Mugabe aiming for immunity?

When dictators reach the end of the line, they sometimes discover that all they really want is a little peace and quiet. Robert Mugabe reportedly wants a deal for immunity in exchange for allowing a peaceful transition of power to Morgan Tsvangirai after losing the election last weekend, according to the Guardian. If the opposition MDC will not agree, Mugabe will declare an emergency and order a rerun of the entire election:

Robert Mugabe’s aides have told Zimbabwe’s opposition leaders that he is prepared to give up power in return for guarantees, including immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

But the aides have warned that if the Movement for Democratic Change does not agree then Mugabe is threatening to declare emergency rule and force another presidential election in 90 days, according to senior opposition sources.

The opposition said the MDC leadership is in direct talks with the highest levels of the army but it is treating the approach with caution because they are distrustful of the individuals involved and calling for direct contact with the president, fearing delaying tactics.

Those fears were reinforced last night when at one point Zimbabwe’s election commission abruptly halted the release of official results from the Saturday’s election for “logistical reasons” and the police raided opposition offices.

Clearly, Mugabe has no intention of putting himself in jeopardy of prosecution — a tacit admission of his crimes as de facto dictator of Zimbabwe.  After 28 year of disastrous rule as Prime Minister and then President, Mugabe has destroyed the national economy, rigged elections, abused his power to maintain his regime, and perhaps committed even worse crimes about which only his victims know.  Mugabe knows that Zimbabweans will want justice when he gets weak enough for them to seek it, and that time may rapidly be approaching.

Will the MDC cut that kind of deal with Mugabe?  It would almost certainly have to involve exile if they do.  That won’t just be for the stability of the successor government, which would fear a Mugabe change of heart, but also for Mugabe’s own safety.  One of Zimbabwe’s neighbors would have to agree to give Mugabe asylum so his own people don’t give him an ending like that of Benito Mussolini or Nicolae Ceausescu.

The MDC apparently is willing to negotiate a soft exit for Mugabe.  He deserves a lot worse, but getting Zimbabwe on its feet again has to take first priority.  That requires Mugabe and his regime’s removal before any improvements can occur, and the avoidance of civil war has to be the highest priority.