Political analysts watching Zimbabwe took a critical angle Tuesday on remarks by British Foreign Office Minister for Africa Lord David Triesman, who said this week that President Robert Mugabe could one day face charges of crimes against humanity.
The analysts warned that his comments could cause Mr. Mugabe to cling even harder to power for fear of being brought up before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, like former Liberian President Charles Taylor today.
"Robert Mugabe is at one of those points where dictators have to consider whether if they press on they don't fall into the category of committing crimes against humanity on the sort of scale that the law proscribes," Triesman said Monday.
"Charles Taylor presented quite a difficult target in the sense of coming to trial, (but) no impunity is a baseline we shouldn't cross," Triesman said. "Those who commit terrible crimes will come to trial and be convicted and go to prison."
Observers added that Triesman’s statements came in contrast with the subdued tone adopted by Tony Blair, Britain’s outgoing prime minister, while in South Africa last week. Mr. Blair said he supported President Thabo Mbeki’s efforts to mediate the struggle between the Mugabe government and the political opposition.
Two experts weighed in on the issue: Sydney Masamvu, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Southern Africa, and Patrick Smith, editor of the bi-weekly newsletter Africa Confidential.
Smith told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he was puzzled by the timing of Triesman’s comments.