Democracy’s resilience into the 21st century is rightly questioned. In 2017, a host of countries worldwide saw threats to civil and political liberties, popular participation, and fundamental human rights. Corruption and state capture by predatory political elites led the news in old and new democracies alike. Verbal and physical attacks on civil society, the press, and minorities were reported in virtually all world regions. And new virulent, nationalist ideologies threaten human rights and the carefully crafted post-World War II international liberal order.
Image courtesy of United Nations Photo/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
In the aftermath of the intervention by the military in Zimbabwe that led to yesterday’s resignation of President Robert Mugabe, there was a strong call from Zimbabweans for the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to not get involved.
After years of estrangement, Zimbabwe and the West have slowly started to re-engage with each other. The popular approval of a new constitution in 2013 – which introduced significant civil rights – and the subsequent peaceful elections provided the impetus for the thawing of relations. This included the easing of European Union (EU) restrictive measures imposed in 2002 following Zimbabwe’s controversial land reforms.
But that’s not to say that the country’s myriad challenges have been resolved once and for all. The unresolved succession of 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, continues to paralyze the country’s politics and economy. High levels of unemployment and empty state coffers make economic survival most Zimbabweans’ main concern. Finally, there’s a growing need to undertake a series of far-reaching institutional reforms, particularly when it comes to Zimbabwe’s security sector. But how do you tackle such an undertaking in a country where there is a lack of political will and capacity for such sensitive reforms?