|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Jun. 11, 2005. 01:00 AM|
As British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown highlight Africa's need for greatly increased assistance in advance of the Group of Eight summit, events have been conspiring to show some of Africa's leaders in the worst possible light. For three weeks now, the authorities in Zimbabwe have conducted a ruthless eviction of informal settlements across the country. Those forcibly removed have been left not only without shelter but without any means of sustenance or making a living. In an exercise that has echoes of Pol Pot's pitiless back-to-the-land campaign, they are being forced back to the ill-used and barren land from which they had fled. At Thursday's state opening of parliament, President Robert Mugabe defended the action as "a vigorous clean-up campaign to restore sanity to Zimbabwe's cities," But this is topsy-turvy logic indeed: The vast majority of those now forced to live rough and exposed to the elements came to the cities in desperation to eke out a living. In many places, their unofficial trade was the only part of the country's ravaged economy that almost worked. These shanty towns, though, were fertile recruitment territory for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Yet again, Mugabe is using an argument about order and the economy to disguise a policy intended to debilitate what remains of the opposition. A different scenario is playing out in Ethiopia. Here is another impoverished country which, like Zimbabwe, should be rich and thriving. Elections three weeks ago for which the results have ominously not yet been announced have been followed by street protests, clashes and deaths. The prime minister, Meles Zenawi, appeared to lean to the West, but has failed to deliver either democracy or a stable and growing economy. The government's panicked response to opposition protests in the wake of the election is reminiscent of recent developments in Central Asia. Elections that Zenawi apparently had hoped would validate his claim to power appear to have had the opposite effect. Neither Zimbabwe nor Ethiopia offers an edifying model for Africa's future. Unwise, dogmatic or profligate leaders have squandered outside assistance and goodwill, and inflicted poverty and discord on their peoples. But neither country is typical of Africa each has its own history and specifics and probably there is no such thing as typical. What each in its own way does demonstrate, however, is the desperate need of people in countries that have for so long been poorly or corruptly ruled, and the obligation of richer countries to set rigorous conditions on the assistance they give.
This is an edited version of an editorial from the Independent, London.