- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

On the heels of President Bush’s visit, African leaders rewarded Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe with a senior position in the African Union over the weekend — a move that tacitly condones his tyrannical actions and could undermine foreign aid efforts in Africa.

Once a popular leader, Mr. Mugabe is suspected of rigging Zimbabwe’s 2002 elections, and he enforces a ruinous land-reform policy that has caused agricultural production to come to a virtual halt. About half of Zimbabwe’s 11 million people are now dependent on food aid, causing food shortages throughout southern Africa. Government dissenters are regularly jailed and tortured. Soaring inflation and epidemic joblessness have made the country unlivable.

Yet, African heads of state gathered last weekend in Maputo, Mozambique, for the annual meeting of the African Union made Mr. Mugabe deputy chairman of the organization, which was formed to promote good governance. The leaders failed to put the glaring crisis in Zimbabwe on the agenda for discussion. Also, only 14 out of the union’s 52 members-state legislatures had approved a Peace and Security Council, which would eventually establish a standby military force to intervene in cases of genocide or crimes against humanity. The support of 26 members was needed to establish the council.

These developments spell bad news for Africans. As African leaders said numerous times during Mr. Bush’s recent trip, the future of Africa can only be stewarded by Africans. There is little the United States and other countries can do without strong African resolve to consistently uphold basic democratic and humanitarian principles.

Sadly, Mr. Bush was unable to convince African leaders of the much-needed policy change during his tour. Mr. Bush has been eager to show America’s firm willingness to help Africa. He has doubled the amount of foreign aid African countries can potentially have access to and called for $15 billion to fight aids globally. America must continue its diplomatic efforts to expose the wrongs in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

South Africa, because of its considerable clout in the region, shoulders most of the blame for the apathy toward Zimbabwe, whose internal crisis is causing regional problems. If the region’s leader fails to act, the Bush administration should adjust its own policy accordingly.

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