Joe Katzman wrote a lengthy and good piece on Zimbabwe a few days ago. The dire situation in this once free country was the final tumbler for him, cementing his view that the right to keep and bear arms is a universal human right "on par with freedom of speech and religion". Welcome to the club, Joe, glad you finally came around. But what grabbed me more is the fact that, over the past twenty five years, President Robert Mugabe has run this formerly prosperous country down to dust, from Africa's bread basket to basket case. The Telegraph:
President Robert Mugabe's onslaught against Zimbabwe's cities has escalated to claim new targets, with white-owned factories and family homes being demolished in a campaign that has left 200,000 people homeless.
Across the country, Mr Mugabe is destroying large areas of heaving townships and prosperous industrial areas alike.
The aim of this brutal campaign is, says the official media, to depopulate urban areas and force people back to the "rural home".
Shades of Pol Pot and his killing fields. All that's lacking are "reeducation" camps. Today's New York Times has a similar report. Mugabe isn't just sentencing 200,000 of his political opposition to slow death by starvation, he is purposefully gutting his own economy in the process.
Chris Viljoen and his wife, Elsie, were still inside their five-bedroom house when a bulldozer began reducing it to rubble. The white couple live in the industrial zone of the capital, Harare.
Next door was a 70-acre site filled with 24 factories and workshops. Bulldozers spent last week razing this area, destroying all but nine businesses that employed about 1,000 people in a country suffering mass unemployment and economic crisis.
Across Zimbabwe, the United Nations estimates that 200,000 people have lost their homes, with the poorest townships bearing the brunt of Mr Mugabe's onslaught. "The vast majority are homeless in the streets," said Miloon Kothari, the UN's housing representative. He added that "mass evictions" were creating a "new kind of apartheid where the rich and the poor are being segregated".
Virtually all the areas singled out for demolition voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the last elections. The MDC says that Mr Mugabe ordered the destruction as a deliberate reprisal. But the regime is also seeking to depopulate the cities, driving people into the countryside where the MDC is virtually non-existent and the ruling Zanu-PF Party dominates.
The Herald, the official daily newspaper, urged "urbanites" to go "back to the rural home, to reconnect with one's roots and earn an honest living from the soil our government repossessed under the land reform programme".
What Mugabe is doing now in Zimbabwe is reminiscent of Stalin's actions to induce famine in the Ukraine. Zimbabwe was once one of the more prosperous African countries and now it is in an economic shambles solely due to Mugabe's treatment of his own people. Now, he is driving people out of the cities and destroying their lone source of earning a living. They are being pushed towards the countryside which is experiencing a drought now. Sadly, we will probably learn in the coming months how these people have starved to death. That is one way for Mugabe to get rid of his opposition.
In effect, Mugabe is sending political opponents to government-owned farms, presumably to be paid at government-set rates, assuming they are employed once they get there in first place. Southern share croppers had it better. In addition to driving its citizens off the land they legally own, Mugabe is systematically starving those who don't toe his line. Another from the Telegraph:
People are being starved in Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe's deliberate and systematic ploy of using food shortages to cling to power.
Millions of people are going hungry not, as Mr Mugabe's government claims, because of poor rains but as a direct result of its policy of denying food to opposition supporters and enriching its loyalists.
Last night, the deadline passed for the mass eviction of 2,900 of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers, for decades the mainstay of the agricultural sector. Mr Mugabe ordered them to abandon their homes, land and livelihoods by midnight.
An investigation by The Telegraph found that control of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Zimbabwe's state-owned monopoly supplier of commercial maize, was passed this year to one of Mr Mugabe's most loyal henchmen, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, an alleged war criminal.
With Zimbabwe's economy in chaos, Shiri's mission was to spend a £17 million loan provided by Libya buying just enough maize to stave off food riots, which would then be supplied through the GMB.
The organisation, which is meant to supply maize at subsidised prices to all Zimbabweans, has instead been selling maize only to supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Backers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change went hungry.
Worse still was the country's Food For Work programme. Thousands of opposition supporters would provide 15 days' labour only to be told at the end there was no GMB food for them.
The GMB is so corrupt and politicised that aid groups shipping food into Zimbabwe are being forced to set up their own expensive parallel storage and distribution facilities, rather than using those of the GMB - the traditional way of bringing food aid into Zimbabwe.
There is also evidence that the Zimbabwean government is deliberately blocking the work of these international aid groups and keeping the flow of aid down to a trickle.
That trickle is enough to stave off threats of public unrest, but not enough to provide food for all of the country.
"What we are seeing is nothing but humanitarian torture," an aid worker said. "It takes three months to die of starvation and this is a torture every bit as bad as beating someone with barbed wire or hanging them from handcuffs.
Emphasis mine. Joe Katzman:
Um, ever studied what dying of starvation actually involves, dude? It's just a little bit worse than hanging from handcuffs - and there's nothing humanitarian about it.
