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Once again, African leaders have shown their complete and total lack of respect towards the rights of ordinary Africans. In a shocking communiqu , the 14 countries that make up the Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared their solidarity with Robert Mugabe, the man responsible for the destruction of Zimbabwe.
What is even more beguiling was SADC's decision to blame the West and sanctions for Zimbabwe's troubles, when the only person responsible for the dire state that Zimbabwe finds itself is Robert Mugabe.
The Zimbabwean economy has been declining for decades. GDP has decline by more than thirty percent between 1997-2005, inflation stands at around 1700% and rising, (Z$10,000 is equal to one US dollar) and due to rising poverty levels around 20 babies a week are found in Zimbabwean dustbins.
UNICEF reports that around thirty percent of the population (2.2 million people) has HIV/AIDs. More recently and due to rising concerns over a coup, Mugabe has recruited around 2,500 Angolan paramilitaries known as "Ninjas" for their all-black uniforms. The 'ninjas' provide personal protection for Jos Edurado dos Santos, the Angolan president, and are reported to instil fear among ordinary Angolans for their brutality.
Mugabe's destruction of civil society began once he successfully out-manoeuvred Joshua Nkomo, the head of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa to ensure that Mugabe's party: the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won the April 1980 elections.
Mugabe has used ZANU-PF to cement his rule through legislation, graft and corruption. When politics failed, Mugabe turns force as seen in 1983 when he sent the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to the Midlands and Matebeland regions to crush opposition which mostly came from Joseph Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union. More recently, he has used the Youth Brigade and the war Veterans, as well as his usual henchmen and sycophants in the police and the security services to harass those who oppose the regime, as seen with Operation Murambatsvina ('Operation Clear the Filth') in May 2005, in which thousands were arrested and approximately 700,000 people became homeless.
Under Mugabe, any form of dissent or opposition is crushed severely as seen recently when Zimbabwean authorities detained Moragn Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other senior opposition members (Arthur Mutambara and Lovemore Madhuku) for attending rallies and calling for the removal of Mugabe. Freedom House, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation ranks Zimbabwe as one of the most oppressed countries in the world, on par with North Korea, Sudan, Iran, and Syria.
At the heart of Mugabe's destructive policies lie the controversial land issue and which he has repeatedly used to shore up support from fellow African leaders. The nineteenth-century 'Scramble for Africa' and the imposition of White Colonial rule allowed the whites who headed to the territory of Zimbabwe (known as Rhodesia at the time) to help themselves to the best land by pushed off the indigenous African population to the less fertile areas or forcing it to pay taxes and/or rents to the Whites.
Consequently, whites came to own and control the best lands in Zimbabwe, something that Mugabe was determined to overturn. To this end, he has driven whites off the land, initially by providing some compensation but since 2000 his land eviction policy has turned increasingly brutal, as he has grown more authoritarian. Mugabe's land reform campaign as seen productive farms handed to war veterans (those who fought in Zimbabwe's war of independence) and to family and close allies of the Zimbabwean dictator with the consequence that it effectively destroyed Zimbabwe's agricultural industry.
As the international community became increasingly critical, Mugabe has found allies in China, Iran and North Korea, whilst launching tirades against Britain, the West and the homosexual community (Mugabe has described homosexuals "as worse than dogs" and not entitled to basic human rights). Overall, Zimbabwe is in a deep crisis, the country's infrastructure is destroyed, while health, education, social welfare are non-existent.
Yet, despite this, no real criticism or condemnation is coming from South Africa, Nigeria or Kenya, countries that vie for a permanent representation at the Security Council. It is becoming increasingly apparent that in twenty-first century the international community has decided to continue to treat Africa and Africans as second-class citizens. The only difference between the twenty-first and twentieth-century is that nowadays, African leaders are the cause of the suffering.
The writer an expert on international politics and a lecturer at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya