Feb 14 2008

I left my heart in Harare

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 11:25 PM

I’ve never been to Zimbabwe, and my chances of going any time soon seem slim. I’ve never taken the “ambulance chaser” approach to African affairs and — getting older by the day — I’m not about to start chasing ambulances now. And with Zimbabwe’s election looming at the end of next month, the ambulance indeed is the right metaphor. After watching Kenya’s disputed presidential election become the trigger for ethnic violence, few Africa watchers remain sanguine about the prospects of any contest vote in the region. On past occasions I’ve bemoaned the perils of elections in Africa, and highlighted the apparent lack of benefits of holding them. In the case of Zimbabwe, the planned elections on March 29 are likely to provide a flimsy pretext for the repressive and irrational Robert Mugabe to bully and abuse his many opponents. Americans — and all friends of Africa — ought to proclaim the end of Mugabe’s reign of terror as the number one goal of diplomacy in the region. That South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki has failed to deliver a peaceful transfer of power in Zimbabwe is no reason to despair. Mbeki is a lame duck and the long period of deference to his status should come to a crashing end. Mbeki deserves to hear harsh complaints over his protection of Mugabe. The human cost of Mugabe’s hold on power is of course enough to justify his removal as Zimbabwe’s president. Yet the damage to the prestige of the African Union — and Mugabe’s own moral standing — is also very large. African leaders are quick to remind Westerners in particular that they do not deserve the disrespect they so often receive from do-gooders and media the world over. By refusing to isolate and ultimately break Mugabe’s hold on power, however, Africa’s “big men” make themselves seem very very small.

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