Perhaps we all feel pretty helpless about Zimbabwe, amongst a number of other countries of repression and violence; I certainly do! I’ve gathered from almost a year of blogging that foreign affairs are not among the most favourite topics for contributors, but I am going to have my say.
Here is a huge country with an immense amount of natural wealth, a highly educated population which is on its knees mainly due to the deranged man who is its President. It is therefore very welcome to hear today the Foreign Office Minister, Lord Malloch Brown, call for Robert Mugabe to step down and encouraging other African heads of state to join in this effort. No point in going through the bleak statistics yet again, but the question remains what can be done – other than a full scale invasion?
One very small contribution is a project we have been running for the past month or so. Gary Klaukka, a Finn and a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics is working in our office. He has been collecting the names and contact numbers of ALL parliamentarians within the EU who have shown an interest in Zimbabwe. The plan is to contact all of them to see who is willing to become involved in a network to support the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, in Zimbabwe. This support could take many forms – providing information on various parliamentary procedures – bearing in mind that although MDC MPs have a majority in the House of Assembly, they cannot provide an effective barrier to the gross injustices of Mugabe’s ZANU PF ruling party which continues to exert power over all the ministries. Another type of support would be to mobilise European parliamentarians to protest en masse when, as happens every day, MDC MPs are arrested, held incommunicado and tortured.
Gary and I working with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, have met the MDC Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Lovemore Moyo, who has also met with the Lord Speaker when he was last in London. We are entirely guided by what he thinks would be appropriate support and once we have received feedback from the hundreds of European parliamentarians we will try to put individual MDC MPs in direct touch with their European counterparts. They can then forge their own political networks and request support and assistance as they need it.
A small project, funded by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy,but one which we hope will provide a tiny measure of comfort to those beleagured politicians fighting for their lives in Zimbabwe today.