Looking Beyond U.S. Borders


With little more than a week left until Christmas the financial crisis is pulling all our strings tight. Incredible strains on the global economy and huge layoffs in most of the U.S.’s (and other countries’) industries have severely hurt our Christmas spirit. Thus looking past these problems and beyond the country’s borders might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet, while the media is mesmerized by shoes flying past President Bush, the corruption scandal in Illinois and further financial problems, the decision makers in the U.S. (as well as in other nations across the globe) have to turn their attention further south. As we ascend on a new year we need to focus on the people whose suffering is greater than ours and whose country, once known as “the fruit basket of Africa”, is on the brink of collapse.

The cholera epidemic sweeping across Zimbabwe is only the most recent disaster striking the country. In the middle of the worst harvest in the nation’s history, the epidemic is causing further suffering to millions of people already struggling to survive among rising food prices, food shortages and hyperinflation. A very unpleasant disease, cholera causes acute diarrhea, which leads to severe dehydration and death if not treated promptly.

With the healthcare system in total chaos the death toll is rising and (at the time of my writing) at least 1 000 people have been killed by the disease. Furthermore these are only the worst cases, typically representing 20 % of all ill persons. Thus the spreading of the disease is believed to be much worse, with an increasing risk that the number of infections will rise to 60, 000 (according to the UN) if efforts to stop it are not soon implemented.

malnourished_childHowever, as disastrous as this disease certainly is, cholera serves only as a symptom of a much more threatening illness which has been causing havoc and brought misery to the people in Zimbabwe for all too long (and has only recently been given attention by the international community). Calling him by name, President Robert Mugabe, has truly stretched this country to its limits, tearing its riches apart and making it the only African nation which population has seen a decrease during the last decade (while the average population growth rate is 5 % per year in other African countries, estimates say Zimbabwe’s population has fallen by at least 3 million due to deaths and emigration during the Mugabe regime).

Furthermore the hyperinflation plaguing Zimbabwe has reached over 80 sextillion(1021)%, (suddenly our financial crisis looks pretty harmless) and comes as a direct result of the governments naiveté and ignorance, (printing more money in an effortzimbab-dollors-785067 to reverse the inflation only increase it, making the currency seemingly worthless). Seeking another solution to the problem the government has enforced a daily withdrawal limit of Z$ 50, 000 (less than $2). However, as a loaf of bread costs Z$ 30, 000, this seems ridiculous and only causes further distress among the people who are already enduring the worst (tens of thousands of children drop out of school every month, reportedly to look for food, while more than five million Zimbabweans are expected to need food aid in 2009).

As if this was not enough, Mugabe’s paranoia (especially towards the British) has blocked western aid, causing a tremendous amount of suffering and unnecessary deaths. Accusing western countries, as well as Botswana (who recently criticized Mugabe), for spreading diseases and planning to invade the country Mugabe has clearly taken this blame game too far, making me wonder if he has turned so blind as to believe these statements himself (Cholera is apparently a chemical weapon Britain is using to wage war against Zimbabwe and AIDS is a disease the white man has developed to wipe out the African peoples).

The fact that a president, in the 21st century, is able to ruin a country bit by bit as Mugabe is ruining Zimbabwe is truly unacceptable. The fact that he has pushed the country to the brink of collapse is a catastrophe and the long record of the human rights violations his administration has made is an embarrassment to the global society.

_45295927_mugabedecap226iIt is about time that we (developed and developing countries alike) show compassion with the people of Zimbabwe and stand up against dictators. Seeing as the power sharing talks are failing (or at least moving all too slowly) we need to dismantle Mugabe from his throne and give the Zimbabweans a chance to create a brighter future for themselves and their country. What would be a better Christmas gift than to give the people who are the worst off the means to create a brighter future, a future of their own choice?

Having said that, there are of course limits as to what we can do. I am by no means suggesting that we should use military force (as Bush was eager to propose), this would most certainly make matters worse for the people, not to mention that a military intervention would give Mugabe actual facts to strengthen his lunatic accusations. No, the change must come from within Africa, through peer pressure and a united effort to remove the wicked and form a better foundation on which a prosperous state can develop.

This proposal leaves a great amount of responsibility on African countries. Yet, it does not diminish the importance of western countries such as the U.S. and European Union member states. While the African countries certainly need to put more force into their efforts to remove Mugabe, the U.S and other countries have to continue their attempts to bring humanitarian assistance into the country and give all of their support to mediation efforts between African nations.

With expanded foreign policy initiatives, a greater amount of diplomats and renewed priorities, president-elect Barack Obama is certain to give Zimbabwe more attention than the country has received during the Bush years. Yet, Obama’s contributions to the removal of Mugabe remain to be seen and in the meantime the people of Zimbabwe continue to struggle. However, as we move closer to a new year and hopefully two new leaderships, a better and brighter, future is beginning to take shape.


— Kajsa, Admin Future for America


~ by politicsoftomorrow on December 17, 2008.

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