Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Editorial: African neighbors key to saving Zimbabwe
Defiant Mugabe must go to end nation's suffering.
Last update: June 25, 2008 - 7:00 PM
Print this story
E-mail this story
Save to del.icio.us
Share on newsvine
Share on Digg
"Regional [African] bodies have tremendous influence. There are so many things that could be brought to bear, that could have a tremendous, immediate impact on Zimbabwe.''
U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe
It sounds like an epic tragedy. A man of the people helps free his own from oppression, then rises to become king. But later he slides from hero to dictator. Once a respected leader/liberator, he descends into murderous, power-crazed madness -- and takes his country with him.
On stage, it would be compelling drama. But it's today's reality for the poor people of Zimbabwe, the central African nation that is suffering under the brutal tyranny of President Robert Mugabe. Now the country's desperate plight demands that the international community isolate the 84-year-old leader and refuse to recognize his administration. More importantly, African nations should do all they can to force the strongman out the door -- up to and including military intervention.
Government policies have turned the once agriculturally self-sufficient nation into an economic disaster. Unemployment is about 80 percent, and the currency is practically worthless. An estimated quarter of the 12 million citizens have fled to other countries.
His nation in shambles, Mugabe rejected election results that voted him out and called for a runoff presidential election on Friday. He defiantly declared that "only God'' can remove him from office and that he'll wage war to stay put.
His security forces have murdered nearly 100 political opponents, and thousands have been beaten, tortured and intimidated. The brutality is so widespread that opposition leader and presidential opponent Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the race this week to help stop the killing. Fearing for his own life, he sought refuge in a foreign embassy and has asked the United Nations and African leaders to help restore conditions for free and fair elections.
That is key to saving the nation -- neighboring nations must keep the economic, trade and travel pressure on for change as only they can do. Refugees are pouring across their borders, giving them a vested interest in resolving the crisis. South Africa can be particularly influential because it supplies electricity to Zimbabwe and provides vital port access.
In addition, organizations of African nations have developed a record of cooperating to solve serious problems in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and most recently, Kenya.
Sadly, like despots before him in Africa and other parts of the world, Mugabe's egomaniacal hunger for power has nearly ruined his country. Zimbabweans have tried using the ballot to make change, but it's clear that they cannot end their national tragedy alone. Other African neighbors, with support from the international community, must help.