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EU sanctions won't assure fair elections in Zimbabwe



Published: Wed, February 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Monday's decision by the European Union to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on the southern African nation of Zimbabwe may be too little too late. President Robert Mugabe's dogged determination to remain in power is clearly illustrated by his refusal to let EU observers freely monitor the presidential elections scheduled for March 9 and 10.

Indeed, Mugabe will use the union's decision to cut off $110 million in development aid, ban travel to the EU by Mugabe and 20 of his Cabinet ministers and freeze their assets in Europe to whip up nationalistic fervor among his followers.

As other African tyrants have done, Mugabe has mastered the art of blaming others for the ills of his nation. Never mind that he has ruled Zimbabwe for 22 years and that during his tenure a once-prosperous nation has been reduced to economic rubble. Mugabe and his thugs have no intention of giving up power. The election next month is a joke because any opposition to the ruling party will have been silenced by then.

The press has been largely gagged -- journalists from Britain, other European countries and South Africa have been denied accreditation -- while Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, has been the target of bombings by pro-government militia.

Violent minority: And Mugabe's response? He insists that "biased" reporting about his country has angered the "people of Zimbabwe." Of course, the "people" he is talking about are a small but violent minority. Those citizens who oppose his government or disagree with its edicts are either too afraid to speak out or have joined the growing ranks of the "missing."

The 15-member European Union was well-intentioned when it imposed the economic and diplomatic sanctions, but the organization must not be blind to reality: Mugabe will steal next month's election and then lay claim to having a mandate from the people to continue his dictatorial rule.

As opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai put it, "What the EU should be talking about is what should happen in the case of a stolen election, not targeted sanctions between now and election time."

Tsvangirai makes an important point, one the international community should heed: It is pointless to impose sanctions against a rogue nation when the head rogue is allowed to remain in power. If the European Union wants to bring about change in Zimbabwe so the people can once again live in freedom and safety, it should provide the opposition with monetary and other assistance for a sustained and, if need be, an armed, campaign against the corrupt Mugabe government.




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