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In today's Financial Times, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan makes a strong case for collective action on the situation in Zimbabwe. Mr Annan argues that "if the government, which many claim to be the author of violence, cannot ensure a fair vote, Africa must hold it accountable. The victor of an unfair vote must be under no illusions: he will neither have the legitimacy to govern, nor receive the support of the international community."
This sentiment is widely shared but Mr Annan does not stop here. Citing the just-released report of the Africa Progress Panel, which he also chairs, he argues that Africa's governance problems are far from insurmountable -- many countries are taking steps to become healthy, sustainable democracies. Mr Annan proposes a "compact of reconciliation," in which all political parties must come together now on governance arrangements and the process of transition, no matter who the winner of the election will be. For Zimbabwe to survive the election, Mr Annan says that it is just as important for the international community to support this effort as it is to insist on an election free of intimidation and violence.
Mr Annan's approach is unusual -- he recognizes Mr. Mugabe's role in Zimbabwe's independence movement (rarely mentioned in the British press) while at the same time condemning Mr Mugabe's military operations to win the next election. Mr Annan succeeded in brokering a power-sharing arrangement in Kenya, when all other efforts failed. His approach to the situation in Zimbabwe is worthy of careful consideration.
On February 23, CGD President Nancy Birdsall will deliver the first Kapuscinski Development Lecture of 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Her lecture, “The New Middle Class in the Developing World: Does It Matter?” will take a hard look at what it means to be middle class in developing countries and explore the role of strugglers, the rapidly expanding group of people caught between extreme poverty and the middle class.