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Monday, June 27, 2005

Send ‘Em to US

I realize that countries have to have a methodology by which they determine whether a person seeking asylum should be granted protection. I realize that.

But when people are leaving a country like Zimbabwe that is teetering on the edge of complete collapse--where the ruling party has stated its intentions to form a one party democracy, where the police have rendered (at the very least) hundreds of thousands homeless, where food is being used as a weapon to influence voters, and where the whispered threat of a new civil war is beginning to sound like more than just idle talk--then it seems that the desire for asylum should be taken seriously. The desire for security and opportunity away from the abuses of a dictator aren’t just understandable, they are the most sympathetic cry for protection that I can imagine.

Until two years ago, the UK had a policy that did not allow Zimbabwean asylum seekers to be deported back to Zimbabwe; despite the Robert Mugabe’s recent abuses, a small group is set to be deported. This strikes me as a wrongheaded policy reversal that, even if it doesn’t result in the direct abuse of these people when they are shipped back to their homes, will result in the loss of human potential.

For citizens of the failed and failing states in Africa that don’t move toward reform, liberalization, and economic reform, there is a cold truth: the best way to help them is to allow them to start over somewhere else. The best, the brightest, and the most driven aren’t leaving Africa because they don’t love their homelands; they leave because they want a future that they can’t possibly envision in their own countries. And our most effective way to help them is to allow them to begin new lives in the West.

If the UK doesn’t want them, send them here. Zimbabwe can only offer them unemployment (with at least 80% unemployment nation wide), food shortages, political repression, ridiculously poor health care, and an early death.

Read the rest.

Friday, June 24, 2005

So, Yeah, About Mugabe (Updated)

Over a quarter million people made homeless? At least three children crushed to death?

You know, to tell you the truth, we’ve actually got more important things to attend to.

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has questioned why the West is so concerned by Zimbabwe but makes relatively little noise about other African emergencies, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some three million people died in a civil war, and where armed bands kill, rape and loot with impunity in some areas.

The BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt also says that many African countries have carried out similar slum clearances and so will be unwilling to criticise Zimbabwe.

And, still, the African Union refuses to police its own. Not even a token gesture of political pressure or an unkind word for Mugabe while he grinds Zimbabwe into dust. I say again: debt forgiveness will not change this kind of inaction. Debt forgiveness will enable these governments to do even worse while their neighbors ignore their sins completely.

Mbeki is right on one count: there are myriad other horrors inhabiting sub-Saharan Africa. What isn’t true is that the West has been silent. This is another of those African moments where our attention, however fleetingly, has been turned to the corruption, the killing, and the poverty of places like the Congo, Sudan, and Rwanda. We have been paying attention, even though our own actions have been, at times, pitifully inadequate.

But even if we hadn’t noticed any of what’s going on, there would still be no excuse for Mugabe’s increasingly brutal regime. There is no reason to point to other countries and say, “but it’s worse there,” and use that as an excuse for willful ignorance and inaction.

I wonder how far Mugabe will go in an assault on the cities, though? It will get worse. Especially while people continue to make excuses for him.

Read the rest.

Update: The homeless number that I quoted above is, according to other estimates, far too low. According to another source, the Murambatsvina campaign may have left up to 1.5 million people homeless. I am going to guess that this number is too high. Considering that Zimbabwe’s population is less than thirteen million, that would represent more than 10% of the population of the country.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Zimbabwe’s Continuing Fall

Instapundit is linking to a story that has to serve as a reminder that armed rebelion can come even a country that has remained relatively peaceful and patient under an abusive dictator for decades. If civil war comes, it will be a danger and a burden to all of the surrounding nations, it will be a bloody tragedy, and it will be something that we’ve been watching come like that proverbial train wreck in slow motion.

The question that faces us is this: what can be done to help the citizens of Zimbabwe find their way to freedom and a renewed economy without watching the blood flow? Or, maybe, can anything still be done to achieve that goal? I’m afraid that armed resistance may be all that’s left, but that the end result won’t be any better for Zimbabwe.

For the AfricaBlog Archives on Zimbabwe.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The New Benefactor

Robert Mugabe can’t manage to feed his people, can’t manage to run an economy, can’t manage free and open elections without first threatening the citizens, and has completely lost whatever moral compass he once carried. But he can buy some spankin’ new aircraft from China.

Harare - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday commissioned two of three passenger planes bought from China, praising the Asian nation for standing by his country, which has been cut off from its former friends in the West.

“The delivery of the two aircraft is symbolic of our resolve to foster even stronger ties with our friends who have supported our cause,” Mugabe told hundreds gathered at Harare’s International Airport to see the planes off on their maiden flight to the resort town of Victoria Falls.

“They supported us during our liberation struggle… they have continued to extend a hand of solidarity. The Republic of China is steadily becoming the largest foreign investor in Zimbabwe and our biggest trading partner.”

China is forging ties with Africa for good reason: if the post-colonial era hardships can transform into a new era of relative stability, the economic growth could be tremendous. The opportunities for helping African nations modernize and begin to exploit their own resources (the untapped wealth of Africa in mineral, farming, and human resources is mind boggling) could be a huge boon to friendly nations. China is looking to new development contracts, new markets, investment opportunities, and political leverage gains where America isn’t able to be as accommodating.

