While Zimbabwean authorities face a sensitive constitutional argument over the banning of the current demonstrations in Harare, a ban which has been fought by the opposition parties, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is intensifying its diplomatic efforts through the Peace and Security Council (PSC), an organ of the African Union (AU), which it chairs in August. Issues on the agenda include popular uprisings, the presence of foreign militaries in Africa and disaster prevention.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) recently published in its PSC Report an interview with Zimbabwe’s ambassador, Albert Chimbini, about Zimbabwe’s plans for the month.
Ambassador Chimbini highlighted one of the key issues to be addressed, the “concept of popular uprisings and how it impacts peace and security. There are statutory meetings that the PSC has to convene during this month, which are important to its agenda and are included in the programme of work adopted in July 2019,” Chimbini said, referring to the uprisings.
The presence of foreign military troops in Africa and the implications for the African Common Defence and Security Policy is another major issue discussed by ambassador Chimbini.
“A key principle of the AU that is contained in its Constitutive Act is to ‘establish and implement a common defence and security policy for the African continent’,” he said, adding that the policy was adopted in Durban, South Africa in July 2002 by the AU Assembly. He stressed that “the PSC should systematically and periodically take comprehensive stock of the defence and security dynamics on the continent.”
“Africa’s security threats emanate from the prevailing international environment and the high incidence of intra-state conflict,” Chimbini said.
Chimbini pointed out that it is in the context of the above that the council has to evaluate the presence of foreign militaries in Africa with a view to establishing whether they complement and advance the objectives of the African Common Defence and Security Policy. “There are positives and negatives arising from this relationship, whose political and socio-economic utility can only be fully exploited and realised through candid engagements with all the stakeholders,” Chimbini explained.
Ambassador Chimbini focused on the significance of the meeting between the PSC and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). “It has been established that a failure to adhere to the Union’s principles related to human and people’s rights often leads to the eruption of conflicts and crises on the continent. In the situations in Sudan and Libya, the PSC tasked the ACHPR to investigate allegations of human rights abuses,” he said.
In accordance with this, Chimbini noted that the PSC should discuss institutional relationships and partnerships between the African Union, foreign states and other organisations. “It is necessary that the state and scope of institutional relationships be reviewed as it relates to their efficacy towards the anticipation, prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in Africa.”
Ambassador Chimbini stated that the prevention of disasters is a major topic on Zimbabwe’s agenda for this month, as President Mnangagwa declared recently, “the drought problem is a national disaster.” Chimbini said, “The AU Commission (AUC) is endowed with the normative frameworks, the required structures and some funding to manage and mitigate natural and other disasters.”
“Equally important is the need for a rapid response team that is adequately staffed and equipped to intervene and manage disasters as and when they occur,” he added.
In response to ‘Zimbabwe’s Humanitarian Appeal’ to the United Nations (UN) to increase aid to help the country cope with the drought which hit its eastern provinces during this year and put millions on the brink of starvation, the UN pledged to increase aid to reach $331.5 million during the launch of the ‘Revised Zimbabwe Humanitarian Appeal’ (January 2019 to April 2020) meeting held on August 7th in Zimbabwe.
“2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe are in need of emergency food assistance and the number may increase to 5.5 million during the wet season that lasts until March 2020,” said David Beazley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). According to Zimbabwean government estimates, another 2.2 million people in urban areas also need food assistance, bringing the total to 7.7 million, more than half the population of Zimbabwe.
The United Nations had previously appealed for $294 million for Zimbabwe but as the impact of the drought increased, more funds were needed.