In September 2008, ZANU (PF) and the MDC signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA), giving birth to a Government of National Unity (GNU) that nominally shared power between the parties. Nonetheless, the record of the GNU to date indicates that ZANU (PF) has retained power in the all-important areas of security and law enforcement, making a bare minimum of concessions to the MDC. In this context there are serious obstacles to many transitional justice objectives. For example, there will be no prosecutions of ZANU (PF)-affiliated perpetrators of political crimes as long as both the senior police leadership and the Attorney General owe their allegiance to that same party. Similar concerns are raised about truth-telling, reparations or lustration. In a climate of ongoing political violence, participants in any such process must fear reprisals, and there is concern that powerful perpetrators may dig their heels in or even instigate further violence in an effort to retain the protections and privileges of power. But doing nothing – optimistically awaiting a successful political settlement – is indefensible in light of the ongoing violence and deepening trauma. Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders have shown no stomach for enforcing political reforms in the country, making only token gestures at relaxing President Mugabe’s iron grip on power. Political violence abated somewhat in 2009 following the GPA, but it could quickly return to epidemic levels, particularly when elections are called – probably in 2011, though Mugabe may call a snap election sooner. There have been reports that ZANU (PF) youth militias have been redeployed in rural Zimbabwe to influence the outcome of the constitutional review process and the election. 2 Meanwhile, the GNU has emboldened some MDC supporters to exact revenge against their erstwhile abusers.3 One third of Zimbabweans have experienced politically motivated threats or intimidation and 12% have experienced politically motivated assault. 4 Unaddressed, the mental health consequences of this trauma worsen over time. 5 Waiting for political parties to take the lead in reconciliation is unrealistic. The persistence of the Zimbabwean conflict in the face of the weak political settlement presents severe obstacles to transitional justice programs. However, the urgent need for transitional justice is underscored by the extent of trauma among Zimbabwean civilians, and the potential for the perpetuation of this trauma through revenge crimes, the increased political polarisation of youth, and the entrenchment of violent political engagement as a norm. Transitional Justice During Conflict 2; 3 Institute for War and Peace Reporting, MDC Supporters Take Revenge, 25 February 2009, ZCR No. 182, available at: [accessed 7 February 2010] 4 Freedom House/MPOI, “Public Attitudes Towards Transition in Zimbabwe,” 11 December 2009. 5 “Acute versus Chronic effects of Organised Violence and Torture: Comparing the Victims in Contemporary Zimbabwe with the Survivors of the Liberation War,” Harare: Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), February 2010. Oxford Transitional Justice Research Working Paper Series 2

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