Regime change in Africa

Zimbabwe needs the United States' help

The country of Zimbabwe suffered another tragic blow last Sunday as the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the presidential race amidst intense political violence. Tsvangirai had been fighting a losing battle since March, where he managed to force a runoff against the brutal incumbent Robert Mugabe . After Tsvangirai decried the “violent, illegitimate sham of an election process” and accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF youth militia of attacking his supporters with “iron bars, sticks and other weapons” during rallies, Tsvangirai sought refuge at the Dutch embassy – likely hoping to avoid being arrested for the sixth time. Although Tsvangirai has called on the African Union and the United Nations to intervene, the United States, with our stated goal of spreading democracy, should be the first to intercede.

Our diplomatic approach to Africa has historically been milquetoast. During the Rwandan genocide, the response from the United States and its allies was lackadaisical, implicating us in ugliness through our inaction. The Ugandan dictator Idi Amin similarly benefited from our inattention. Sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa were passed only after overriding a presidential veto, and of course the slaughter in Darfur continues unabated.

Mugabe is cut from the same cloth. In a prophetic moment back in 2003, he declared that he would be a “black Hitler Ö tenfold” against his opposition, not only promising election rigging and lawlessness, but also boasting that he has a “degree in violence.” This should have been no surprise; in the mid ’80s, Mugabe approved the murder of tens of thousands civilians by a cousin who charmingly called himself “Black Jesus.” His ruination of Zimbabwe also included a laughable effort to curtail the country’s five-figure inflation rate by declaring inflation illegal.

For the moment, the body count is relatively low (approximately 85 dead, several thousand evacuated). But if there were ever a time for the United States to show strength against tyranny, that time is now. The White House has already issued a statement telling “the government Ö and its thugs” to stop the violence. But we need to do better. We need to take an active role in enabling the democratic process in Zimbabwe. Think of it as passive regime change.