Rice: U.N. Must Act on Zimbabwe Elections

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends a roundtable discussion on Zimbabwe.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends a roundtable discussion on Zimbabwe at the United Nations' headquarters in New York on Thursday. Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole is visible in the background. Stan Honda/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stan Honda/Getty Images

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says "it's hard to see" how next week's runoff presidential election in Zimbabwe will be "free and fair."

In an interview with Scott Simon, Rice says the U.N. Security Council must act on the matter or risk losing its credibility.

Voters in Zimbabwe are scheduled to head to the polls June 25 for the runoff election between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai won the initial election in March, but not by a wide enough margin. Mugabe has been accused of a campaign of violence against Tsvangirai and his supporters. The violence has escalated to the point that many question whether the runoff vote will take place.

"When you have the president of Zimbabwe saying that he'll never accept an outcome in which the other side wins, or when you have the so-called war veterans intimidating people and accusing opposition leaders of treason, it's kind of hard to see how that's going to be a free and fair election," Rice says.

A transcript of Rice's conversation with Simon follows:

In many parts of the world, the horror of sexual violence is becoming increasingly common among the horrors of war. This week, the United Nations Security Council adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution that says sexual attacks in conflict zones may be considered war crimes.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared at the U.N. on Thursday to introduce the resolution. She joins us by phone. Welcome.

SIMON: Explain to us, please, some of the language of this resolution, what exactly it accomplishes or obligates the United Nations to do?

RICE: Well, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 some time ago about essentially this issue, but I formed a women's foreign policy network about two years ago made up of foreign ministers and other ministers, and we felt there needed to be more action on the issue of sexual violence against women and particularly the use of sexual violence against women as a tool of warfare. Yesterday we had very good representation from capitals as we did another resolution that now puts in place a mechanism for reporting on these crimes and encourages strong follow-up on these crimes and then to try to do something about the impunity that sometimes accompanies them. I myself really was very much moved by an experience that I had in 2005 going to a refugee camp in Darfur and sitting with a group of women who ... had experienced being raped by soldiers and rebels as they tried to do simple things like gathering wood or water, and so I felt very strongly about this. And we were able yesterday in the Security Council to bring some important attention to this issue and get the secretary-general to agree that he's going to develop a mechanism to deal with it.

At some point last year, China, Russia, South Africa and Vietnam had all expressed reservations on this, saying that, admirable as some of these sentiments might be, they are already covered in other stipulations. What changed their minds?

I think that we've had some experiences — even including, for instance, some very bad experiences [with] peacekeeping forces — and I have to say, people have followed up and people have been punished but —

These are U.N. peacekeeping forces.

These are U.N. peacekeeping forces, and we've had some problems with that. And we've also, of course, continued to watch the horrors of Darfur. We've seen sexual violence against women in conflicts in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and in Somalia. And I think there was finally a sense that the U.N. Security Council — which deals with threats to international peace and security — had to consider this a threat to international peace and security.

I have to ask you, Secretary Rice, that The New York Times reported on Friday that U.S. officials believe an Israeli military exercise that was conducted earlier this month was some kind of rehearsal for what could be the process of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities — a way of alerting Iran they have this in place. You're in a position to know a lot. Is that true?

I'm not going to comment on someone's comment anonymously on what they may have seen in military exercises. We are in constant discussion with the Israeli government, as well as many other governments, about the threat and the problem of Iran, how to deal with the prospect of Iranian technology that could lead to a nuclear weapon. We are committed to a diplomatic force, and that's what we're dealing with.

We also note the [U.N. Security] Council on Thursday condemned violence in Zimbabwe in advance of next week's presidential runoff. Is that going to be an honest election?

You know, elections don't start on Election Day. They start in the run-up: Can people campaign? Are activists and opponents of the regime free from intimidations? And I think you'd have to say, when you have the president of Zimbabwe saying that he'll never accept an outcome in which the other side wins, or when you have the so-called war veterans intimidating people and accusing opposition leaders of treason, it's kind of hard to see how that's going to be a free and fair election. This is a very serious matter, and the United States does intend to put it on the agenda of the Security Council next week.

There have been a lot of resolutions. Is anyone prepared to do anything other than pass another resolution?

Well, sometimes one has to admit that the international community as a whole is slow to act. You know, the United States has been accused of too much unilateralism. But I'll tell you, what we've tried to do is to be leaders — and to be leaders of multilateral institutions that can act. But we believe that unless the Security Council acts, it does stand to lose credibility.

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