Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Zimbabwe: Politicised military threaten Zim stability: RUSI

Zimbabwe’s politicised security forces remain a threat to efforts to stabilise the country, a British defence and security think-tank said, urging the Harare coalition government to prioritise restructuring and transformation of a security establishment that has already spread tentacles into several key non-military institutions of state.

The Royal Services Institute (RUSI) said in a report titled Making the Case for Security Sector Reform in Zimbabwe that was released Tuesday that the security sector in Zimbabwe would hold the “the casting vote” on whether the country’s existing stabilisation and growth lasts, or collapses.

The paper authored by Knox Chitiyo – a Zimbabwean who heads RUSI’s Africa Programme – outlines both short term and long term policies for demilitarising the Zimbabwean state and making the country’s return to democracy both sustainable and secure.

Acknowledging that there had been some positive steps in the realm of national reconciliation in Zimbabwe recently, the paper also highlights the establishment of a new National Security Council (NSC) by the new government tasked with formulating and implementing national security and defence policy as a major step forward in civil-military relations.

“The security sector remains the biggest “known unknown” in Zimbabwe’s current politics,” the report said. “What is certain is that the military has the capacity to contain or roll back political transition through the use of force, coercion and co-option.”

The report is certain to receive unfavourable reaction from President Robert Mugabe who regards any such intervention from any group with links to the British establishment – no matter how remote – as unwelcome interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs by its former coloniser who the veteran leader claims wants to topple him.

Mugabe last February formed a power-sharing government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to end a political stalemate that followed last year’s inconclusive elections.

The unity government has been able to stabilise the economy but has moved slowly on political reforms while the NSC remains virtually moribund with hardliner security commanders – who long said they would never recognise Tsvangirai’s powers – boycotting council meetings.

The security council has met only once since establishment of the unity government although it is required by law to meet at least once every month.

Placing security sector restructuring at the top of priorities for Zimbabwe’s new unity government, the RUSI recommended that the coalition administration draws up a new national defence and security strategy, in which security sector reform would take a central role.

“Regionally and globally, many countries are undertaking national defence reviews. Such a review, which would include security sector recovery, is long overdue for Zimbabwe,” the paper points out.

It also recommended that stakeholders must integrate the military into the country’s ongoing political and social reconciliation process, aligning security sector reform with popular demands for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and transitional justice.

“Reform and capacity – building of Zimbabwe ’s police must become a priority in its own right, returning to a focus on combating a rising wave of criminal violence, and ending a crisis of politicised policing,” the report said.

“Zimbabwe’s international partners must commit to a strategy of ‘smart’ security sector reform. In particular, the United Kingdom must change its policies towards Zimbabwe, favouring inclusive engagement with all the key stakeholders in the security sector and the government of national unity,” it added.

The RUSI report that comes as major differences between Mugabe’s ZANU PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC parties have strained relations in the coalition government raising fresh doubts about its durability warns that military intervention remains a threat to free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.

Under last year’s global political agreement that gave birth to the power-sharing government, the administration is supposed to lead the drafting of a new and democratic constitution that should pave way for the holding of fresh presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

But the RUSI report said: “Electoral transparency and monitoring is key, and without mechanisms to ensure the safety of the voters and neutrality of results, the military could again take charge and short-circuit the transitional process.”

Analysts say the unity government remains the best opportunity in decades for Zimbabwe to its end multi-faceted crisis. But they are uncertain about the long-term effectiveness of the administration given unending squabbles between ZANU PF and MDC and the government’s failure to win direct financial support from rich Western nations.

Western nations, who have also maintained visa and financial sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle, have demanded more political reforms before they can agree to bankroll the say Harare government.

By Cuthbert Nzou

Source: ZimOnline (30/09/2009)

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