As the world rooted for former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in his recent efforts to end the violence in Kenya, many also found themselves wondering whether a weary Annan, or some other global leader, will be battling another fire by the end of this month: this time in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections, scheduled for March 29, offer both fear and hope to the millions trapped in or trying to escape the country’s hellish conditions. Even official data now put the inflation rate at more than 100,000%, and the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans grows more desperate by the day. The elections could bring Zimbabweans a chance to end the long dictatorship of President Robert Mugabe. But, without supervision, they will be held in an environment that could dash Zimbabweans’ hopes.
Zimbabweans are denied their basic freedoms and subjected to violence. Torture is widespread. Civil society groups report the arrests of opposition electoral candidates, the manipulation of food supplies for political purposes, and violent incidents of voter intimidation.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network has also expressed concern about the country’s state of readiness for this complex election, which will combine presidential, parliamentary, senatorial, and local government contests. And this is to say nothing of the structural faults that continue to impede political progress – a defective constitution, censored media, and a partisan security and military establishment.