Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to pull out of the presidential run-off comes as no surprise.
At least 86 of his supporters have been killed and thousands have been beaten, driven from their homes or both. When more than a thousand of his polling agents were detained days before the election and armed Zanu-PF gangsters occupied and blocked access to the venue of his final rally yesterday, he decided to end the charade.
Mr Tsvangirai's impulse, which is to prevent further pointless bloodshed, especially of frontline electoral staff such as polling agents is understandable. After all, President Robert Mugabe has said he will not cede power to the MDC, even if by some miracle, the result shows that he has lost.
There is little evidence that Mr Mugabe's campaign to obliterate the MDC will end just because there is no election. Instead, Mr Mugabe is likely to seize the opportunity handed to him to kick out foreign election observers, who for the moment are the witnesses of the world on Mr Mugabe's crimes. When they leave, Mr Tsvangirai and his supporters will be in even greater danger.
Still, the problem of the dangerous regime in Harare is now for world leaders to solve, not for Mr Tsvangirai. For far too long, defenders of the ineffectual policies of Mr Mugabe's neighbours have argued they have been walking a fine line, trying to cajole the President, who only cares about staying in power, into cooperating. That hasn't worked, and more lives are lost every day. They now have an obligation to move swiftly and finally resolve the problem. To save lives.
For starters, the African Union should immediately deploy credible human rights monitors to Zimbabwe. These monitors should not be limited to the cities – they should also venture into rural areas, where murders, torture and rape are most prevalent.
In his cynical, bloody bid to cling on to power, Mr Mugabe, has bet on the unwillingness of regional and international institutions to take effective measures to stop his reign of terror. It is now time for world leaders to prove him wrong.
The author is a Zimbabwean lawyer and member of the International Bar Association.Reuse content