« Felons: The Latest Democratic Special Interest Group? | Main | Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory »

June 23, 2005

The Dictator Next Door

Yesterday's WaPo had an excellent editorial on the developing humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. For those not following the situation, Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe's recently "re-elected" tyrant -- has had his army and police drive several hundred thousand urban poor people out of their homes, which were then destroyed by bulldozers:

A SWARM of helmeted police, backed by paramilitaries toting AK-47s, descend on a poor urban neighborhood, demanding that residents get out of town. Families hurriedly gather their few possessions before the bulldozers demolish their homes. Many head for the countryside, although a fuel shortage makes travel difficult. Some end up sleeping on the streets or in overcrowded refugee camps, burning whatever they can to keep warm through frigid winter nights. Others huddle in churches packed with still more displaced people, all with similar stories.

This scene and hundreds like it have been playing out across Zimbabwe over the past month while outsiders pay scant attention. At least 200,000 people -- possibly as many as a million -- have been rendered homeless by President Robert Mugabe's "Operation Murambatsvina" ("drive out the rubbish"), which bears a disturbing resemblance to Pol Pot's brutal "ruralization" campaign in Cambodia three decades ago. Mr. Mugabe's long years of autocratic misrule have broken Zimbabwe's economy and produced chronic food shortages. Now he appears worried that the misery he has created could lead to an uprising. His bulldozing campaign seems intended to disperse the urban poor, who overwhelmingly favor the opposition. . . 

The Post editors go on to urge South African President Thabo Mbeki, the leader of the country with the most leverage over Zimbabwe, to use this influence to stop Mugabe's crimes against humanity.

The real tragedy of Mugabe's decades long mis-rule of his country is that the wounds are entirely self-inflicted. Zimbabwe is a country rich in natural and agricultural resources. Before Mugabe destroyed its economy, it was Africa's largest grain exporter and one of the richest countries in southern Africa. Now it faces famine (which is being used as a tool to literally starve groups opposed to his rule) and a slow descent into "failed state" status. The saying is that the people get the government they deserve, but nobody deserved this. It's a pity that nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it before it's too late.

June 23, 2005 at 06:18 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Dictator Next Door:


The comments to this entry are closed.