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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Talks, dialogue, negotiations and GNU - Post June 2008 "elections" - Index of articles
Civil society's role in reconstruction in Zimbabwe: Opportunities
November 28, 2008
As the negotiations
for power sharing and reconstruction continue to be hammered out
by various political groups in Zimbabwe, civil society-s role
in construction and reconstruction of vital democratic institutions
in the country cannot be discounted.
Some key areas
for civil society involvement in the country are: ensuring participation
of women in the peace and rebuilding process; security and criminal
justice sector reform; establishment of national institutions for
accountability and human rights protection; and setting the agenda
for legislative and electoral reform.
Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000 by the world-s most
powerful decision making body, calls upon member states and all
other parties including non-state actors such as militias, humanitarian
agencies and civil society groups to ensure participation of women
in decision making and peace processes as well as inclusion of gender
perspectives in training and peace keeping.
situation in Zimbabwe differs greatly from Liberia, experiences
from there could be helpful in formulating strategies for construction
and reconstruction. Tired of the seemingly endless cycles of violence,
women-s organizations played an extremely important role in
bringing the warring parties to the negotiation table in Liberia.
The Women in Peace Building Network arranged meetings between the
then government and the rebel leaders. They also mobilized to ensure
large-scale participation of women in the 2005 election, which led
to the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first democratically
elected female head of state of Africa. Key positions in Sirleaf-s
cabinet are occupied by qualified women who are helping maintain
the peace and stability of Liberia.
independence of the judiciary is also a crucial imperative for Zimbabwe.
The role of judges at the apex of the criminal justice system is
vital not only to ensure the return of the country to constitutional
processes but also to guarantee the proper performance of the police
and the prisons services. The International Centre for the Legal
Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS) has helped in capacity building
of the judiciary in many countries of the Commonwealth - with whom
Zimbabwe shares a common legal tradition - through judicial
from Northern Ireland and South Africa in respect of criminal justice
sector reform upon signing of the peace agreements are especially
relevant to Zimbabwe. In Northern Ireland, after the 'Good
Friday/ Belfast- agreement of 1998 set the tone for a wide
ranging review of criminal justice system, an independent Criminal
Justice Inspectorate was set up in Northern Ireland to review various
aspects of the system. Civil society organizations, particularly
the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have played
a key role in monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of
the Good Friday/ Belfast agreement on policing and criminal justice
reform as well as equality and human rights provisions.
In South Africa,
the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and the
Institute for Security Studies assisted in the process of reconstitution
of the apartheid era South African Police. Civil society played
a key role in addressing the monumental challenges for policing
in South Africa and helped provide a blue print for reform and training
including on how to build positive relationships with the community
through community police forums, which are institutionalized through
the Police Act. Another area where civil society played an important
role was in providing the intellectual expertise to restructure
the police and building within it a democratic ethos to serve to
protect rather than impede freedoms.
Any long lasting
hope for stability and good governance in Zimbabwe has to be underpinned
by both strong and independent oversight institutions. Civil society-s
role is extremely important in the establishment of relevant institutions
and in ensuring that they draw upon international best practice.
Also the independence of national institutions is best ensured when
there is scope for civil society involvement in their work. In Malawi,
for instance, the constitution mandates the appointment of human
rights commissioners out of a list of nominees provided by civil
society organizations involved in the promotion of constitutional
rights and freedoms. Civil society- role will be crucial in
ensuring that the right kind of people are appointed to the office
of the Ombudsman or anti-corruption commission, as well as in lobbying
for the mandate of these institutions to be included in the new
For long the
people of Zimbabwe have suffered under repressive anti-democratic
legislation. Principal among these are the Access
to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the
Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA). One role of civil society is to build public
opinion to pressure the legislature to repeal these laws. At another
level, it is imperative for civil society to engage with parliamentarians
to bring through laws that will enable the exercise of democratic
rights and encourage greater transparency and accountability in
governance. In India, the Right to Information Act was legislated
primarily due to the efforts of the National Campaign for the Right
to Information (NCPRI), a group of individuals - many of whom
are civil society leaders - joined by a common commitment
to good governance. The NCPRI is presently engaging in monitoring
implementation of freedom of information legislation.
the future of Zimbabwe will also be secured through a people-driven
constitution. Civil society has an important role to play in advising
on different constitutional and electoral models for adoption.
In the coming
days, civil society will have to step up efforts to ensure that
the peace agreement holds and that the window of opportunity to
secure the future of Zimbabwe remains alive for its people.
S.Tiwana is CIVICUS Civil Society Watch Programme Officer
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