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Operation drive out trash



Published: Thu, June 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Providence Journal: The attacks on human rights by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe show no signs of abating. Last week, human-rights groups showed the world smuggled videos of suffering and bewildered Zimbabweans who had been driven out of their ramshackle homes and left to sleep out in the open in the winter cold.

"We were dumped here by people with whips," says a videotaped young man. "We don't know what went wrong."

The Mugabe regime has defended a program it calls Operation Drive Out Trash as an attempt at urban renewal, and an effort to thwart "black marketeers" and other "criminals." The government has now turned to destroying vegetable gardens planted by the poor in vacant lots around the capital, Harare, to avert starvation. (The government's seizure of white-owned farms has turned Zimbabwe from an exporter of food into a country with severe shortages.)

By the numbers

Some 300,000 people have lost their homes, international observers conservatively estimate. The United Nations says that the number may be 11/2 million. In addition, 42,000 people have been arrested, had their goods seized, or been fined, as reported by the police themselves.

Zimbabwe's opposition leaders say that the regime is punishing the poor for having voted against the Mugabe party in recent parliamentary elections.

Such brutality is all too frequently used by regimes that enforce collectivism over individual freedoms. In the broken societies of Africa left behind by the European colonialists, full-strength corruption is often added to the mix. Those who suffer are the powerless -- people of little importance to the thugs in government.

The world, thus far, has done little to shine light on Zimbabwe's abuses, or to apply pressure to its government to reform.

But this is even worse than a Zimbabwean tragedy; it is symptomatic of the suffering throughout much of Africa. Until the world's powerful countries do more to press for political and human-rights reforms, Africa's many poor will continue to be trampled, starved and killed.




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