Of course, there is also risk in issuing credit or creating close ties to unpopular leaders like Mugabe. If the country fails and if opposition parties latch onto the idea that China was enabling Mugabe while the West was quietly trying to help bring reform, then the investment turns into a liability. The biggest danger for China then is that any potential for a post-revolution period Zimbabwe, where the post-colonial self-destruction turns to sustained growth and modernization, probably revolves around the fall of the current regime and the marginalization of the revolution’s political leadership.

China’s gifts and ties make good photo ops for Mugabe, but they do nothing to repair the crumbling infrastructure, pick up the garbage that piles up in the streets, feed the hungry, resurrect the annihilated farm system, or stem the triple digit inflation that has wrecked the economy. A real gift would to urge and help usher in political and economic reform that might still save Zimbabwe; for China, though, that would also usher in competition from the many Western donor nations, private charities, and companies that would love to do their part to help and benefit from a revival in Zimbabwe.

Read the story.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weep for Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe’s power-hungry arrogance will cost thousands of lives, and that is simple truth.

Over the last year, Mugabe has continued to insist that the situation in Zimbabwe isn’t as bad as it’s been painted. He claimed, in fact, that there would be a surplus of food for his people, although any fool could see that his farm redistribution efforts left the country without any reliable, internal food supply. Faced with high inflation, shortages of food and goods, a steady flow of bodies leaving for neighboring countries, and enormous health care problems, Mugabe has stood by watching while his country failed; instead of recognizing the disastrous choices, he compounds the mistakes and refuses foreign aid.

The harvest was the worst in memory. Economists say that that was an inevitable consequence of President Robert Mugabe’s confiscation of 90 per cent of large, productive white-owned farms over the past five years. His land grab has wrecked the economy.

Mr Mugabe pledged during his successful re-election campaign last month that no one in Zimbabwe, which was once a major food exporter, would starve.

For several months western countries have tried to persuade his government to sign an agreement to allow donors to launch an international appeal.

But Mr Mugabe said that donors should divert funds to other countries, as Zimbabweans would “choke” if any more food aid was delivered.

Food isn’t the only thing that the poor citizens are missing. With a crumbling infrastructure, where the trash isn’t picked up, where there is no petrol to be had, where the farms have failed, and where few can afford the cost of foreign goods, Zimbabwe is like a patient who has slowly bled dry. There is little, or nothing, left to salvage of a country that deserved far better.

The reserves of everything that kept Zimbabwe limping downhill for the past five years of self-destruction have dried up. Even the last summer rain this week before the long dry winter sets in did not lift anyone’s spirits.

The wealth of resources on the former white-owned commercial farms that produced foreign currency has run out and the “new” farmers, largely Mr Mugabe’s clique, have no idea how to grow tobacco or other crops for export. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a yard of electric cable to be had as the factory that makes it cannot get foreign currency to import copper wire. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any cooking oil, and we cope without electricity for a few hours daily. We are used to water cuts and have learnt to keep a few filled buckets at strategic places.

For the boy in my head, who still remembers the cities, the people, the farms, and the amazing beauty of Zimbabwe, there is little left to do but mourn.

Update: Bryan notes, correctly from my point of view, that some people are a little confused on precisely what constitutes a dark time in a nation’s history.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Peaceful Uprising? (Updated)

It would be shocking if the elections in Zimbabwe were an open and honest affair. In fact, even if the elections are fair, the intimidation and quashing of dissenting views that led up to the elections would probably still put the results in question.

The idea of a “peaceful uprising” in the face of the election results seems to be the new (and welcome) wave in political action these days, and, hopefully, Archbishop Pius Ncube’s call for demonstrations leads to the same sort of visibility and potential for change that we saw in Lebanon.

“I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organise against the government and kick him out by a non-violent, popular, mass uprising,” he told the paper.

“Because as it is, people have been too soft with this government.

“So people should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away.”

Archbishop Ncube insisted he was not advocating violence but simply backing a peaceful uprising like that in Ukraine last year.

Of course, Robert Mugabe has shown himself to be the most stubborn of dictators, pushing ahead with his destructive and self-serving plans even in the face of harsh criticism from neighboring African nations. The more he is pushed, the more he seems to expand his power and influence. Zimbabwe under his guidance isn’t failing; it’s failed and, even given new leadership, there is little chance for a speedy turn around.

I want to see the people stand up and force the issue, but I fear the potential bloodshed that could follow. Zimbabwe remains a country on the verge of complete collapse and these elections could, in effect, lead the nation over that cliff. Constitutionally backed elections should be a time of national pride--but only if they lead to the peaceful transfer of power in accordance with the will of the people. In Zimbabwe, elections are a time of fear, food shortages, and repression.

President Bush has made lofty promises to support people who stand up for their own liberty. I find myself wondering what the United States would be willing to do in support of a popular, non-violent uprising in Zimbabwe?

Read the story.

Update: Via Instapundit, Publius Pundit has more information and thoughts on the subject.

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