Zimbabweans face starvation because of brutal president
In the overall scheme of things -- the global war on terrorism, the bloodshed in Iraq, the presidential election in the United States -- what is happening in some African nation may not warrant front-page coverage. But the potential starvation of thousands of citizens of Zimbabwe demands the international community's attention.
Why? Because Zimbabweans have suffered long enough at the hands of a brutal dictator, Robert Mugabe, who has held the reins of power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.
As U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State J. Scott Carpenter said of Mugabe earlier this year, "By riding roughshod over the political and human rights ... by demonstrating total disregard for human rights and democracy ... a once promising nation with a bright future [has been reduced] to a state of ruin, desolation and isolation."
And the devastation may well continue if a warning from the Grain Marketing Board, the only legal buyer of maize (corn), is ignored. The board said that government maize purchases would amount to barely half of Zimbabwe's yearly requirement.
As of Monday, the grain board had collected less than 300,000 tons, well short of the 1.4 million tons needed, according to the New York Times, and is likely to buy only 750,000 tons through March.
The warning must not go unheeded because that's exactly what President Mugabe is counting on -- the world's not caring.
Indeed, the dictator wasted little time in trying to deflect attention from his country's problems.
In a speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly, Mugabe accused President Bush of acting like a "political god" and called British Prime Minister Tony Blair "his prophet."
"We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that there is one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet," he said.
This from a man who has not only bought the allegiance of his followers by confiscating farms owned by whites and handing them over to blacks, but has crushed dissent by arresting opposition leaders, trade unionists and independent journalists. Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe to its economic knees through mismanagement, corruption and a refusal to permit international organizations to provide much needed assistance in the governance of the nation.
His heavily armed militia roam the country in search of perceived enemies of the state.
The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough. It's time for the United Nations and the African Union to start putting pressure on Mugabe to change his criminal ways and to at least ensure that people have food to sustain their already miserable lives.