International Assistance Fund Key to Democratizing Zimbabwe

Washington

The international community, including the United States, should establish an assistance fund to support reconstruction efforts in Zimbabwe as soon as the country’s voters bring to a close President Robert Mugabe’s 28-year rule. Freedom House believes the fund should be the cornerstone of a comprehensive transition plan developed by the international community in cooperation with Zimbabwean diaspora and opposition groups.

“An international assistance fund would send a strong message to the Zimbabwean people that a democratic government in Harare will result in a global commitment to economic and political reconstruction,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. “The Zimbabwe fund would help address the devastating economic, health, and humanitarian issues that currently afflict the country and provide opportunities for democracy to take root in Zimbabwe.”  

Zimbabweans go to the polls June 27 in a presidential run-off that so far has been marred by violence, harassment and repeated detentions of opposition party supporters and top figures from the Movement for Democratic Change, including presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Bush administration is requesting $45 million in aid for Zimbabwe in its budget request for fiscal year 2009. Freedom House urges the U.S. Congress to adopt this spending level and provide additional funding through the 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act.

At the same time, Freedom House calls upon Europe to match the U.S. commitment, either through the European Union or bi-lateral assistance packages. Funding priorities should include feeding Zimbabweans, providing relief for HIV/AIDS patients and stabilizing the currency.

The Southern African Development Community and the South African government also have essential roles to play in contributing their political support and expertise to ensure a smooth political and economic transition in Zimbabwe.

Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House deputy programs director, stressed that any reconstruction effort must be led by the people of Zimbabwe. Freedom House recommends establishing working groups to address the most pressing social and economic issues—such as the collapse of Zimbabwe’s ailing health care system—and to provide support for rebuilding the country’s democratic institutions.

“Such a joint effort to rebuild Zimbabwe, following a democratic transition, will help to repair the country’s international reputation and relationships which were shattered by Mugabe’s regime,” said Calingaert. 

The violence and displacement of Zimbabweans that occurred following the first round of voting suggests that a political transition could potentially be unstable. By planning effectively now, the international community can help prevent a similar situation from occurring after the June 27 runoff.

Zimbabwe is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.

For more information on Zimbabwe, visit:

Freedom in the World 2008: Zimbabwe
Freedom of the Press 2008: Zimbabwe

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Zimbabwe since 1980.

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