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Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Mengistu: friend or foe to Zimbabwe?

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2007
( President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is not new to controversy. Mugabe who just turned 83 came into power as President of Zimbabwe in 1980 shortly after a protracted armed struggle with the former aparthied regime of Ian Smith of the then Rhodesia. Mugabe was hailed as a freedom fighter when he came to power, but today he has been branded several ugly names ranging from dictator, land confiscator, and intolerance for the opposition among others.
During the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe then Phodesia, many African countires including Nigeria committed both human and material resource for the campaign, but today, Mugabe has turned deaf ears to good counsel from his African brothers on the need to respect the rule of law as operational in a democratic set up instead he has decided to remain in power as long as he lives not minding the negative consequences.
The late Bob Marley during a performance on the day of Independence in Zimbabwe asked in one of his songs; “Now you’ve got what you want do you want more? You think it’s the end but it’s just the beginning.”
How prophetic those lyrics of the legend have become today with the realities in present day Zimbabwe. Reports that economic hardships experienced by Zimbabweans in the past seven years has made at least three million people to leave the country. It is sad considering the fact that the country was not at war.
It seems Mugabe wants to perpetuate himself in power like the notorious Nastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi who declared himself President for life. Any attempt by the opposition to express themselves are visited with excessive military force.
For example, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai was reportedly beaten black and blue following his arrest at an aborted prayer rally in the capital Harare.
According to a spokesman of the body, Eliphas Mukono Weshuro, Tsvangirai was in great pain and was waiting for a result of brain scan and though in stable condition, doctors still suspect that the MDC leader may have sustained a fractured skull from the beating he received from state agents.
The recent anti-government protests by the opposition which was organised by the MSC were met with a total crackdown by the authorities with the Police reportedly shooting dead one of the demonstrators and brutalisation of dozens more.
The resultant violence was greeted with worldwide condemnation of the government action especially from the West, but in defiance, Mugabe accused the West especially its former colonial power, Britain of supporting the opposition’s campaign in their bid to force him out of power.
Back home too, Mugabe has also accused the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU of aligning with the opposition as it calls for a two day strike beginning from next week.
The ZCTU called the national strike to protest the rising economic hardships in the country.
According to the Congress, the strike was to force the authorities improve living conditions and increase wages to be in tandem with the increasing inflation rate of 1,730 per cent which the body said was the highest in the world.
“The situation in the country was fast degenerating into anarchy, so all workers should embark on a stay away from work from April 3 to 4” a statement from ZCTU said.
Anyway when regional leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Tanzania, the thinking on many a mind was that Mugabe would drop the idea of recontesting for the 2008 Presidential poll.
This was because many, including the opposition, believe that if Mugabe relinquishes power, most of the problems of the country would be over.
Alas, not even the international outrage prevented the ruling AZNU – PF from once more endorsing the 83 year old leader last week for the 2008 presidential election, much to the disappointment of Mugabe’s critics.
Apart from the economic hardship being faced by Zimbabweans, the question of corruption among top government functionaries has become the order of the day.
When Mugabe celebrated his 83rd birthday, for the first time, he publicly admitted that some top officials of his government where corrupt and involved in the smuggling of precious minerals out of the country explaining that several top officials including cabinet ministers have been linked to gold and diamond smuggling by the Police although no names where mentioned.
This situation is expected to cost Zimbabwe millions of dollars, fueling economic harships in the country which have even compounded the situation with the prevailing economic sanctions from Western countries.
Mugabe in describing the development said that “There is far greater propensity at the moment for accumulating wealth in an avaricious manner too, and people don’t know the bounds, how far to go in trying to enrich oneself.” Stressing that it was in that regard and the issure of honesty that he found many of his officials lacking adding that it was not a happy circumstance.
However, with economic hardships biting harder, calls are on high pitch for Mugabe to name the corrupt officials with a view to arrests them so that they could be prosecuted.
The insistent calls appears to be back firing as the Police claim they are handicapped due to what they described as political obstacles in making any arrests.
Even with the economic hardship experienced by Zimbabweans, Mugabe still habours the former Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam who went into exile in 1991 when he was ousted by the then rebel forces of Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which is now the ruling party. Mariam who was recently sentenced by an Ethiopian court for life on offences of genocide in a trial that lasted for 12 years involved 74 defendants of his former regime.
No doubt, today even though Zimbabweans are suffering from the actions and inactions of the old Mugabe the ousted Ethiopian former leader would be living a comfortable life to the detriment of true Zimbabweans.
The Ethiopian authorities must now begin a processes which would facilitate the extracdiction of Mariam from Zimbabwe to serve his prison term along with those of his cronies who are now at large.
During his notorious rule of Ethiopia, Mariam’s regime was known as the ‘Derg’ due to hid oppressive and high handed style of leadership.
Therefore, President Mugabe and Mariam though birds of identical plumage should not take the people of Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general for a role.
This development may not just be an internal matter. Let the SADC and the African Union advice Mugabe to ask his friend to go home and face justice, because Mariam has no justification whatsoever to feast on the sweat of Zimbabweans for the past 16 years.(Source: