Potential Hot Spots: Zimbabwe



Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 


March 4, 2011: As his good friend Muammar Qadaffi confronts a violent revolt in Libya, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is cracking down in his miserable country. Mugabe is arresting political opponents and harassing non-governmental aid and human rights organizations. His police have arrested a few people who are passing around stories on the revolts in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. Just discussing the revolts can get you arrested for treason. He is also hassling UN human rights bureaucrats. Mugabe is angry with the UN for several reasons, one of them being an on-going investigation into charges that his government has been illegally supplying arms to the Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, in violation of UN sanctions. There are also reports that Mugabe offered to send some of his own commandos to Libya to help put down the ant-Qaddafi revolt. The reports remain unconfirmed, but Mugabe, like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is at least rhetorically standing by his fellow megalomaniac.

Mugabe’s economic policies and corrupt practices have beggared his nation. In early 2009 it looked like Zimbabwe had entered the end times. The country was suffering from a cholera epidemic. Six to seven million people were dependent on food aid supplied by international donors. Remember, Zimbabwe was once a regional bread basket and had a thriving agricultural sector. Mugabe’s attacks on and subsequent appropriation of white-owned farms (which began in 2000—and he called it land reform) damaged the agricultural industry. Mismanagement, corruption, and theft subsequently destroyed it. In February 2009, the situation was so bad that Mugabe agreed to form a national unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). That was the last time the two men seem to have agreed on anything. Why did Mugabe strike the deal? Well, he never intended to keep it. One theory is he needed a political gesture to insure that food aid continued-- but that's a theory. Why did the MDC agree to join the government? In early 2009 MDC leaders seemed to believe that letting the tyrant die in office was better than suffering a civil war. The MDC leaders had concluded (correctly) that the security services were loyal to Mugabe. Ambitious younger members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party were making noises that they thought the old man’s time had come and gone. Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders concluded that Tsvangirai would do his best to mitigate Mugabe’s more pathological policies and when Mugabe died new elections would be held that would put Zimbabwe back on the road to democracy.

But by October 2009 the MDC was threatening to pull out of the national unity government. Now the MDC has fractured, though Tsvangirai’s faction remains dominant. Mugabe has remained quite alive; he also reneged on virtually every promise he had made to the MDC when the national unity government was formed. Since then he has jailed MDC opponents and repeatedly threatened Tsvangirai. The main reason Tsvangirai has managed to stay alive is because he is an international figure. However, he got caught in the wikileaks revelations privately telling international diplomats that they should keep sanctions against Zimbabwe in place. This contradicted his public stance. Mugabe accused Tsvangirai of treason. National elections are looming, political violence is increasing in the major cities, and Robert Mugabe remains very much alive. If Qaddafi survives in Libya will he send commandos to help out Mugabe?


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