In a striking shift, Western nations are subtly recalibrating their frosty relations with Zimbabwe, a country marred by political strife and economic woes. Despite no significant change in the governance under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who assumed power through a coup in 2017, the West appears to be adopting a pragmatic approach towards the mineral-rich but impoverished nation.

This change in stance seems driven by necessity and a lack of viable alternatives. The opposition in Zimbabwe, which once showed promise during the chaotic general elections of last year, has since crumbled. The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), once led by Nelson Chamisa, has become fragmented and aligned suspiciously close to Zanu PF’s political agenda. This self-destruction, marked by internal strife and accusations of state manipulation, leaves the West with few options but to engage with the existing regime.

Amid these developments, there have been notable gestures indicating a thaw in relations. Zimbabwe’s selection as the host for the upcoming Africa-Nordic meeting in 2025, the planned visit by British Minister of State for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell, and Zimbabwe’s anticipated return to the Commonwealth during its summit in Samoa this October, all signal a warming of ties.

However, this rapprochement is not without its controversies. The United States has taken a harder line, imposing new sanctions on key Zimbabwean figures, including Mnangagwa and his close associates, citing corruption and human rights abuses. This has sparked protests from Harare, which labeled the sanctions as “defamatory” and an affront to its sovereignty.

Despite these tensions, the UK’s approach suggests a return to a realpolitik strategy – dealing with the devil they know rather than continuing an external critique. This approach, which prioritizes national interests and political pragmatism over ideological or ethical considerations, has long characterized Western engagements with authoritarian regimes when strategic and economic stakes are high.

Realpolitik, though pragmatic, is a double-edged sword. It often leads to compromises on democracy and human rights in favor of securing geopolitical and economic interests. By supporting Harare’s regime, Western countries may hope to secure their interests and influence in the region, rebuild diplomatic ties, and counterbalance the interests of rival powers like the US, EU, China, and Russia.

The strategy involves several elements: overlooking human rights violations for economic cooperation, strengthening economic ties to maintain regional stability, and providing economic aid to sway Zimbabwe away from rival influences. Such tactics are not new in international relations. The US’s relationships with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the EU’s cooperation with Libya on migration, and China’s partnerships with various authoritarian regimes globally are all examples of realpolitik in action.

Critics argue that this approach undermines the promotion of democracy and human rights. Yet, proponents contend it ensures national security and stability in a complex, competitive international environment.

As Western countries navigate this delicate balance of interests in Zimbabwe, the implications for local democracy, human rights, and regional stability are profound. Whether this pragmatic engagement will lead to meaningful changes or merely entrench the status quo remains to be seen. As these events unfold, the international community watches closely, pondering the long-term consequences of a realpolitik revival in the heart of Africa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *