Thursday, June 19, 2008

Zimbabwe, Somewhere in Africa

With a little over a week to go until the run-off election for president in Zimbabwe, the news that does manage to come out of the country seems to get worse and worse by the day. It feels like forever and a day since I last wrote about Zimbabwe. It was only April 20th, three weeks after the first round of the election and no results had yet been announced. Of course we now know the result was a slim margin of victory for Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, but without an absolute majority, thus the necessity of a run-off election between him and Robert Mugabe. It's hard to imagine how things could be worse than those dark days, but somehow Mr. Mugabe and his thugs have managed to make it so.

Since April 20th a short recap:
May 2 - Electoral body says Tsvangirai won most votes in the presidential election, but not enough to avoid a run-off against Mugabe. Opposition rejects the result.
May 10 - Tsvangirai says he will contest the run-off even though he believes he won outright.
May 16 - Run-off is set for June 27.
May 19 - Opposition accuses military intelligence agents of a plot to kill Tsvangirai, forcing him to postpone his return to the country. The government dismisses the plot as a propaganda stunt.
May 24 - Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe and says Mugabe wants to decimate opposition structures before the run-off.
May 29 - Mugabe says his government has bought 600,000 tonnes of maize to ease food shortages.
June 3 - Zimbabwe orders Care International to suspend its operations after accusing it of political interference.
June 4 - Police release Tsvangirai after holding him for more than eight hours while he was campaigning for the June 27 run-off.
June 5 - Zimbabwean government bans all work by foreign aid agencies

The last couple of weeks are seeing an even quicker pace to the craziness going down as Tsvangirai has been arrested and released numerous times. Almost all the opposition officials have been arrested, killed, forced into hiding or worse. It is a surreal game to see how far he can go it seems. I am definitely convinced of the syphilis story now, Mugabe is mad. When a leader of a nation says things like "We shed a lot of blood for this country. We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?" why even hold the election? Even if without any effective campaign by the opposition due to the campaign of intimidation being conducted by Mugabe's Xanu-PF party Tsvangai somehow manages to get enough people to actually vote for him, on ballots that won't even be counted properly, it won't matter because Mugabe will stay in power by force if need be. Long sentence, but it has passed the ludicrous point as the UN promises to send observers for the election and Zimbabwe's neighbours sit idly by. Ban Ki-Moon tells the generally assembly of the UN that "Should these conditions continue to prevail, the legitimacy of the election outcomes would be in question," and these are referred to as harsh words as hundreds die and a war has been threatened on the people if they don't vote the right way.

But wait, Condoleeza Rice is going to sit down with the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, together chairing a round table discussion on Zimbabwe. Being that this month's security council president is the US, I'm sure a lot will be done. US+UN=ummm. What we must need is a League of Democracies. The aid the UN is sending is being stolen from hungry people dealing with inflation in the millions of percentages by the men in power, making it even more ironic that this used to be the breadbasket of Africa. That's the point I guess, it's Africa. At the same time a bit north Chad and Sudan try to add full scale war to the little genocide problem happening; Simon Mann's trial gets under way in Equatorial Guinea (high on the where's that factor, here). Oh yeah, that's the one Margaret Thatcher's son, Sir Mark Thatcher had to pay what amounted to a 265,000 pound fine for his role in the whole coup thing. There is a lot going on there to fix. Let's not mention the whole sure to have a pretty large scale famine as food prices skyrocket, which effects the poor first, and this is one continent that has gotten a whole lot poorer while the rest have gotten richer thing.

When Tsvangirai was touring Africa last month while his life was threatened by murder plots, his last stop was South Africa (read this link to see what president Mbeki is doing). A country whose leadership I expect to do something, maybe it's the whole Mandela effect. But the best plan anyone seems to come up with is for them to cut the electricity off if Mugabe steals the election. My dream was that on his return to the country, Tsvangirai would have walked across the border into Zimbabwe with the millions of displaced compatriots that have fled there in recent years. The timing coincided with the xenophobic violence at the time in South Africa, he would lead them to the ballot boxes as one unstoppable force. Most of my students here in Poland like most of the world don't even know there is trouble in Zimbabwe, let alone the difference between it, Zaire or Zambia. Despite the intimidation campaigns that have been conducted here in the past, it's more important to buy a new God Car or head down to the mall. If only Zimbabwe was in the Middle East and had oil. Even little things could help, such as national teams boycotting the Zimbabwe cricket team. However, it's not broad coalitions of words that will help end the bloodshed.