THE renewed call by Western countries to investigate and bring to book the perpetrators of the January 2019 killings where soldiers and police officers allegedly shot and killed at least 17 people has once again renewed pressure on the government and is an acid test for its re-engagement programme.
The US embassy issued a statement calling for the sanctioning of soldiers and police officers responsible for the January 2019 killings.
“Two years. When will Zimbabwe investigate, prosecute, and convict government security forces accused of rape, torture, and killing civilians in January 2019?”
the US embassy said in a statement,’ Two years is too long to seek justice, answers, accountability.”
The US statement was reiterated by the Dutch embassy, which also said in a statement: “Security forces carried out killings, rape, torture and other grave abuses.
It is two years since 17 people were killed and at least eight women raped in Zimbabwe following protests. The victims and their families still wait for answers.”
The United Kingdom embassy in Zimbabwe also weighed, in saying: “Two years on, we continue to call for accountability and on the government to enact political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans.”
The timing is interesting, as the US has just inaugurated President Joe Biden, who is seen as an antithesis of former President Donald Trump, whom critics accuse of pandering to dictators.
Trump’s exit is likely to see a ramp up in efforts by the West to hold human rights abusers to account and focus the spotlight on the Harare regime once more.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has always boasted after every meeting with Western countries that the re-engagement programme was bearing fruit.
However as long as it fails to take action over the killings in January 2019 that followed demonstrations against a 150% fuel hike, the re-engagement programme remains dead in the water.
The response by Zanu PF that the US should deal with the mayhem that recently occurred at Capitol Hill in Washington is not only childish but retrogressive to its push to normalise relations with the West.
This is in reference to the violence that broke out when Trump’s supporters besieged the seat of the US government protesting the outcome of the November 2020 elections which were won by Biden. The protests resulted in six deaths with scores being injured.
Mnangagwa is also under pressure from Western countries to implement the recommendations of the commission of inquiry which was led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
The commission was set up by Mnangagwa to investigate the post-election violence of August 1, 2018 which left at least six dead after soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians. The recommendations, which include bringing the soldiers who killed civilians to book and compensating those who sustained injuries, have been ignored by the septuagenarian.
Mnangagwa’s government cannot boast of having made progress on the re-engagement front unless it addresses the concerns of the very people he wants to re-engage. Until the government takes concrete steps to act on those responsible for the killings, the re-engagement will remain a merry-go-round of failure.