10th Windhoek Dialogue ends with declarations on Zimbabwe and Angola

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The 10th Windhoek Dialogue took place on 1 – 3 May 2008 in Windhoek, in cooperation with the Robert Schuman Foundation. The international conference has been taking place for 12 years and constitutes a platform for MEPs of the EPP-ED group of the European Parliament (European People’s Party – European Democrats), and decision-makers of centrist African parties, which formed the Union of African Parties for Democracy and Development (UPADD/UPADD) in Windhoek in 1996. UPADD consists of 25 parties from 24 countries and meets regularly. In conjunction with MEPs such meetings are known as the Windhoek Dialogue. The last Windhoek Dialogue took place in May 2007 in Berlin, shortly before the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.

During this year’s 10th WD six MEPs partcipated (from Germany, Britain, Poland, Prtugal and Italy) as well as ten African parliamentarians (from Angola, Benin, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda). Along with general themes such as parliamentary democracy in Africa and relations between Africa (in the context of the AKP) and the European Union, the issue of the current situation in Zimbabwe was broached and debated in an especially animated manner. During a discussion which was open to the public, and in the presence of the press, the impact of recent elections in Zimbabwe, Kenya, the DRC and Nigeria was debated. The WD was chaired by an MEP, Michael Gahler, who is also the vice chairman of the common parliamentary grouping of the EU and AKP (a group of African, Carribean and Pacific states), and Isaias Samakuva, the president of UPADD and also president of the Angolan party UNITA. On 3rd May a final declaration was released which adopted two of UPADD separate declarations. The declaration

• points to the necessity of transparent and consensual preparations for the upcoming elections in Angola

• stresses the right of the new parliamentary majority in Zimbabwe to be respected by all state and para-state institutions in order to be able to fulfill its tasks as sanctioned by the constitution.

• emphasises the requirement of free and fair conditions in the run up to and during the second round of presidential elections (the run-off).

• calls for freedom of the press and freedom of expression to be respected and urges equal access to media coverage. It also urges international, regional an local observers to report any abuse of state and para state resouces and power.

The participants of the Windhoek Dialogue therefore call upon EU, and other international election observers to be invited to Angola.

The highlight of the Windhoek Dialogue was the public debate on the impact of recent elections in several African countries. The topical issue of the situation in Zimbabwe dominated the talks which were chaired by Mr Gahler. However, the upcoming elections in Angola were also discussed. Mr Gahler pointed out that Africa does not lack positive and concrete guidelines on free and fair democratic elections, with SADC and the AU having expounded the conditions which need to be met in order for an election to be classed as legitimate. He claimed that through comprehensive standards one could accurately measure the validity of elections both relatively and absolutely. Mr Samakuva lamented the widespread and problematic African mentality whereby politicians and officials see their position and influence as vehicles to serve their own interests, rather than aiming primarily to serve the good of the population. He pointed to Zimbabwe and Angola as examples of countries ruled by leaders who have been plundering the wealth of their nations for over 20 years. Mr Samakuva speculated that such leaders as Mr Mugabe were convinced of the fallacy that only they personally are capable of running their countries. He also stated the belief that the fear of criminal prosecution after a possible fall from power was one of the main factors motivating Mr Mugabe’s regime to commit election fraud and undermine the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Thus Mr Samakuva believes that it is imperative to let dictators such as Mr Mugabe and his associates to believe that they will not be prosecuted and locked up if they relinquish power after losing elections or fraudulently manipulating election results. By such means one could decrease the chances of repeated election fraud and violent suppression of opposition activities, and increase the chances of peaceful transitions of power, despite the intrinsic desirability of punishing past crimes and human rights violations. Mr Samakuva also highlighted the dangers of a potential domino effect of election fraud and other anti-democratic measures emanating from Zimbabwe and spreading across the region. In this context Mr Samakuva pointed to the unsettling developments in Angola, in the run up to that country's upcoming elections. These include the continued absence of a voters' roll, the unequal access of parties to state media, the abuse of state organs and resources for party political purposes, the proposed extension of the election process to two days, as well as the planned delay of the release of the results of up to 15 days after the election.

A Ugandan parliamentarian compared the current standards of living in Zimbabwe with those previously in Rhodesia, commenting that the situation had deteriorated markedly since the days of British rule and even during the period of the Rhodesian Front rule under the rebel Ian Smith. He complained that the bush war of the 1970s had been fought in order to improve living standards for the masses of Rhodesia’s native population, and that currently the conditions are the exact opposite with the broad mass of the population of Zimbabwe suffering more than ever. An MP from Malawi critisised the reaction of SADC governments to the Zimbabwean crisis, in particular their refusal to insist upon the implementation of their own standards. He called upon the SADC governments to condemn Mugabe more sharply and to identify effective 'preventive' measures.

A South African MP from the opposition IFP party declared himself to be in disagreement with his head of state Thabo Mbeki’s stance on Zimbabwe, particularly with Mr Mbeki’s assertion that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe at all (Crisis? What crisis?’). The MP condemned Mr Mbeki’s 'quiet diplomacy' as ineffective and pointed to the earlier, successful application of pressure of the South African government to Mr Mugabe’s predecessor, Ian Smith. He also stressed that important sections of Mr Mbeki’s own ANC party rejected his sheepish appraoch, most notably the leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma. A British MEP remarked how refreshing an experience it was to participate in a conference with African politicians who did not shy away from condemning the human rights abuses and the collapse of the rule of law in Zimbabwe unequivocally. Other delegates and participants reflected on the possibility that without adequate control mechanisms, a government under Morgan Tsvangirai might sliding into authoritarianism and human rights abuses, just like that of Mr Mugabe. The concern was expressed that a run-off (second round) election could lead to a heightened campaign of state-initiated violence and intimidation especially directed at the rural population accused of supporting the MDC opposition party of Mr Tsvangirai. Hence a greater degree of international election observations was called for, and with refrence to the successful mediation efforts of Kofi Anan in Kenya, the suggestion of mediation in Zimbabwe by ’eminent elders’ was made.

Author

Dr. Dr. Anton Bösl

Publication series

Country Reports

published

Namibia, May 6, 2008