Zimbabwe: Poor Role Model for Progress

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The United Nations announced Zimbabwe’s appointment to the body’s Commission on Sustainable Development, despite disapproval from the United States, European nations and human rights organizations. The commission is charged with promoting economic progress and environmental protection. Given the state of the country, opponents argue Zimbabwe is not suitable to represent the theme of the commission.

Once the “breadbasket of Africa”, Zimbabwe can’t now feed itself. The nation’s annual inflation has soared to 3,714 percent. Zimbabwe is experiencing the world’s fastest-shrinking economy. Fueled by numerous business shut downs, unemployment has reached 80 percent.

Many charge Zimbabwe’s current president for the countries poor state. Mugabe has been criticized by the West and domestic opponents for oppression and corruption. Suspicious of western influence, Mugabe’s main opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), claims many of their members have been killed, tortured and harassed by Mugabe and his party.

Since 1980 President Mugabe and his political party, Zanu-PF has dominated Zimbabwe’s politics. Considered anti-western and suspicious of capitalism, Mugabe played a key role in ending white rule in Rhodesia. In 2000 he implemented a land redistribution plan in Zimbabwe which disrupted the agriculture-based economy. White-owned commercial farms were violently seized and handed to poor blacks.

Zimbabwe is suffering from massive food and fuel shortages. According to the Central Statistical Office, prices increased by 100.7 percent, the highest on record. While the nation’s consumers are forced to carry bags of currency to purchase scarce resources, President Mugabe is building a $4 million museum to display the many gifts he received during his 27 year presidency.

Mugabe’s critics argue that Zimbabwe’s appointment to such a key body in the U.N. will call into question the credibility of the organization. Despite disapproval, the commission traditionally rotates among regions of the world. This year Africa was up for the position.

For more information please see:

Washington Times – Zimbabwe president extravagant amid poor – 20 May 2007

Yahoo – Inflation in Zimbabwe hits 3,714 percent – 17 May 2007

CNN – Zimbabwe to head key U.N. body – 12 May 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Zimbabwe – 04 May 2007

China to Send Military Engineers to Darfur

China will send about three hundred military engineers for a U.N. peacekeeping force to Sudan’s Darfur region. The arrangement would further the “Annan” peace plan, an effort to place U.N. forces alongside the African Union forces already in Darfur who have failed to stop the violence. The continued bloodshed in the ethnically-mixed region was initiated when rebel groups accused the government of neglect and took up arms in 2003. The violence has since killed approximately 200,000 people and displaced another 2.5 million.

China, a primary buyer of Sudan’s oil and a member of the U.N. Security Council, has faced criticism and pressure for its Sudan policies. Although China has resisted plans to send U.N. peacekeepers without
Sudan’s consent, in an effort to balance pressures over the region China has also used its influence to urge Sudan to accept peacekeepers. In April, an envoy was sent to inspect refugee camps there.

Some critics of China’s policies have urged a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News – China confirms will send engineers to Darfur – 08 May 2007