Sanctions: Can we starve this disease? by underground

Death of a nation – Part Four: Sanctions: Can we starve this disease?

Attempts to bring sanctions in against the Mugabe regime failed recently at the United Nations, with Russia and China using their Security Council vetoes, claiming the situation in Zimbabwe did not threaten international stability. South Africa also opposed the motion saying the sanctions would interfere with their attempts to bring about a national unity government. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki also claimed the sanctions could provoke a civil war. Burkina Faso’s ambassador, Michel Kafando, who voted for the motion said, “As a means of exerting pressure, it could help”. Both Britain and the United States, who put forward the motion, were disappointed China followed Russia’s move to veto the sanctions, with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying “it will appear incomprehensible to the people of Zimbabwe”.

The sanctions proposed were not aimed at the people, but against Mugabe and 13 of his closest associates, freezing their assets and restricting their ability to travel abroad. An arms embargo was also to be put in place.

I’ve never been a fan of sanctions, as it does always seems to be the civilians who suffer, whilst the penalised country’s elite still retains their extravagances. This was particularly the case in Iraq during the 90’s. Their effectiveness is also questionable. However the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf believes sanctions “send a strong message about the disagreement against those things causing a country and its people to suffer”, namely the violence used by Mugabe to intimidate the opposition in order to stay in power. Johnson-Sirleaf, who is the first elected female president on the continent and a staunch critic of Mugabe says sanctions were effectively used against her own country to end a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 and killed 250,000 people, and believed they are appropriate in this case as well. Isolating South Africa was also pivotal in bringing apartheid to an end.

Aside from the fact that the sanctions often punish civilians not the elite, and that often they are not at all effective, sanctions are also problematic as they are hard to implement. Because of the nature of the global economy, the entire world needs to be involved in order for the sanctions to be effective. Thomas Cargill, of the London-based think tank Chatham House, says, “The appetite for international sanctions has decreased massively in the last 10 or 15 years because it’s seen as much more difficult to enforce”.

In many examples worldwide, Western countries have placed restrictions on a rogue states economy, only for China or Russia to fill the void. During the Cold War Russia kept Cuba from the worst effects of US sanctions. Additionally, multi-nationals can largely bypass such measures. In respect to Zimbabwe, despite many countries already having placed sanctions on the country, multi-national corporate giants still do business with the state, including Royal Dutch Shell, British American Tobacco, and the Anglo American Corporation, and are turning large profits despite the suffering of the people.

Even if sanctions can be implemented, involving the entire world’s countries and corporations, can we be confident that such a move would hurt Mugabe or just cause further pain for Zimbabwe’s suffering millions?

Part Five: Invasion: Time to send in the troops?


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[…] Sanctions: Can we starve this disease? […]

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