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Zimbabwe’s Regime Change Paranoia

The Axis of Evil is up to its old tricks — at least, if you believe Robert Mugabe’s official spokesman. America and Britain are plotting an invasion of Zimbabwe, but this time at least we’ve had the smarts to make sure we don’t have to do the dirty work ourselves. Comrade George Charamba had the scoop for the state-run Herald newspaper:

‘‘The British and the Americans are dead set on bringing Zimbabwe back to the UN Security Council, they are also dead set on ensuring that there is an invasion of Zimbabwe but without themselves carrying it out. In those circumstances they will stop at nothing including abusing both the office and personnel of the secretary general. ‘‘We would not be surprised if they spring a ‘mission’ involving the UN.”

Would that this were true. It’s rapidly becoming a cliché to describe just about everything as the most pressing item in the incoming President’s in-tray — terrorism, the economic crisis, you name it — but while the growing humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe may not occupy the headline writers’ attention to the same extent, it is urgent and it is getting worse. Having evidently got bored of watching his people starve, Mugabe is now presiding over a cholera epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives and could kill tens of thousands more unless urgent action is taken. The outbreak has been made worse by the breakdown of the water and sanitation systems even in Harare, and with no water, drugs, blood or food for patients, and intermittent electricity supplies, the hospitals are shutting down. Meanwhile the international community has ratcheted up the rhetoric, but little else. While the EU extends its travel ban on Zimbabwean government officials (a ban that seems to be waived every time Mugabe is invited to an international summit, or a Pope dies), the regime returns the favour; a group of international mediators, including Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter, were denied entry to Zimbabwe last month. (Mind you, I wouldn’t let those two in either.) As for regional bodies such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, they’re busily putting pressure on the opposition MDC to accept a "power-sharing" agreement that could scarcely be more worthless if it were signed in bullshit.   Thanks to the desperate situation in Afghanistan and the bungled aftermath of the Iraq invasion, "regime change" is the dirtiest of phrases, and not one that’s likely to be on Obama staffers’ lips. Remaining options, though, are few and far between. Economic sanctions can have little effect on a country with no economy, and diplomacy is clearly a non-starter without proper regional support. But the stance of the Mbeki government in South Africa has been shamefully weak (a dereliction of duty that stands second only to their policies on AIDS), and only the possibility of a refugee crisis on its border with Zimbabwe, combined with the harsher rhetoric of Mbeki’s presumed successor, Jacob Zuma, holds out any real hope for a more pro-active South African role. By then, however, it will be too late for those who are dying as the infrastructure of the Zimbabwean state collapses around their ears, taking their lives with it.

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