President Robert Mugabe is seen at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008. Mugabe who spoke at the burial of Eliot Manyika, a government minister who died in a car accident, warned against the invasion of Zimbabwe by western powers wh
"Uniting Against Mugabe's Corrupt Regime"
Op-Ed, Boston Globe
December 13, 2008
Author: Robert Rotberg, Director, Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Intrastate Conflict Program
DESPERATE Zimbabweans cannot understand why Africa and the forces of world order have abandoned them in their hour of need, when what is left of their once wealthy nation decays irredeemably. President-elect Barack Obama has spoken critically of Africa's irresponsibility. So have French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. All three want Africa to eject Robert G. Mugabe, Zimbabwe's unelected ruling despot.
Despite decisively losing an election in March and declaring himself the victor in an uncontested runoff poll in June that many African observer missions and the wider world condemned, Mugabe has continued to govern Zimbabwe tyrannically. He repeatedly thumbs his nose at South Africa's attempt to forge a workable compromise with Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's main opponent.
Although Tsvangirai has gone out of his way to be reasonable, even agreeing in September to become an executive prime minister, Mugabe refuses to keep a promised fair division of cabinet positions. Indeed, every time former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the main mediator, has extracted a concession from Mugabe, Mugabe has rapidly backtracked. Thus Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change majority in the nation's parliament cannot exercise the authority that is rightly theirs. Mugabe and his ilk continue to run key ministries and what is left of the country's economy illegally. Additionally, Mugabe's thugs continue to maim and kill officials of the Movement for Democratic Change and its supporters.
They do so negligently. Nothing works in Zimbabwe. Eighty percent of all schools are closed. The best hospitals have shut down because of acute shortages of medicine, bandages, and anesthetics. Because Mugabe's men have taken over the national water authority and have stopped chlorinating supplies, there is no drinkable water in the cities. Hundreds of Zimbabweans have already died of cholera, with more avoidable deaths to come.
Everywhere there is hunger. The World Food Program estimates that 5 million people, about half of Zimbabwe's diminished population, is hungry or close to starvation. (An estimated 4 million Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa and Botswana.) Eighty to 90 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed, so few can generate cash to purchase food. The local currency is effectively worthless.
Only President Seretse Ian Khama of Botswana and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga have declared Mugabe a usurper. Other African leaders wring their hands, speaking piously, but doing nothing.
When Obama assumes office, the power of his roots and his charisma may be able to persuade Africans to disbar Mugabe. But the end of January is too late. Zimbabwe needs political re-fashioning now, and not by telling Tsvangirai to take whatever he can get and somehow move forward from a point of palpable weakness, as suggested by former President Jimmy Carter and the Elders. Mugabe cannot be trusted.
First, the African Union needs to declare Mugabe a non-president and recognize Tsvangirai as at least an interim ruler. Second, South Africa needs to make the Mugabe problem its own and present the nearly 85-year-old tyrant with two options: to exit gracefully to a soft landing in South Africa or to exit under South African military compulsion. Third, after a year or so, a new election to confirm Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change should be held under international auspices. If all else fails, the International Criminal Court should indict Mugabe for crimes against humanity.
Would South African forces be able to compel Mugabe's removal? If such an action were legitimated by the South African Development Community or the African Union (preferably both), resistance from Mugabe's praetorian guard, the rump of the Central Intelligence Organization, and corrupt generals would easily be overcome.
Mugabe has already lost credibility at home. A push from countries that have so far supported him passively, sometimes actively, would be sufficient. Even China, which backs Mugabe, would quickly withdraw. Thus, the key to ending the depravity and odiousness of Mugabe's corrupt regime is decisive declarations by a collective leadership of an Africa that should know better, and now, at the 11th hour, can make matters right.
For more information about this publication please contact the ICP Program Coordinator at 617-496-9812.
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