Things are looking pretty bleak in Zimbabwe. In the wake of the March elections in which opposition parties won more votes than the ruling ZANU-PF party, President Robert Mugabe has sunk to new, depraved lows in his efforts to hold on to power. Opposition parties have been arrested and charged with treason, rallies have been attacked, supporters have been killed, and there are accusations that the ZANU-PF has set up "torture camps" to systematically terrorize any who dare oppose it. This week, just days before the run-off election forced on the country by Mugabe, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch Embassy and, on Sunday, withdrew from the race, claiming he would not subject his supporters to violence and even death when their votes would not matter. The UN has disparaged the election, which ZANU-PF has announced will take place this Friday regardless of Tsvangirai's withdrawal, international accusations of electoral fraud and intimidation, and the mounting violence, saying that they will lack legitimacy.
However, though, ultimately, it doesn't look like there's much hope. As the Washington Post editorialized yesterday, "Only concerted and aggressive intervention by the United Nations and Zimbabwe's neighbors can now prevent this crime, brazenly carried out in front of the world, from going forward" and that doesn't seem likely to happen. As the Post notes: "While the United States and Britain have repeatedly condemned Mr. Mugabe's terror and have tried to inspire action by the UN Security Council or the Southern African Development Community, they have been blocked by Mr. Mugabe's allies -- foremost among them Thabo Mbeki , South Africa's lame-duck president."
This blog has already called for the US and the Europeans to sanction South Africa if it refuses to play a responsible role in forcing Mugabe to accept the results of a free election. But that doesn't seem likely to happen either. The situation calls for stronger measures.
I hereby call upon the UN to expel, or suspend, Zimbabwe from the General Assembly and the community of nations. A state whose leader openly says that he would go to war before accepting defeat at the polls cannot be considered a legitimate state. Zimbabwe's legal international sovereignty should be immediately suspended, and Zimbabwe's membership in every international organization should end. Until Mugabe and the ZANU-PF end the campaign of organized electoral intimidation and publicly pledge to accept the results of the election, until the election can be monitored by independent third-party observers, and until the people of Zimbabwe are given the opportunity to have their voices counted, Zimbabwe does not deserve to be a member of the community of nations.
There is little chance that the UN will take such a principled stance, wedded as it is to sovereign equality. But this is a real opportunity for the UN to move beyond its stultifying addiction to treating every state equally. Until the UN is ready to make judgments about countries, to criticize them for openly subverting the will of their peoples, there is no hope for the people of Zimbabwe, let alone those in Darfur or anywhere else people are tormented by their authoritarian rulers.