In the release of cables today from WikiLeaks was a revelation that Morgan Tsvangirai, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, had made private statements to U.S. embassy officials that didn’t accord with his public campaigning for the end of sanctions on his country.
Now, Tsvangirai holds the position of Prime Minister as part of a power-sharing deal after Robert Mugabe dubiously “won” reelection in Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential election. Given the awful toll that Mugabe’s three decades in government have taken on the country, Tsvangirai is largely seen as the most likely player to dislodge Mugabe from the helm and bring Zimbabwe back from its decades-long decline from one of Africa’s best-off countries to one of its poorest.
Regardless of what real effects this will have in Zimbabwe in the long run, it does reveal a weakness in the philosophy espoused by Julian Assange: justice is not the only motivation that exists for opposing secret plans. Here, the motivation is Robert Mugabe’s clutch onto power in Zimbabwe and since leaks in the U.S. Embassy cables that include discussions with Zimbabwe politicians are overwhelmingly likely to involve U.S.-friendly politicians and not those from Zanu-PF (Mugabe’s party), the transparency these cables provide will likely serve to strengthen the arm of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian government, rather than weaken it, as would otherwise be the goal of WikiLeaks’ disclosures.
Despite this particular case, I still cautiously favor of WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents. However, it’s easy to see how revelations of discussions between opposition leaders in Africa and U.S. diplomats could lead to negative political results.