Zimbabwean civic groups are warning the African Union that elections looming next year could result in more deadly political violence unless the continental organization presses Harare for sweeping electoral reforms.
African Union heads of state and government will gather on Monday in Kampala, Uganda, on to discuss a range of issues including peace and security, energy, infrastructure and food.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party says it is ready for elections next year, arguing that deep divisions in the 17-month-old unity government can only be resolved through the ballot box.
A statement posted on the ZANU-PF website this week was headlined: “Elections inevitable."
Given the many unresolved issues troubling the unity government, "there is no reason why the people of Zimbabwe should not go for elections when the inclusive government expires next year,” the statement declared. “There are indications that elections will produce an outright winner and there will be no need for an inclusive government."
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said he will run in next year's general elections, but called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to prevent a repeat of the violence seen during the disputed 2008 ballot and to ensure that new national elections will be free and fair.
Non-governmental organizations kicked off a lobbying campaign on Friday in Kampala with a roundtable on Zimbabwe, urging the AU to take up the situation in Zimbabwe in discussions of peace and security issues.
Roundtable speakers included political commentator John Makumbe, Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairperson Tinoziva Bere, Africa Director Arnold Tsunga of the International Commission of Jurists, farmworkers union leader Gertrude Hambira, women’s rights activist Tsitsi Mhlanga, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association Director Okay Machisa and human rights researchers Pedzisai Ruhanya and Dewa Mavhinga.
Activists urged the AU to publicize the role of African institutions and standards for democracy, good governance, human rights and development and to put in place robust mechanisms to support democratic institutions and normalize problematic civil-military relations in Zimbabwe that have interfered with electoral processes.
The civic groups said the AU must rigorously enforce the adoption of regional standards on democratic governance and the conduct of free and fair elections, and firmly censure non-compliance.
International Commission of Jurists Africa Director Tsunga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the military is still being misused by President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership.