Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama: Zimbabwe Could Use Some U.S. Attention

Mugabe doesn't recognize any African authority.
Morgan Tsvangirai has nominally been Zimbabwe's prime minister since September, but he may never actually get to hold the post. Monday's collapse of power-sharing talks between Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai marks the latest in a decade-long stream of bad news for this wretched country.

Next week, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will once again hold a summit to attempt to resolve this crisis. But so far, SADC leaders have allowed Mugabe to renege on all agreements to yield power. Some even portray Mr. Tsvangirai as the obstacle to compromise.

The increasingly demented Mugabe seems to truly believe that Britain wants to recolonize his country and that Mr. Tsvangirai is in the pocket of the West. His ludicrous insistence that Mr. Tsvangirai is merely a British puppet has unfairly made the prime minister-elect part of the problem. Regional leaders, afraid of being perceived by their citizens as supporting the West, have refused to come to his defense.

The despotic Mugabe has misruled Zimbabwe since 1980. Today, at least 80% of Zimbabweans are unemployed. All Western companies have abandoned the country -- only the most ruthless Chinese and Russian operators remain, paying hard currency for gemstones and minerals they help extract. Prices more than double every day, and new-denomination bank notes are issued every week.

A cholera epidemic, which Mugabe blames on Britain, has infected 43,000 and killed 2,150, according to the United Nations. Wilson Chimtengwende, a health worker in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, told me, "The poor are so malnourished and without transport that any infection can be lethal. Most people die at home with cholera unreported. Deaths could be three times as high as official numbers." (Our phone conversation got cut off four times in 15 minutes, normal given the phone service there.)

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