The United States today called on all sides in Zimbabwe to come together immediately in national dialogue but said the dialogue process must be credible, inclusive and must be mediated by a neutral third party.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement today that in order for such a dialogue to succeed, the government of Zimbabwe should end its excessive violence and intimidation, immediately release the civil society activists who have been arbitrarily detained, and hold security force members responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in a statement by Chief of Staff Sessel Zvidzai, last week said that dialogue in Zimbabwe must be mediated by the Southern African Development Community and must be guaranteed by the African Union and the United Nations.
The MDC’s argument for SADC to mediate is based on its insistence that it does not recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the country’s president.
United Nations coordinator in Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli told a breakfast meeting organised by Zimbabwe’s churches last week that his organisation was for nationally led and locally owned dialogue because such dialogue usually provided a lasting solution.
Zimbabwe’s churches called for inclusive dialogue arguing that previous agreements had not lasted because they were elitist and had only involved key political players leaving other sections of society out.
Mnangagwa last week said he preferred internal dialogue because this was what sovereignty was all about.
The President, in an interview with France 24, blamed last month’s violence on non-governmental organisations which he said were working with “external forces” to destabilise the country.
The US State department, however, heaped the blame on Zimbabwe’s security forces.
“The United States remains seriously concerned about the excessive use of force by Government of Zimbabwe security forces since January 14, which has resulted in at least 13 deaths, 600 victims of violence, torture or rape, and more than 1 000 arrests,” Palladino said in his statement.
“We extend our condolences to the families and friends of those killed or injured. The Government of Zimbabwe’s use of violence against civil society and imposition of undue internet restrictions betray promises to create a new Zimbabwe.
“The United States calls on all sides to come together immediately in national dialogue. The dialogue process must be credible, inclusive, and mediated by a neutral third party. In order for such a dialogue to succeed, the Government of Zimbabwe should end its excessive violence and intimidation, immediately release the civil society activists who have been arbitrarily detained, and hold security force members responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable.
“We also reiterate our call for the Government of Zimbabwe to enact promised political and economic reforms.”