What do the various humanitarian groups have to say?
- Freedom House: Zimbabwe garners sixes (with seven being least free) in civil liberties and political rights. Their report confirms that democracy there is a joke, on par with Iran's "democracy".
- Index of Economic Freedom: Ranked 151st in economic freedom. Only Libya, Burma and North Korea have economies that are less free. Even communist Cuba ranks better than Mugabeland.
- Reporters Without Borders: Ranked 155th in press freedom, tied with Syria. Its 2005 annual report on the nation once known as Rhodesia quite simply states: "Freedom of the press simply does not exist in Zimbabwe. Everything is under government control, from the licensing of the media and journalists down to the content of articles. Television and radio are a state monopoly. Police and the judiciary ensure that dissenters live in terror or endure the constant battering of a relentless harassment."
- Amnesty International: "The government continued its campaign of repression aimed at eliminating political opposition and silencing dissent." There is not one category that Zimbabwe is not egregiously violating. How does AI rank Zimbabwe relative to the 148 other countries it covers? Oh yeah, it doesn't.
- Human Rights Watch: "The human rights situation in Zimbabwe continues to be of grave concern." Four articles written on Zimbabwe this year, with more interest focused on their sham March election than the democide that Mugabe is currently overseeing.
- Transparency International: Ranked 114th in corruption out of 146 countries, tied with Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Congo and Ethiopia.
Austin Bay has a piece here, and he hearkens back to an observation he made in 2002 that rings just as true today:
Here’s the lede:
He’s an ethnic cleanser, a “former Marxist” and a cynical thief whose greed and mismanagement has destroyed a once productive economy.
His scheme to retain power involves the dictator’s usual routines: stoking ethnic strife, inciting economic envy, silencing the press, physically intimidating his domestic opposition.
Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic? No, Slobo’s been nabbed and is on trial in the Hague. This time the scoundrel is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. The local context is a March 2002 national election in Zimbabwe, where once again Mugabe’s election platform includes the murder of his democratic opponents in the black-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mugabe is never held accountable for his oppression and destruction.
The difference between Mugabe and Miloslevic is that Mugabe is engaging in political cleansing, not ethnic cleansing. What exactly is the food situation under Mugabe's fascist regime? Horrible. The Washington Post:
Zimbabwe, facing fears of widespread famine, has welcomed the resumption of international food donations that could feed up to 4 million people, U.N. officials reported Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe had curtailed such aid last year, saying the country could feed itself.
The problem is that Mugabe will use these food donations as a weapon, strengthening his political allies and starving his opposition. Chester asks the relevant question: Is Zimbabwe the Kitty Genovese of the international community? Unless we do not spotlight what's going on there, the answer is yes.
So what are we to do? When South African president Thabo Mbeki met with President Bush, Mbeki offered nothing but platitudes and Bush was little better. Mbeki couldn't even admit that a genocide was occurring in Sudan. Tony Blair is pushing for more aid to Africa from the US, but whatever portion gets to Zimbabwe, Mugabe's opponents will still starve and unless there are important strings attached, it will be a counterproductive effort [Ed. sentence revised]. Here are my thoughts:
- Provide moral support for an "African solution" as Mbeki suggested but expect that there will no beneficial results. Mbeki hasn't lifted a finger against Mugabe, and the South African's "African Renaissance" has the heft of those puffy rice crackers.
- Give food, money and arms to the opposition party, the MDC, as Perry de Havilland suggests. They deserve the right to defend themselves and seek freedom, and they could take comfort in these words:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- I don't know if the UN has sanctioned Zimbabwe, but it they haven't, they should. If they have, then sanction them more. By the way, Zimbabwe is a current member of the UN Human Rights Commission.
When will Kofi Annan kick this country off?[See Update below]
- Provide aid directly to those that Mugabe is purposely starving, using military forces if necessary to secure distribution.
- Start a blogging storm. Nothing will get done and nothing will change until we clamor for it. Let's get going.
Update: I stand corrected on the portion struck out above. To amend the sentence: When will Kofi Annan take steps toward kicking this country off? Does Annan have the direct authority to remove Zimbabwe? No. Members are voted in by other continent-sharing countries. Getting a spot on the HR commission has proven an effective way to shield the offending countries from official UN criticism. Saudi Arabia and Cuba have done well at that. A leader would call a country on such cynical ploys and make proposals, not wait for a commission's word. Has Annan proposed scrapping the existing HR commission in favor of a new, reformulated one? Yes, and to his credit if it happens. Has Annan lobbied the existing HR commission to remove those countries engaging in genocide and democide? To my knowledge, no. The primary issue with Kofi Annan is his abysmal failure of leadership, which will likely be the topic of a separate post. Finally, taking the UN and its top leader to task does not mean that individual nations bear no responsibility. The United States should lead the way on sanctioning Zimbabwe.
(cross posted at Redstate.org)