Saturday, November 22, 2008

Time running out for Mugabe in Zimbabwe?

What is the world waiting for in Zimbabwe? By now, it should be obvious to everyone that Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, has to be removed from office if he remains unwilling to leave on his own. The latest reports from South Africa say Zimbabwe has refused to admit a delegation, which included former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, that wanted to assess the humanitarian crisis believed to be unfolding in that country, according to the Reuters international news service. Zimbabwe's economy is collapsing because of mismanagement and rampant theft of aid and the country, once seen as the southern African region's greatest economy, is suffering from rampant inflation and shortages of food and fuel. Mugabe, who has led the country since it declared independence from Britain in 1980, says the Zimbabwe is being sabotaged by his enemies, including Western nations. Efforts to resuscitate the country's economy are now on hold because of a political crisis, with Mugabe refusing to accept defeat in national balloting in March. Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has been trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement but Mugabe has refused to uphold his side of any proposed arrangement. Yesterday, in Lima, Peru, U.S. President George W. Bush called Mugabe's government an "illegitimate regime" and called for a new government. "We call for an end to the Mugabe regime's brutal repression of basic freedoms and for the formation of a legitimate government that represents the will of the people as expressed in the March 2008 elections," Bush said in the Peruvian capital, where he is attending an Asia-Pacific summit. Members of the humanitarian delegation told Reuters they were denied visas to travel to Zimbabwe despite Mbeki's intervention of former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the political conflict between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "We had hoped to go to Zimbabwe this morning but we had to cancel because the government has made it clear they will not co-operate," Annan said in Johannesburg, according to Reuters. Annan, Carter and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, represent a group of prominent figures and former statesmen called The Elders. But Zimbabwe's government denied it had refused the three Elders permission to enter the country. "The government of Zimbabwe has not barred Mr Annan and his team from coming to Zimbabwe," Simbarashe Mumbengegwi , the country's foreign affairs minister, told reporters in Harare. Mumbengegwi said the group was asked merely to reschedule the visit.

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