Zuma’s failures to mediate

Zuma’s failures to mediate

Today brought the not-so-surprising news that the Muammar al-Qaddafi told visiting South African President Muammar al-Qaddafi that he is not prepared to leave Libya but is still hoping for a negotiated solution to the conflict. This was Zuma’s second attempted mediation effort in Libya. He and fellow African leaders met with Qaddafi last month and presented a proposed "roadmap" to peace which included Qaddafi remaining in power and was immediately rejected by the rebels. That trip featured Zuma’s unfortunate description of Qaddafi as "brother leader." 

Zuma was similarly ineffective in his efforts earlier this year to mediate a conclusion to the post-election conflict in the Ivory Coast, wavering back and forth on whether South Africa was neutral in the conflict, favored an electoral recount, or supported now-President Alassane Ouattara. During a visit to the country in February, he was mobbed by angry Ouattara supporters. 

Zuma has been called in repeatedly to mediate between Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He claims to have kept the coalition government together, but relations have continued to deteriorate and more violence seems inevitable in the next presidential election. 

It’s not that Zuma should be expected to solve all of the African continent’s frozen conflicts — and, to be fair, he inherited an intractable mess in Zimbabwe from his predecessor —  but the president’s high-publicity style of shuttle diplomacy and implausible claims of neutrality seem to continually set him up for failure.