The rapidly evolving situation in Zimbabwe has caught many diplomats at the United Nations by surprise as the United States, African Union and Southern African Development Community are calling for peace in the country.
Zimbabwe's military is reportedly in control of the capital Harare and President Robert Mugabe and his wife are under house arrest in what appeared to be a coup against the 93-year-old Mugabe.
Matthew Rycroft, the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the United Nations, appealed for calm in the country.
Rycroft said, "Well it's unfolding rapidly and I don't want to say anything prematurely but what we call on is for everyone to respect the need for safety and security and for no descent into violence, so we appeal for calm and for the situation to remain stable."
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the Secretary-General, said the developments are "a little bit confusing right now, and we're trying to get the details on this. The (UN) Secretary-General (Antonio Guterres) has been monitoring the evolving situation in Zimbabwe. He appeals for calm, non-violence and restraint. Preservation of fundamental rights including freedom of speech and assembly is of vital importance. The Secretary-General stresses the importance of resolving political differences through peaceful means and dialogue and in line with the country's constitution.”
Members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Africa subcommittee say they are concerned about the Zimbabwe Defence Forces' actions.
In a statement, senators Chris Coons (Democrat Delaware), Jeff Flake (Republican - Arizona), Cory Booker (Democrat -New Jersey), and Johnny Isakson (Republican Georgia), said the military should protect all citizens and adhere to democratic processes.
"For nearly four decades, Zimbabweans have suffered under the authoritarian rule of President Robert Mugabe, a dictator who has repressed his people and presided over the economic deterioration of his country. While a change in leadership is long overdue, we are concerned about the military’s actions.
"We urge the leaders of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces to ensure the protection of all citizens and a transparent return to civilian control. As the country grapples with a new political reality, Zimbabwe’s leaders must adhere to democratic processes and establish a mechanism for the peaceful transfer of power that is consistent with Zimbabwe’s Constitution and the will of its people."
In another statement, the United States Embassy-Harare said America is deeply concerned by recent actions undertaken by Zimbabwean military forces.
“The U.S. government does not take sides in matters of internal Zimbabwean politics and calls for an expedient transition to democratic, civilian order. We call on Zimbabwean military leaders to exercise restraint, respect the rule of law, uphold the constitutionally-protected rights of all citizens, and to quickly return the country to normalcy.
“The United States encourages all Zimbabweans to resolve differences calmly and peacefully through democratic, transparent and constitutional processes, with proper respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression through any media, in order to move past this current crisis and towards a more stable future.”
At the same time, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said they are closely following the developments in Zimbabwe.
He urged all stakeholders to address the current situation in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the relevant instruments of the African Union, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
He stressed that it is crucial that the crisis is resolved in a manner that promotes democracy and human rights, as well as the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.
Mahamat said the African Union is working closely with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the leaders of the region to come up with a workable solution in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, SADC is expected Thursday to hold a troika meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss the situation in the southern African nation.
President Jacob Zuma has already sent envoys to Harare in an attempt to discuss the military coup with army commanders and beleaguered President Mugabe.