- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

Zimbabwe has been the subject of much handwringing and commiseration. During the Group of Eight meeting this week, leaders of the world’s richest nations, eager not to discuss the vulnerabilities in the global economy, focused, for a moment, on Zimbabwe, declaring their concern over “reports of further violence by the authorities in Zimbabwe against their own people.”

The State Department, meanwhile, has released similar-sounding communiques. On Monday, after strikes and protests launched by Zimbabweans were brutally broken up by security forces and renegade militias, the State Department condemned “government’s heavy-handed intimidation and suppression.” It also said it was “very concerned about reports of mistreatment of leaders” of the opposition.

Sadly, Zimbabwe’s leader-by-fraud Robert Mugabe accurately interpreted the G8’s and America’s concern and condemnations as little more than rhetorical flourishes. As Zimbabwe’s hospitals have reportedly filled up with badly beaten strikers and protesters, the United States and the rest of the international community have failed to act. The country’s lead opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been tossed in prison and charged with treason, for no other apparent reason than calling on his countrymen to protest Mr. Mugabe’s illegitimate rule.

South Africa, the region’s power broker, has limited itself to calling on Mr. Mugabe to open talks with opposition members, but has failed to hold Mr. Mugabe in any way accountable. While Mr. Mugabe goes on shopping sprees to South Africa, enjoying the fruits of stability and democracy, the people of Zimbabwe suffer Mr. Mugabe’s rule, unable to find or afford food. Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe is now wracked with food shortages and hunger. Due to the soaring unemployment and inflation, which has hit 265 percent, many people who were once middle class can’t pay for food.

At the barest minimum, the United States and the European Union, which have carefully tailored sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and his cronies, must mobilize their considerable clout to press South Africa and other African governments to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on high-ranking government officials. But even that will almost surely be insufficient. It is sadly ever more clear that only military intervention by responsible African governments will end the murderous and destructive regime of Robert Mugabe.

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