The United States and Britain were in a quandary about what to do to make sure that Zimbabwe had credible and internationally supervised presidential elections after the announcement of the results in May 2008.
Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai had received nearly 48 percent of the vote which was shy of the 50 plus one that was required for an outright victory.
The country, therefore, had to have a run-off between the two leading candidates, Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Robert Mugabe who had polled 43 percent.
Mugabe had barred Britain and the United States from sending election observers to Zimbabwe arguing that they were biased because they had imposed sanctions on his government.
The two leading nations wanted the United Nations to send an observer team, but the UN could only do so if it was invited by Zimbabwe which appeared to have no intention at all to do so.
Britain and the United States could also not secure enough votes in the United Nations Security Council to force a special public session on Zimbabwe.
Viewing cable 08USUNNEWYORK419, HELPING ZIMBABWE NO EASY TASK
OO RUEHBW RUEHDU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHROV
DE RUCNDT #0419/01 1331614
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O 121614Z MAY 08
FM USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4244
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 USUN NEW YORK 000419
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2018
SUBJECT: HELPING ZIMBABWE NO EASY TASK
REF: (A) USUN 404 (B) STATE 44297 (C) 44905
Classified By: Ambassador Alejandro Wolff for Reasons 1.4 B/D.
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. USUN’s soundings of the UN Secretariat and
UKUN show a common frustration about how best to assist
Zimbabwe. The UN’s elections division is prepared to
immediately deploy eminent persons to help calm fears and to
deploy a full team of elections observers within weeks on
Zimbabwe’s request if time and resources were made available.
The British have urged Secretary-General Ban to name a
special envoy or fact finding team, but the Secretariat to
date insists that either proposal could be implemented only
with the consent of Zimbabwe. Lacking necessary Security
Council votes to call a special session, concerned members
are left with the option of asking for Secretariat briefings
in closed consultations and await developments on the ground
to trigger such a request. Secretariat officials agreed to
investigate our concerns about the job performance of UNDP
ResRep Zacharias but made clear they do not share them. In
light of the opposition’s evident agreement to a runoff, post
suggests Department consider a possible USG contribution to a
UN-led election observer mission. END SUMMARY.
¶2. (SBU) In recent days Ambassador Wolff, USUN ECOSOC Chief,
Deputy PolCouns, and Poloffs have discussed USG Zimbabwe
concerns (reftels) with UN Under Secretary-General for
Political Affairs (DPA) Lynn Pascoe, DPA Assistant
Secretary-General Angela Kane, Director of the Electoral
Assistance Division Craig Jenness, UNDP Associate
Administrator Ad Melkert, DPA Africa I Team Leader Vallerie
de Campos Mello, and senior officials of the UK and French
¶3. (C) To Ambassador Wolff’s urging that the UN consider
fielding a fact-finding mission, U/SYG Pascoe and A/SYG Kane
reiterated Pascoe’s indication to the Council (Ref A) that
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is prepared to lend his good
offices to these or other efforts in coordination with the
African Union and with the consent of the Government of
Zimbabwe. Neither Pascoe nor Kane was sanguine that the AU
or Zimbabwe was interested in either idea.
¶4. (C) UKUN counts eight votes on the Council in favor of a
special public session on Zimbabwe (U.S., UK, France,
Belgium, Italy, Panama, Costa Rica, Croatia), one short of
the nine needed to convoke a meeting. (NOTE. Briefings in
closed Council consultations by the Secretariat can be called
by any member at any time. END NOTE.) UKUN therefore has
instead urged SYG Ban to greater action, demarching him
recently to request that he appoint a special envoy and a
fact-finding mission (even in the face of certain Zimbabwe
noncooperation) and that he prevail upon Latin American and
Caribbean states to offer election observers after Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe evidently indicated that observers
from these states would be acceptable. UKUN is hopeful that
Mugabe might agree to a small percentage of other nationals
in a joint AU/UN elections observer mission. In the
meantime, Council President (for May) UK intends to monitor
events on the ground with a view to calling for further
closed briefings as appropriate.
¶5. (C) Deputy PolCouns discussed the range of potential UN
elections observer assistance with Electoral Division Chief
Jenness, who said the response of his office would be
dictated by time, money, and Zimbabwe’s cooperation. He said
he could send eminent persons to Zimbabwe with the
government’s permission “virtually immediately.” At the
other end of the assistance spectrum, he said a full observer
mission would comprise 120 people deployed over a period of
three months. Recalling that the elections division depends
on donor contributions, he said funding would have to be
found on an ad hoc basis.
¶6. (C) Finally, USUN’s ECOSOC Counselor met UNDP Associate
Administrator Ad Melkert and UNDP Director for Africa Gilbert
Houngbo regarding ref B concerns about UNDP Zimbabwe ResRep
Augustino Zacharias. Melkert confirmed that UN offices in
Zimbabwe are on a “phase 2” security alert, but insisted that
this does not restrict UN personnel to Harare and that the
offices are “completely operational.” Regarding a possible
pro-Mugabe bias, Melkert said Zacharias enjoys the full
confidence of his office and asked for further details of
bias as alleged Ref B, para 10.
¶7. (C) COMMENT. In view of reports that Zimbabwe’s opposition
has agreed to a run-off election, which would almost
certainly be delayed beyond the May 23 date technically
mandated, Post suggests USG emphasis should also be on
pushing Zimbabwe, directly and indirectly, to accept a robust
team of election observers, to include a UN element. Pending
USUN NEW Y 00000419 002 OF 002
development of an observer mission budget, Post suggests that
Department preliminarily consider possibilities for a USG
contribution. END COMMENT.