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Why the Commonwealth Must Re-engage Zimbabwe and What Can Be Done | Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Why the Commonwealth Must Re-engage Zimbabwe and What Can Be Done

1. WHY THE COMMONWEALTH MUST RE-ENGAGE ZIMBABWE

  1. While President Robert Mugabe unilaterally withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, there is scope for Commonwealth to re-engage Zimbabwe as a non-member just as the Commonwealth continued to address the South African question robustly during Apartheid, even though South Africa had withdrawn from the Commonwealth.
  2. Robert Mugabe’s unilateral withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth was not in accordance with the wishes of Zimbabwean people who were clearly not consulted when the decision was made.
  3. The Commonwealth has a statutory obligation to re-engage Zimbabwe in accordance with the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991 where the Commonwealth ‘pledged to work for the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the association, namely democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances, fundamental human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, and just and honest government.’
  4. Another legal obligation to re-engage Zimbabwe arises from the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration of 1995 which provides in B.3 (viii) that the Commonwealth should take appropriate bilateral and multilateral measures to reinforce the need for change in the event that a government chooses to leave the Commonwealth and/or persists in violating Commonwealth principles.
  5. The Commonwealth cannot turn its back on Zimbabwe as this sets a wrong signal to potential dictators within the Commonwealth that withdrawal of membership from the Commonwealth grants them the liberty to violate fundamental human rights with impunity.
  6. The Zimbabwe question is a litmus test for the Commonwealth’s commitment to promoting its fundamental values and principles and its contribution to facilitating international consensus building on major global questions outside of its membership.

2. WHAT THE COMMONWEALTH CAN DO

  1. Informed by the principles of the Harare Declaration, lay down explicit and concise benchmarks for the re-admittance of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth
  2. Constitute an “eminent persons” group capable of rallying the Commonwealth around a common position on Zimbabwe.
  3. The Commonwealth must view people of Zimbabwe as legitimate citizens of the Commonwealth entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other citizen of the Commonwealth.
  4. The breakdown of rule of law in Zimbabwe, and the egregious human rights violations taking place there are a matter of grave international concern where the Commonwealth can use its global reach and unique experience in consensus building to assist international community in reaching a consensus on the often divisive Zimbabwe question. The Commonwealth must influence SADC to continue to seek a speedy resolution of the Zimbabwean Human Rights Crisis and the Commonwealth must publicly support the SADC in its various initiatives on Zimbabwe.
  5. Launch a sustained lobbying process by the Commonwealth at all relevant international bodies – the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations, among others – to demand a return to democracy, human rights and the rule of law by the Zimbabwe government.
  6. With the cooperation of the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth Youth Programme, promote participation of Zimbabwe civil society organizations in all Commonwealth activities
  7. Provide or secure funding and technical assistance required for the commissioning, publication and distribution of a series of sector policy papers on Zimbabwe as a contribution to policy formulation in a ‘new’ Zimbabwe through their strategic use as background discussion documents in appropriate forums.

Design and development supported by HURIDOCS.