Zimbabwe urged to improve dialogue process

RENOWNED human rights lawyer from Sudan, Yasmin Sooka has challenged Zimbabwe to take a cue from other African countries that have successfully managed to handle their political crisis through an effective national dialogue process.

The advice by Sooka, the former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan come at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently called for national dialogue among political parties in the country.

However, main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa who narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in last year’s elections last year has refused to be part of the dialogue arguing a neutral conciliator should be appointed to lead the process. While Mnangagwa has proceeded with the dialogue without Chamisa, analysts have postulated that dialogue without the latter could be meaningless.

Addressing delegates at a Transitional Justice Dialogue Series recently, Sooka said Zimbabwe was not an island hence it should copy from the best. She gave example of South Africa, Mali and South Sudan whose track record on national dialogue is for everybody to follow.

“The process (1990 political talks in South Africa) was inclusive and it draws on the lessons learnt from CODESA I and II. The lessons learnt included the importance of having a simple structure with one negotiating and one decision-making body; the use of technical experts to enable ‘interest-based’ discussion; the establishment of a trusted ‘coordinating committee’ to function as guardians of the process, anticipate and pre-empt problems; and the seminal role of deadlock-breaking mechanisms that the parties had agreed on beforehand.

“Apart from extreme Afrikaner parties and the Azanian People Organisation, all major political players participated,” she said.

Speaking on the inclusivity of a national dialogue process, Sooka said such main actors as the civic society should not be left out.

“The civic society successfully advocated against the so-called ‘secret clauses’.

They also consulted the communities on the proposed amnesty bill, which resulted in the victims accepting the difficult political compromise. “Victims and communities were ready to avert their right to justice in exchange for truth and reparations, and they did it believing that if president Mandela was ready to do so having spent 27 years in prison, they could make this sacrifice too,” she added.

Sooka also touched on how Mali in 1991, the trade union, together with civil society actors, initiated the national dialogue.

“In South Sudan, the national dialogue has been the immediate result of a resurgence of violence in July and August 2016, and the devastating economic situation in the country. It was launched in December 2016, and President Kiir declared himself a patron of the dialogue, a decision that he later reversed in response to the criticism.”

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