The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

EU and the Peace Prize (Round 3): M Tsvangirai should have Won

October 16, 2012


(Here and here is the previous Duck debate on this.)

The EU? Over a guy regularly facing down death-threats, bullying, and intimidation from one of the worst dictators on earth? Boo to the Nobel Committee for missing this obvious choice.

If they can give the prize to the drone-warrior with a kill-list (Obama) and an institution run by wealthy, comfortable lawyers, bankers, and white collar professionals, then surely they can give it to someone who every day is making a far more direct, personal, bodily commitment to peace and social betterment. In fact, why Tsvangirai hasn’t won yet is beyond me. It seems so obvious. (Yes, his personal life is somewhat chaotic, but I don’t think that is normally a consideration. Kissinger called himself a ‘swinger.’)

Here is a good profile from the BBC. Note how badly he got beaten up by the thugs of President Robert Mugabe in 2007. He’s be charged with treason multiple times, and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has been harassed from the beginning. That is commitment, far more than endless EU meetings about some treaty no one will read.


It is sometimes said that the committee gives the prize either as a recognition for services already completed (Kim Dae Jung, Mohammed Yunus) or to encourage those in a position to deliver real change to stay the course (Obama, Arafat). I think the EU decision this year falls in the latter category. The problem with that though, is how speculative it is. I don’t think anyone believes anymore that Obama deserved that award given the drone war.

And giving it to the EU was more a way to tell the EU not to fall apart, rather than reward it. It’s obvious the EU is struggling, and it looks like the Committee wanted to encourage it to hang on and muddle through. The Economist makes the obvious point that NATO probably contributed more the European peace than the EU. And of course, Norway, the seat of the peace prize, isn’t even in the EU, having rejected it twice – making the choice even more bizarre.

But giving it to Tsvangirai would have been so much more useful. Zimbabwe is a lot closer to civil war and disorder than the EU. There’s (supposed to be) an election next year. A Nobel for Tsvangirai/the MDC might have helped with that; anything that eases Mugabe out of power in bloodless transition would be a great help. The possibility of bloodshed, even civil war, is real. The international seal of approval a Nobel would give to Tsvangirai might have helped restrain the likely thuggery and better establish the MDC as a legitimate political opposition, not traitors.

I went to Zimbabwe once (and yes, it’s a mess), so maybe I am partial. But this strikes me as a big missed opportunity.

Cross-posted Asian Security Blog.

website | + posts

Associate Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy, Pusan National University, Korea
Home Website:
Twitter: @Robert_E_Kelly