Zimbabwe Crisis: Njoroge Wachai - Lip Service For Mugabe

World leaders’ apathy toward Zimbabwe’s crisis is disgusting.

A week before Zimbabwe’s presidential runoff, killings and beatings --- directed at supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF thugs --- continue unabated. Which makes everybody, except of course Mugabe and his thugs, wonder if this runoff will be anywhere close to a free and fair election.

Human rights organizations and media reports estimate that Mugabe’s thugs have killed close to 60 opposition sympathizers, and driven thousands others from their homes in an attempt to disenfranchise them from participating in the runoff.

Mr. Tsvangirai himself has been physically assaulted and arrested five times. MDC’s Secretary General, Tendai Biti, is languishing in jail on a treason charge, which carries death sentence. He’s accused of declaring Mr. Tsvangirai the winner of the first round of elections held on March 29.

All this, plus threats to expel diplomats and aid agencies who have spoken against Mugabe, present a clear portrait of the deep political hole in which Zimbabwe finds itself. Terror hovers over the head of any Zimbabwean suspected of being sympathetic to the opposition. Mugabe, desperate to prolong his stranglehold on power, has turned Zimbabwe into a police state. There are paramilitaries roaming the country, hounding opposition supporters.

This hypocrite, who only two months ago declared he could not sleep with his conscience if elections were rigged for him, is now vowing never to hand over power to the opposition even if he lost, will not recoil at the prompting of verbal threats from the U.S., Britain, France or anywhere else.

This is, now, what disgusts me. The international community has not done enough to contain Mugabe. It’s not enough to pay lip service to that end. It’s not enough that the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has called Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny.” Or that the European Union (EU) has imposed travel restrictions on Mugabe and members of his inner circle. Or that President Bush has called Mugabe a discredited dictator. Or that Britain’s Gordon Brown has denounced that “criminal Zimbabwe leadership.” Or that the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has voiced “profound alarm” at the country’s situation. What literate person can’t impress in a rhetorical contest to describe Mugabe?

Mugabe is obstinate, and peppering him with harsh rhetoric will not work. He has also showcased his own prowess in oratory, which is why I’ve concluded that this name-calling game is absurd and will not bring the change Zimbabwe needs.

It’s time to abandon this theater and these intangible threats targeting not only Mugabe but also
his close aides, especially those in charge of security services. At 84, Mugabe could be deluding himself that there’s nothing much to lose even if he were to be dragged to an international criminal court for human rights abuses. How much longer can he live?

We need to shred that UN article on sovereignty for Zimbabweans’ sake. Since it’s become very clear that Mugabe fancies terror to silence his critics, the same dose should be administered to him. It’s no secret he has encouraged his security agents and the so-called “war veterans” to engage in an orgy of violence. He has exiled millions of Zimbabweans to South Africa. Call it what you will, but this demands foreign intervention.

And nobody can do this better than African countries, through the UN and the African Union (AU).

Kenya’s new Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has already proposed the deployment of peacekeepers in Zimbabwe to oversee free and fair elections. This is a bold proposal that must be given serious consideration. Diplomacy of the kind South African President Thabo Mbeki has been practicing is not a language Mugabe understands.

But I doubt any African country is ready to rise to the occasion, which is why any country that values democracy and respect for human rights should stand up for Zimbabweans. This is not the time to drone on about sovereignty as innocent people continue to die.

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