Britain is to take Zimbabwe’s alleged human rights abuses to multilateral forums including the United Nations, Minister of State in the Foreign Office Mark Field said yesterday.
Field was responding to a question from Liz McInnes who wanted to know what action the British government would take in view of comments by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba that the security crackdown on protesters last week was just a foretaste of things to come.
More than 600 people were arrested during the crackdown and eight people were killed according to the Human Rights Commission. Police says three people were killed while other reports say as many as a dozen people were killed.
Several businesses were looted and cars torched.
McInnes asked Field: “One of the most chilling aspects of the violence in Zimbabwe in recent days was the statement of the President’s spokesman that this was “just a foretaste of things to come”. In the light of that, does the Minister agree that it is time for the UN to revive the Security Council resolution on Zimbabwe that it failed to pass in 2008, and will the UK seek to initiate that discussion?”
Field responded: “I thank the hon. Lady for her question. This is deeply disappointing to all of us in this House. We all celebrated the demise of the Mugabe regime, feeling and hoping that a new chapter of Zimbabwe history was commencing. We are very concerned about the disproportionate response of the security forces to the recent protests.
“May I reassure the House that my hon. Friend the Minister for Africa summoned Zimbabwe’s ambassador on 17 January to urge the Government there to show restraint and fully investigate any cases of alleged human rights abuses? Obviously, we will take this up in multilateral forums such as the UN. I do not want to make a firm commitment to what the hon. Lady has said, but she will know that, in this fluid situation, we will keep all our options open.”
Britain and its allies tried to get the Security Council to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe after the 2008 disputed elections but the resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change and non-governmental organisations have been trying to get Zimbabwe back onto the international agenda since last year’s elections which were won by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, but the MDC has refused to accept the presidential result despite losing the case at the country’s highest court.
Last week’s protests, which turned violent, made world headlines but they were soon overshadowed by the Al Shabaab attack at a hotel in Nairobi.
United Nations sanctions would have enabled Western nations to intervene militarily in Zimbabwe on the pretext that it was a security threat to the region.
Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council, are likely to veto any attempts to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe as both are now close to Mnangagwa who has paid official visits to the two countries since assuming office in November 2017.
Zimbabwe will come up for debate in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Britain next week.
*See also: British lord asks whether UK has ever thought of recolonising Zimbabwe because of what is going on