limits.

Analysts yesterday said what makes President Obama’s statement sound even more sinister is that before he left the US for his African visit, his Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, had made reckless allegations about what he called “deeply undemocratic practices,” taking place in Zimbabwe.

Mr Rhodes went on to alleged what he termed “very questionable elections, crackdowns on independent media and civil society” in the country.

This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe recently adopted a new constitution which was passed by all parties in the inclusive Government, paving way for the July 31 elections.

Commenting on President Obama’s statement on Zimbabwe, a Sadc diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonimity said: “After the statement by President Barack Obama, there was a flurry of concerned phone calls among diplomats especially those from our region.

“Many diplomats expressed concern over the statement which was unfortunately made right in the backyard of not only one of our own, but the facilitator in Zimbabwe. What concerns most of us in the region is that the statement by President Barack Obama sounds almost the same with the position that was given by the MDC parties during the recently held Sadc summit in Mozambique and was also contained in the facilitator’s report which was awash in your media here.

“As diplomats from the region, we are concerned because we don’t think what happened in South Africa yesterday was procedural in international relations.”

Dr Charity Manyeruke from the University of Zimbabwe’s Political Science Department said it was wrong for President Obama to comment about issues that he had no full knowledge on.

“As a statesman it is wrong for Mr Obama to comment about the so-called reforms in Zimbabwe without full knowledge about the situation on the ground.

“The Americans should respect sovereign states in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter and not take sides in internal affairs of other nations.

“It’s a pity that Mr Obama is taking sides, but his statements can be taken in the context that he wants to foment civil strife in the country especially in the security sector.

“What he wants is to see Zimbabwe turn into another Somalia so that the Americans can come in and plunder the country’s resources.

“As a result the country and indeed the security sector should remain on the lookout.”

While commenting on the same issue,the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said: “While reforms are welcome it is sad that for this election it is too late for that and such a call is out of place.

“We can only expect to have reforms after the election when we have a a new government in place. Though we cannot stop a foreign leader from commenting on our situation what it is important at the end of the day is what is happening here in Zimbabwe and not in foreign countries.

“It would have been a different situation if the Americans were to deploy their army here and demand reforms first before the elections.”

A senior lecturer in the Media and Society Studies Department at the Midlands State University, Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri said, one can draw parallels between yesterday’s statement by President Obama and the one by Mr Carson in Kenya just before elections in that country.

“You could draw parallels between what President Obama has said and what Carson also said on the eve of the Kenyan election.

“But international relations etiquette denotes that governments should be discreet when making their allegiances public as they deal with elections in foreign lands.

“Therefore the question today for most Western governments is how to articulate their preferred candidate especially when it comes to elections in Africa.

“There is always a fear that backing the “wrong” candidate may result in loss of future business opportunities with African governments.

“Let it be said however that they are free to support their candidates of choice, but what is important is that they do not interfere with sacrosanct political processes of sovereign states.

“Reforms are a continuous process and Zimbabwe has been carrying out reforms since 1980 and even before that. Therefore to insist that reforms be implemented over a two or three week period is not at all practical. Calling for reforms on the eve of such a crucial election is expecting too much from a system that has been dysfunctional since its formation,” said Dr Mhiripiri.

In February this year, Mr Carson caused quite a stir in Kenya when he made remarks which were seen as trying to influence Kenyans to vote against Mr Kenyatta.

When he was asked about the possibility that Kenyans would vote for Mr Kenyatta and his deputy Mr William Ruto who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, Mr Carson said:

“Choices have consequences. Individuals have histories, images, reputations and when they are selected to lead nations, those images, histories and reputations go on with them. But I will not speculate on our approach to whoever will be elected.”

The statement by Mr Carson infuriated many Kenyans who saw it as a ploy to force them to reject Mr Kenyatta and vote for America’s blue-eyed boy Raila Odinga.

Unfortunately for the Americans, the statement by Carson created a strong national sentiment against Odinga leading to President Kenyatta’s victory in the elections.

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